Back in the early, buzzy days of what we called Web 2.0 (say, 2007), web addicts used Google to find neat links and used Digg to share them. Now Google wants to capture your sharing, Digg is a space to find things, and Digg is launching a Reader that is basically a Google Reader reboot—along with Feedly, AOL Reader, Reeder, and Facebook.
What is Digg and its peers giving us? A chance to start over, after the Google Reader funeral on July 1. You can import your entire Reader collection into these other options and start using them just like you did Reader—but you should not do that. Years of using Reader, and believing that you could always return to it to tidy things up, have likely given you a lazy list of feeds. Believe me, I know.
As an editor at Lifehacker for more than 3 years, I spent hours of every work day inside Reader. I added a handful of new feeds every week, sometimes more. I set up folders by category, by "priority," by whim. In the end, it all became too much, and I just scanned the "All Items" list for as long as I could manage, hoping to wander past some magic. You don't want magic; you want to feel like you created your own newspaper, edited by someone smart (you).
Whether you start using Digg Reader or choose another of the Reader replacements, refer back to these tips on making it work for you, whether you're an old Reader hand or just discovering this whole RSS-as-thought-stream space that Google gave up on.
If you used Google Reader, and you read this before July 1, 2013, head to Google Takeout's Reader section, click "Create Archive," and check the "Email me when ready" box if the progress bar moves slowly. Reader feeds may be around to import into other readers for a while, but get a copy for yourself, just in case.
That feeling you get when cleaning up a room, that you're making the mess worse, because you have no idea where anything should go? Do not recreate it by transferring everything over, immediately, to your new reader. That's just moving the mess on your desk to the floor. Even if there's just a single, shiny button to import everything, like at Feedly.
Digg's suggestion, when you arrive at your blank account, is to type in the name of a site you enjoy. Try that. Type in the name of a site you occasionally browse and enjoy at the moment, rather than a site you know is in your Reader subscriptions. You'll see all the feeds you can grab from the site, including some variations you might not have known about ("Top stories," "Food," etc.). Try to build from your browsing memory, rather than your sense of what you "need to have."
I found the root of this tip in Google Reader one morning, and wrote it up on Lifehacker. If you're not sure whether you should really chuck something—be it an electronic connector cord in your house, or an RSS feed in your collection—put it in a time-limited box. Take all those feeds you hardly ever pull useful items from and put them in a folder named "90 days" (or 6 months, or whatever span you prefer). Set a calendar appointment for that future date.
Read through the folder occasionally. If when the deadline rolls around you find you haven't saved anything, shared anything, or noted anything of worth in that folder, chuck the whole thing. You don't have time to read "news" that doesn't matter, that doesn't produce inspiration or information or utility.
Almost every feed reader that has come along to rake in Google Reader's fans has a key preference tool: show/hide unread count. Some don't show the unread count by default. You want to hide your unread count. It does nothing but create passive stress. You do not need another inbox number.
The Internet was a smaller place back when Google Reader launched, and sites weren't pushing out quite so much content in the hope of something going social/viral. It's a different world, and Google is signaling that the company itself no longer considers news something that can be measured, just shared. Read what you can, when you can, from feeds you find useful and enjoyable.
Gmail goes down, Amazon goes down, Pinterest goes down, and, yes, the upstart code and servers at Feedly and AOL Reader and Digg Reader will occasionally go down, maybe right when you need to actually monitor something happening in the news or online. Since so many sites are dying for your Reader conversion allegiance, feel free to give it to a few of them. That way it is easy to switch, either in downtimes or to shop around and see which looks more appealing.
[Image: Flickr user David Morris]