Google is not not not building a social network. Really. They’re not. They’re just adding features to every product ever made to enable you to communicate and otherwise share information among your peer group and store all your information in a centralized place. That’s soooo not a social network, so I don’t need anybody telling me about how Google Reader’s new comment feature shows that they’re a social network.
So let’s see. Way back in December 2007, Google Reader add the socially option to share items from your RSS feeds with anyone in your Gmail contact list. These people are your so-called “friends,” though most of them you probably haven’t heard from in two years. Last May they premiered the ability to add a note to items you were sharing and share items from anywhere on the Internet. In August, they finally let us better control what friends we shared with.
Now, you can not just share with a note, but share with comments. And the people you’ve shared it with can comment back. In the lovely “Comment view,” found under the Friend’s Shared Items pane, you can browse and share in the shared conversations amongst your friends about items they’ve shared. It’s a lot of sharing.
As a Google Reader user, I guess this is kind of cool. I actually still don’t particularly care for letting my friends share stories with me (but I do it anyway), and it happens so rarely that I don’t know that I’ll be getting into any comment conversations on GReader any time soon. But that’s just me, and I’m sure there are plenty of avid users out there.
As a blog owner/editor, however, I’m not as enthused. I love that subscribers can use feed readers to gather all their favorite blogs’ new posts into one place. But maybe I’m just crazy, but the whole “social” part of blogging is in the comments to me.
By giving subscribers a different, possibly more convenient place to comment, I’ll miss out on that feedback and those conversations. For sad (really). Is there going to be a way to notify feed owners of comments—and if so, would we want to know what people don’t want to say on our sites?
I can see how some things don’t really belong in the comments of a blog post (your friends’ inside joke about Henry Kissinger probably won’t add to a story about him, eh?) and of course, since you can share anything you want in GReader, not every page will have a place to comment. But most of the time, I do feel like the wider audience will be missing out on a lot of the conversation if we fragment things like this.
Whether you agree with the GReader-user-me or the blog-publisher-me, though, you have to admit this is a different direction for feed readers. What do you think? Will you use these features? Will you benefit from them?