Google Reader Shared Items: And what about the usability?

Everyone and their dog is complaining about Google Reader introducing the “friends’ shared items” functionality a few days ago, which enables users to share a selection of their feeds with friends. However, when introduced, Google automatically shared the existing “shared” feed, rather than letting users opt in. This caused an upheaval from people who, I suppose, had something to hide in their shared feed.

Google Reader Shared ItemsWhat has shocked me most with the crash landing arrival of this new feature is the poor usability of it. When Scoble suggested Google should add more granular control over privacy settings, he also asked readers to share feeds. I popped into my own Google Reader and looked for an easy way to find Robert’s feed and share my own with a few people. Stumped. Completely. There is no easy way to “request” a feed from someone you’d like to follow, just as there is no way to share yours with someone who isn’t already a Gmail contact.

It’s quite obvious that the Google team will improve on this as soon as they recover from their Christmas meals, but I’m honestly surprised that the feature was released as-is. Some thinking is needed on the ease with which one can share, unshare, specify what should be shared, who it should be shared with and how it should be shared.

Until then, if you’re looking for my feed, it’s right here – I’ve been on fire today and added loads to my shared items. I promise to be more reasonable with the number of stories shared in the future.

Can Google Hear Him?

googlehears.jpgApparently they can. Aaron Stanton started writing and posting videos on CanGoogleHearMe.com less than two weeks ago, yet he’s an overnight celebrity at the Googleplex.

Aaron had a business proposal, but his attempts to contact Google via phone or email did not work. So he decided to fly to Google, sit outside Google for several days, until someone at Google would agree to meet with him. He reportedly got that meeting and is running high right now.

He flew out on the 11th February, and had his first appointment with Google on the 14th, with some generally positive feedback leading to future meetings and NDA’s. Details of his Big Idea aren’t publicly available but Digg rumours* point to “a powerful tool for writers. By analyzing published novels and breaking them down into detailed statistics, then graphing those statistics scene-by-scene, we allow authors to better understand their craft in a way never before possible.”

Now, we have no idea whether his idea is any good, and whether it’s anything to do with the above, but Scoble deemed Aaron important enough to take his 13 year old son Patrick to meet him. He and I both love this guy’s attitude – He followed his dream, even if it took a few little online self-publicity stunts to get there.

Some have compared his overnight success to the Red Paperclip guy, Kyle MacDonald. But even if Aaron’s success compares to Kyle’s, and it doesn’t turn him into a multimillionaire for an idea he sells to Google, he’s an inspiration to all young people with an idea. Don’t sit around, and most of all, don’t use typical channels like the Google idea submission form, but instead, make noise, get yourself heard, make a video, talk to the right people to create a buzz, and then, maybe you’ll get through!

[* No, I don’t take Digg seriously, not even as a source of rumours, but thought interesting to include what some people appear to have dug up]