Google Reader v. Twitter

Flipboard Screen Grab

Google Reader is dead. Long live twitter.

That’s one of the refrains being tossed around in the wake of Reader’s recent death sentence. From a rather sentimental coming-of-age article by Joshua Rothman {new yorker; via andrew sullivan}:

Twitter, which has replaced Reader (and R.S.S.) for many people, works on a different principle [than Twitter]. It’s not organized or completist. There are no illusions with Twitter. You can’t pretend, by “marking it read,” that you’ve read it all; you don’t think you’re going to cram “the world of ideas” into your Twitter stream. At the same time, you’re going to be surprised, provoked, informed. It’s a better model.

But Reader had a lot going for it, too. Using Twitter feels, to me, like joining a club; Reader felt like filling up a bookcase. It was a place for organizing your knowledge, and also for stating, and reviewing, your intentions and commitments. It kept a record of the things you meant to read but never did; of the writers you loved but don’t anymore. I won’t miss Reader when it shuts down, on July 1st. But I will miss the old me—the person I described in Google Reader, without knowing it.

Color me a “completist,” but the ability to mark it all read is what I love about RSS and Google Reader. The high likelihood that I’m missing something cool on twitter drives me nuts.

My personal media consumption preferences are somewhat of a balance. I use Google Reader through the Feeddler iPhone app for the stuff I really don’t want to miss. (Nick Carr, Daring Fireball, Seth Godin…)

For everything else, I use another app: Flipboard (shown above). The things I follow on Flipboard are more non-essential, I’ll-feel-OK-if-I-miss-them sorts of things. (Nothing personal guys but stuff like Coudal, Technically Philly, American Scholar, Glenn Greenwald…)

Which I suppose isn’t a setup all that different from what Mr. Rothman achieves with his just-twitter diet (if that is indeed the diet to which he adheres). Half of me just can’t let go of that self-delusional feeling that I’ve read it all.