Creating a smarter, more useful RSS reader

Google ReaderAfter about a month or so of travel, I’m way behind on my blog reading (and writing). On my Google Reader, many of my subscriptions are maxed out at 100+. I’m tempted to just mark them all read and start fresh.

But there’s the little voice in the back of my head that says “there might be something important in there.” This is where RSS readers are of little help. They do a good job of dumping loads of information on our screens; but they fail to help us determine what to read.

Here are some things I’d like to see:

  • Clustering of stories. Many of the blogs I read talk about very similar topics. Stories about the same topic should be clustered a la Google News. If multiple blogs point at the same original source, that story should be at the top of the cluster.
  • Highlight top stories. Show me the “best of” stories from my selection of feeds. Some proxies for determining best of: number of times a story (or cluster) was written about, number of times it was read, number of comments, sharing activity by my friends.
  • Use publisher tags. As far as I can tell, Google Reader doesn’t use the tags that bloggers assign to their stories. A tag view emphasizing recent tag activity would help to identify trends and prioritize what I should read. There is the issue of tag spam, but it’s mitigated by RSS being opt-in. I would quickly delete bloggers who spammed.
  • Alerts. Let me configure alerts against my collection of RSS feeds. If one of the bloggers I read has written about one of my products, I want to know about it as soon as possible. Likewise if a company I’m following is being acquired.
  • Wii access. Let me read my blogs from my Wii, so I can stay on top of my news in front of my TV. Just kidding. My colleague Mona tells me Google has released a Wii version of Reader. (Official Google post on Wii Reader.)

I still want search across subscribed stories and de-duping of content.

More on: Google.


About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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