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March 14, 2013
Scientists and Google Reader's Demise
I suspect that many people follow this blog through its RSS feed. And I feel sure that many readers here follow the current scientific literature that way. Journals are updated constantly, and that's the most concentrated way to get all the new information in one place for flipping through. (No more "new journal table" in the library, is there?)
Well, as you've probably heard, the site that many of us have been using to do all this is closing. Google Reader is to be shut down on July 1. Problems had been apparent for some time now, but this still took me by surprise. And now the search is on for a replacement.
Feedly is apparently trying to clone the service on their own, so that's a possibility. And The Old Reader seems to be an effort to recreate the service as well, going back to some sharing functionality that Google stripped out a while back in the interest of promoting Google+. I'll be evaluating these and others.
What I already know is this: many RSS-based services seem to be colorful-picture-tile things (like Flipboard), and for the chemical literature, they're of no use to me. I am feeling more like a dinosaur every time I say this, but I don't own a tablet (or not yet), and I wish that web sites would find a way to deliver their content both ways: in concentrated blasts of scrolling info for people using a more conventional desktop (or who just like it that way) and in big, flippy, roomy, tablet-screen-sized chunks for those who like it that way instead. One size doesn't fit all.
And that's where Google Reader will be missed, unless someone else can step up. The scientific literature needs a tool like this - we have hundreds and hundreds of new articles coming along all the time, and while scrolling through them in RSS isn't ideal, it's a lot better than any other solution I've come across. Looking at the various comments around the web about Reader's demise, I see that it's hard-core information nerds that are mourning it most - well, if scientists don't fit that description, they should. We're industrial consumers of information, and we need industrial-strength tools.
Update: here's the best list of alternatives I've seen so far.
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