Thanks in part to the announcement by FriendFeed that they are being acquired by Facebook, the recently added social features (and here as well) of Google Reader have really taken off over the past week. Google Reader has become a place to not only read RSS feeds, but to have discussions on the best articles (replacing FriendFeed? only time will tell).
For me, one of the best parts of this new found interest in Google Reader and sharing is that all of the 40+ people I am now following are sharing the best articles they read with me. Instead of having to cull through 600+ feeds, I can make do with the 120 or so that I really care about and let all of the people I am following do the rest of the work for me. I am still following sites via RSS, but this new crop of people I am following is where the real value is on Google Reader. For example, I don’t actively follow or read TechCrunch (for various reasons) but I know that many of the people I am following do. I am able to track the most important articles from TechCrunch in this way.
The ability to share items in Reader is not a new one, nor is the option to comment on them. The Reader team has recently added the ability to like articles though. These social features all came together recently when Google changed the way you can search for and subscribe to other people. Leveraging Google Profiles, you can search for people who use Reader and have shared items. This makes the feature so much more usable, as I don’t have to ask people for their email address. The whole thing integrates with Google Contacts, which is nice if you already use Google Contacts, and works by simply adding the people you follow to groups. Once they are in a group you can allow the group to comment on your items. This is a critical step as it is what opens up to social side of Google Reader. While this method is a bit tricky for people, and not terribly intuitive, it is nice that the default option is to keep things private. I like having control over what I share.
Confused by how this works? You can take a look at the image on the pingmicro site which attempts to explain it. I am planning to record a short video in the next couple of days that walks through how this all comes together.
You can find me on Google Reader (like everywhere else) by searching for seanabrady.