January 10, 2012

Picking the right social network, storing your 'read articles' collection

I am currently updating my PEA blog as it was an aesthetic disaster. I have dwelled deep into Blogger's infrastructure and found a way to almost completely takeover the HTML code which allows for much more advanced layout. That along with CSS and jQuery has the potential to make it an awesome interactive site. I will post more details about this later.

I am now having the dilemma of choosing the one social network to "mini-blog" on the side column. Running the feeds from Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus (and even more!) is too much, my readers will end up with a randomized chaotic nystagmus.

Until now Twitter has been the obvious choice but with Google Plus on the rise as a highly advanced and professional (FB for me is the personal network) social networking tool I am tempted to use it not only to mini-blog but also to store all my favorited articles, read on the Internet.

Previously it was easy to do with Google Reader's Shared items function whereas you could mark each favorited item (article) in your subscriptions and export this as a special RSS feed. That way widgets and gadgets could grab that feed and display it on your blog aka 'I am now reading:' list in a box on the sidebar. Well in nov 2011 Google made a unpredicted and very unpopular decision to remove this feature (previous items fortunately are found through Google's Dashboard and can even be exported). Most probably their intentions were benign and to have the crowd use Google Plus instead which is not a bad idea considering it is their main social media platform. But as we speak, half a year after Google Plus entered the scene, there has been none official RSS export function introduced [april 2012: this function is now available through a 3rd party solution!]. There are hacks but the only way to be sure it will continue working tomorrow and the day after tomorrow is to have an official version from Google and thus I have not used these.

Now why do I want to obsessively pin my online readings and share this way? Actually sharing is a lesser important feature, I can live without it, but I have repeatedly found my self going back to my previous readings to find again "just that great article" I read some months ago (like this great piece of work on things that will more likely kill you than sharks).  This commonly happens while writing a blogpost or just having a gust of inspiration to kill the writer's block. I am aware there are other options for this like Evernote and StumbleUpon.com but they are not Google services and thus require another sign up and login which is against my idea of minimalism and one key to all doors. Besides I want smooth integration with Google Reader which despite all is still my favorite RSS reader. I am sure you will eyeball my decision but this is my choice after years of trying different services, loosing data and trying to port data between them, an awkward waste of time.

Wanting the Google Reader integration I have found a relatively painful new way for pinning by creating a special "Pinned articles" circle in Google+ and using the G+ share function in GR, it allows the pinned circle to be selected specifically (and is remembered next time as default choice). You can then decide if you want to invite your friends to this circle or just keep it publicly readable for everyone. This is an ok solution to the problem but I really miss an RSS export feature to create some magic from my feed, eg displaying it on the blog.

The search will continue - please comment if you have any thoughts!