Reading RSS feeds is the ideal filler for small periods of downtime. Most articles are short so I can make use of even 45 seconds at a time. This means given the right technology, I can work my way through news feeds while waiting in line at the bank, stuck in traffic, waiting for an appointment, etc.
Up until recently, I used NewsFire because I wanted to have a offline copy for times when I didn’t have an internet connection. However, with the addition of Google Gears, I decided to give Google Reader a try again. While I miss some of the advanced features of NewsFire, the ability to keep my feeds synced regardless of whether I’m reading them on my Blackberry, laptop, or desktop computer has proven to be very useful.
I got a chance to really try out the system this week on a 14 hour car drive. When we had to stop for my wife to feed or change our 2 month old, I picked up my Blackberry and worked my way through my news feeds. Things that were of interest I starred for a closer look later. When I later got back online with my laptop, I was expecting a huge deluge of unread items. Instead I discovered that the time I had spent a few minutes here and a few minutes there while waiting at gas stations or road side parts had gotten me through several hundred items and I had half a dozen starred items of things I wanted to check out more closely.
Here are some of the downsides I’ve found so far:
- Can’t Share from Mobile Version — On the full version of Google Reader, you can share any item. If you look on the right hand side of Productivity501, you’ll see some links that come from items I’ve shared from Google reader. This isn’t available from the mobile version, which is dissapointing. If I want to share something, I have to star it and then share it when I’m at my laptop.
- No Smart Groups — NewsFire lets you have smart groups. So you can put a feed in your “productivity” folder, but then have a smart group that lets you browse all of your feeds based on other criteria, so I could create a smart group with my top rated feeds and another with all of the rest. There doesn’t seem to be a way to do this in Google Reader
- No Search — NewsFire lets you search through all of your feeds. I didn’t use this feature very often, but I’ve found I miss it when I’m looking for something I read, but I can’t seem to locate again. And given that Google is a search company…
All in all, I’ve been pretty pleased–especially with the ability to read feeds from any device and have it centrally keep track of what has been read and what is new. If you have downtime in small blocks and a web enabled cellphone, I’d encourage you to try using Google Reader on your cell phone and main computer. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.