Google Acknowledges Reader Sharing Complaints

    December 27, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

Even though Google has seen the feedback in the Reader support group, and probably read a blog post or three, they are dodging the obvious solution to the question of sharing items.

obstinate - ADJECTIVE: 1. Stubbornly adhering to an attitude, opinion, or course of action; obdurate.

Earlier in December, Google Reader began exposing one’s shared items with contacts in Gmail or Google Talk. One chat with a contact meant they could see shared newsfeed items, whether or not the Google Reader user wanted to share with that particular person.

Google’s defense has been one of blinking astonishment. Shared items are public anyway, so what’s the big deal?

The “big deal” is that the shared page does not have an easily guessable URL. The URL ends with a string of 20 numbers. The typical person isn’t going to pull that string out of thin air, append it to, and see what’s on the page.

Chrix Finne posted a response to the sometimes-heated online discussion of the sharing feature at the Google Reader blog. It’s the same advice as before: manage sharing by tags in Reader; clear out all the stuff people may have seen already by virtue of being eligible to view those items; or punt your friends from your contact list.

The needed fix, which Finne hinted at in saying, “We’re looking at ways to make sharing more granular and flexible,” is precisely that. Just because someone had a chat with a contact one time doesn’t mean the person wants that contact to see shared items if and when he starts using Google Reader.

This analogy may help. Say you work in an office building, in one of several smaller offices. You and your office mates decide to have a potluck and post a signup sheet within your office.

That’s how the shared items page works. Yes, it’s public, but no one is going out of the way to run across the building to a person they chatted with one time for some purely business-related reason and say “look we’re having a potluck on Friday.” This is what Reader’s sharing policy does.

We would like Google to permit sharing with contacts on an opt-in basis per contact, not an opt-out. People who have expressed a negative opinion of the new sharing policy could live with that, as it does not drop a burden of managing opt-outs on them.