One week into a Google Life (tm?)

I bored you all with a story about search at and announced my experiment with living in Google in last week's Living a GoogleLife. Here is an interim report.

I forwarded all of my email to my Google Mail account and for the most part have managed to rely entirely on Gmail. One possible problem occurred when I flew to Austin, TX: there was no way to work with Gmail offline. I managed to sleep on the flight down, and was crammed into a too-small seat on the return flight for it to even matter.

Now, there's ways to export mail out of Gmail, there's POP access (but not IMAP), and I'm keeping a copy of all forwarded mail, so it wasn't really a problem, just a potential problem. I do wonder if there's some easy way for a non-geek to set up a shadow of their Gmail (some sort of local POP server perhaps?).

One important note: prior to forwarding all mail to Gmail I had set up Gmail to send mail on behalf of each account I was forwarding. So mail sent to which gets forwarded to Google can be responded from Google Mail with the "from" address set to my address and not my Gmail address.

I shifted to using Google Reader for my feed following fetish. This involved exporting an OPML file from Bloglines and reimporting it into Google Reader. Initially this covered 800+ feeds and I found it quite challenging to organize the feeds in Reader. I did not dissect the feed manager page but I'm guessing it loads all of the feeds into some sort of structure and likely blows out some memory leak somewhere in Firefox.

I ended up deleting or unsubscribing from about 400 feeds. I had subscribed to a number of feeds in Asia over the years, thinking that somehow that would have value to me. There really wasn't a cost per se in subscribing to so many feeds as long as you do not attempt to read them all, but there is a bit of cost in managing them in Bloglines. In Google Reader there is a cost if you use the All feeds view since you end up having to wade through them. So I deleted anything I hadn't really read in awhile, or partial feeds which amounted to a headline and the first line of the article. I'm conflicted over the whole partial-vs-complete feed discussion, I prefer full feeds but can see that if your income is derived from page views that you need to stick to partial feeds. But come on, a headline and a single sentence is useless (CNN's feed is guilty of this).

I also deleted all non-English feeds. I had had some French and Spanish feeds but found that most content was duplicative of stories in English.

But after a week of using Google Reader I've found:

  • I'm skimming more content, faster
  • I'm opening less tabs with the full-length articles
  • I feel like I'm spending less time reading feeds
  • Once I put the effort into customizing my feed organization, Google Reader feels faster and easier to use, more responsive, than Bloglines.

Now that last one is not exactly a fair comparison: I have less feeds in Google Reader than I've had in Bloglines for a year or more.

The only major criticism I have with Google Reader at the moment has to do with the feed organization and import: HTML entities in the OPML file from Bloglines were messed up (‘blogs was converted to 8216blogs), blanks are converted to hyphens (New York City becomes new-york-city), and all were converted to lower case. This seems unique to Google Reader as Gmail allows mixed case labels and accepts a pasted in ‘blogs in a label (that should be a ‘ character there).

I haven't had as much bang from Google Search yet. I think partly because I mostly search from the Firefox search box, which is still using Google search but means that I don't interact with Google's site until I hit enter (though the latest update to the search box appears to ping Google to suggest search terms, so maybe I'm not losing anything.

I also have not tried using Google Desktop Search, that may be today's task.

Net: so far am liking Google Reader and Gmail. I believe I'm getting a productivity boost from using Reader for my feed addiction, I'm not sure I'm getting any sort of boost yet from Mail. I suppose I should try importing my 2006 mail back into Gmail to make use of the search capabilities since that was what kicked this exercise off.

Posted in Metadiscourse


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