I woke to a pleasant surprise this morning. I opened my ever-faithful Google Reader and found an invitation to play. Google Reader Play, that is. Cognizant of complaints by internet denizens who are comfortable enough to get online but fearful of the complexities of a full-blown RSS reader experience, Google apparently sought to simplify the process with, what else, a picture show!
I love that Google is willing to experiment like this. Play is a bit rough around the edges and isn’t quite as full-featured as I would like. But I think it is a great way to make RSS feeds more accessible to the masses. Shifting the emphasis from the mountains of text to the images found within posts, Play creates a slideshow of your RSS items. Very CoolIris. Each central image is graced with an extra-large “like”, “share” and “star” button. Thumbnails of a series of smaller images are spread across the bottom. You can turn the slide show on or off, adjust your stream with very rudimentary settings, hide the thumbnail viewer, or toggle between original and magic layout. There is a “read more” button and a link included, along with the identity of the feed or person sharing the post in Reader.
Reader Play isn’t quite like the full-blown Reader in one major respect – it takes your control of your feeds out of the picture and will show you items it believes you want to see using the tools behind Reader’s “recommended” items section. It also places heavy emphasis on items from people you follow in Reader and tries to bring to the top items similar to those you have previously liked, starred or shared. Great for browsing and surfing, but not so great for power users who want the ability to perform a surgical strike on specific feeds.
And that’s about it. Probably not very effective for a person like me with with about five hundred feeds and a post reading deficit that rival our national debt. But a great introduction to RSS reading, particularly with a relatively clean Reader and manageable number of posts.
If you have an existing Reader account, give it a try. Would love to hear what you think about it in the comments.