I’m an avid user of the RSS feed reader Google Reader. It has it’s perks and it has many areas that it can improve upon. Shyftr is a social RSS feed reader and has expanded upon Google’s Shared Items feature. On Shyftr, you can “Quick Pocket” stories that come through your feeds and they are now shared via a new feature known as a “Pocket Blog”, which Louis Gray has already broken the news about, and which you can also customize. This would be equivalent to sharing a story in Google Reader and having it show up in your Google Reader Shared Items linkblog. Seems Shyftr is getting serious about breaking into Google Reader’s territory.
What’s So Special About Shyftr?
Like FriendFeed, Shyftr thrives off of it’s community. It has great social aspects that fills a huge hole that Google Reader has yet to do anything about. Not only can you share stories, or ‘Suggest’ in Shyftr lingo, and comment on them right in Shyftr, but you can also “Shyft” entire feeds to others! This is definitely a first and something Google Reader could have benefited greatly from implementing. There’s also a ‘Popular’ page, which shows articles with the most comments on Shyftr. On your profile page, you can view friends, ‘Pockets’, and make profile comments. Nevertheless, Shyftr has implemented these features fabulously. Users can also stop by your profile and see what feeds you are reading and “Shyft” your feeds into their own feeds with no hassle.
Why Google Reader Still Triumphs!
Personally, I do not like to see the expanded view of feeds. In Google Reader, I have the option of seeing a ‘list view’, which displays the headlines and a small portion of the beginning of an article. I love this view and it saves me a lot of time and cuts out a lot of scrolling.
On the other hand, Shyftr only sports an expanded view for feeds, something which irritates me to no end, and apparently Alexander Marktl of ReadBurner has the same complaint. You can see all your feeds, updated feeds, and view feeds based on tags (if you’ve tagged any feeds). Everything is still stuck in expanded mode though. I’d advise Shyftr to implement this feature quickly.
Fragmentation of Conversation
Google Reader doesn’t add to this. Though it’s nice to see these comments on Shyftr, it’s still a hindrance to bloggers and others because it’s yet another service that one must sign up for just to see what they’re saying about your feed. Maybe FriendFeed’s ‘Imaginary Friend’ feature can temporarily solve this problem. That is until services find a way to push these comments back to the original articles.
Also, the fact that they don’t pull comments from the articles makes the ‘Popular’ page a bit irrelevant to me. The rank of each article isn’t based on actual numbers, but instead is based on those who have commented on the article through Shyftr. Though, when viewing a feed you can see the number of comments on an article via the FeedBurner flare that some sites use. Shyftr should use this number and the number of comments made on Shyftr to more accurately show which stories are popular. Though, this could be easier said than done.
Control Over Your Feeds
I’ve found no way to export your feeds on Shyftr for data portability purposes. At the same time, there’s no way to import an OPML file of feeds. You have to manually add each one, which has stopped me from engaging with the service to a certain extent. I refuse to manually add all 79 subscriptions that I currently have flowing nicely in Google Reader. Even if Shyftr wants to lock you into their service, making me manually add that many feeds is the worst way to do it. I’m thinking that maybe having to index so many feeds might become a problem for them, so they haven’t added this feature because I’m sure they’re aware you won’t want to add that many feeds in manually. Though you could use their ‘Shyft It’ bookmarklet, which when clicked will automatically add the feed into your feeds.
One thing I noticed last night is that Shyftr is slow on updating feeds. Sometimes Google Reader can be too, but I’ve never seen it delay pulling articles by more than a 1-2 hours. I noticed that Shyftr hadn’t updated some of my feed items by days! I’m still missing 3 of the latest posts from Steven Hodson’s WinExtra site. This is totally unacceptable and something that Shyftr should address as soon as possible.
Shyftr Stays (For Now)
Overall, I think Shyftr has potential, especially with the addition of the Pocket Blog. It’s one of Google Reader’s most ground breaking features and we may see the same happen with Shyftr. They’ve implemented some great social features and fill quite a few spots that Google Reader left hanging. Still, in today’s world, potential isn’t always enough. I’ll be keeping my Shyftr account for the time being and keep an eye on the service, but they’re going to have to do better to keep me there permanently.