Archive for March, 2013

Google Reader death, or how the cloud model can fail you

If you’re a Google Reader user, you probably read in one of your subscriptions that Google is pulling the plug on Google Reader. It is yet another demonstration of why putting data in the cloud isn’t so much of a nice idea: the service you rely on may well disappear some day, with all the data it contains.

Sure Google, in its extreme goodness, allows you to “take out” the Google Reader data. Or does it?
These are what you’ll get from Google Takeout for Reader:

  • followers.json, following.json: both files contain similar data, that I suspect correspond to Buzz subscriptions (yet another dead service). Each friends item contains some information about your “friend”, and a stream identifier for their activity (I guess), as well as a few websites urls. For instance Tim Bray’s stream is “user/05198174665841271019/state/com.google/broadcast“. What the hell do I do with that? Fortunately, he has websites, but not all my “friends” have. Thankfully, I haven’t really been using this feature, so there’s almost nothing in these files.
  • liked.json, starred.json, shared.json, shared-by-followers.json: all have the same structure, and contain items you liked, starred, shared, or that the people you follow shared (yeah, that file is badly named). Each item contains an url (or so I hope), and the corresponding content (yay). shared-by-followers.json however doesn’t contain more than the items the people you follow actively shared: it doesn’t contain their feeds (and I’m pretty sure I read more from Tim Bray than the two links he shared)
  • subscriptions.xml: Essentially, a list of RSS feed urls, with no content ; nothing from Tim Bray here, but now that I think about it, I think I was only following his Buzz feed, so that went away with Buzz without me noticing.

Interestingly, while looking into shared-by-followers.json, I found urls that would correspond to friend streams. For instance, Tim Bray’s is http://www.google.com/reader/public/atom/user/05198174665841271019/state/com.google/broadcast. But it’s useless: all it displays is “permission denied”.

As for subscriptions, one of the strengths of Google Reader is that it allowed to search though past items, which means a big part of the interesting data is the archived items. But that’s not part of the “take out”. Sure, you have the feed urls, but most RSS feeds contain a limited amount of items, not the entire history of items for the given feed. So, history is more or less lost. Except if I star, like or share all items in all my subscriptions and “take out” again.

So much goodness.

It could have been worse, though.

2013-03-14 08:35:45+0200

p.d.o, p.m.o | 15 Comments »