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I realized this weekend that it's my fault that @google shut down Google Reader. /1
131 replies and sub-replies as of Sep 20 2016

I was the PM from 06-07. We launched a major redesign that significantly changed our growth rate... but didn't take us to "Google scale". /2
I used to think it was unfair and short-sighted that Google didn't give us enough resources to execute to our full potential. /3
... but as a founder, I know resources aren't something you are owed or deserve. They're something you earn. /4
I should have realized that not reaching ~100m actives was an existential threat, and worked to convince the team to focus 100% on that. /5
I should have prioritized agreeing on a bigger and riskier plan that would have given us even a remote chance of hitting those numbers. /6
I should have sold that vision to our execs, and if they still didn't buy it, I should have tried to make it work anyway. Like a founder. /7
Google Reader was one of my favorite projects. I loved working with that team, some of the best people I've had a chance to work with. /8
I don't know if doing these things would have been enough, but I now see that it was my job as PM to see the threat and do something. /9
I've had several similar realizations of my time at Blogger. This was a great thread.
radical move would be for Google to embrace things whose natural audience isn't 100M, but which are important to ecosystem.
for example, Blogger had readers and writers — I bet writers compared favorably to users of YouTube's creator tools.
And our blog reader numbers at the time were actually pretty massive once we realized we should count them.
exactly! Just wasn't framed in terms of creators tools vs audience experience. Still plagues Twitter today.
spot on. I'd argue Twitter's success is best measured against media (Buzzfeed) rather than social (FB, SC).
this is a good thread.
Yes! Or allow them to be easily spun out as independent cos. Not everything needs to be 100MM+ scale.
well, Google has many sub-100M apps, strategic ones. AdWords, YouTube Studio, Android Studio, etc. Creative tools.
trick is understanding that media ecosystems rely on the 1-9-90 contributor pyramid, with special tools for top.
I agree. Reader seems to have been erroneously perceived as a consumer app.
spent 10 yrs of life at @slashdot & @sourceforge trying to get power user understood. I failed. So hard.
Power users are a tough group. Like Tolstoy's unhappy families, subgroups of power users are unique
trust me when I say spinning out is very non trivial, and yes it was discussed.
importance outside financial objectives being subjective, this is why a corp culture's bias can be problematic
tho Google has good history of both acknowledging a tech ecosystem and caring about it (e.g. wikipedia servers)
every day. Come join us and preach internally. :)
that's a very kind invitation. I'm not yet sure what institutions can effect the changes I'm interested in.
would it be fair to apportion some blame to execs/the company for not making this clear to employees (PMs especially)?
I'm more interested in responsibility than blame, but I'd argue the lack of resourcing communicated this pretty clearly.
It was a good run, and you tried you best. Thanks for Google Reader, changed the way I consume web content.
good stuff. V few of the associates could have known that though. Our hiring bias. I’d have done ads stuff lots diff on hindsight
so... it's your fault that you were not a unicorn employee that magically behaves like a founder?
love this thread. It reminds me of my own situation, sadly.
I love this tweetstorm. You own it like a founder.
it's one of the best products that I ever used. I miss it so much. Sigh.
what do you use now for an rss reader?
I found @feedly to be the best alternative for me, but I recently switched to using @twitter instead.
ah, OK. I used Thunderbird for a while but recently switched to Digg Reader.
thank you for your part in Reader! I now use @NewsBlur and pay $$$ for it
how do you twitter as a reader?
most of the RSS feeds I was subscribed to had corresponding Twitter accounts by now.
I deleted all my google accounts and stopped use their services the day Reader was turned off. Never regret.
Would the product have been as loved & used as it was if all focus had been directed to on boarding more users. Likely not, right?
definitely not, that's part of what makes this hard. There were many more potential users who didn't love - or know about - Reader!
don't beat yourself up...everything happens for a reason...
no, the deeper problem was not explaining the engagement of the users you did have. The fraction of time spent online.
Totally fair. ~100m actives is only one of several ways to have a large impact.
that sounded more blamey than I meant it. Google missed that they had what twitter has since built by verifying media people
but isn't hitting those numbers more of a product marketing role? I struggled with this is my previous product and hence asking.
well hindsight is 20/20...
Google Voice has over 100m active users?
it's fucked that such a thing is an existential threat. fuck this idea that something has to take over the world to be a success.
Do you know how many actives Reader had by the end?
I don't, and if I did, I couldn't share it :)
As a PM, if an issue like that wasn't in the front of your head & repeated at intervals, the failure goes up a couple more levels.
how many actives did Google Reader have at peak?
not sure, and if I knew, I couldn't share.
prioritizing ~100m of "ANY" actives vs. hi-tech readers was idiocy. You already had high-impact users of the time.
100m actives would have been one of many ways to demonstrate impact. Broader point was that we didn't convince of our impact.
unless you're Plus! 🙃
the first rule of Google Plus...
perhaps and the fall revitalized the rest of RSS both feedly and readers. So sad and yet still a good outcome.
what led you to this realization?
as a founder, if your company fails, there's no one else to blame. No excuses, it's on you. The same is true of a good PM.
it's sad to see both Google reader nd video phasing out.I ws a heavy user at dat time.Glad see amazing people behind it
I blamed myself for the failure of Google Video. I should have pushed *much* harder for a frictionless upload UX. Don't sweat it.
Thanks! Hindsight is 20/20, but it's nice to know that I've learned some things these last few years :)
thanks for sharing the insight/pain! it's nice to see some transparency/vulnerability with projects like these.
I blame you too. KIDDING.
aw, we all failed it equally! (I also believe that scale achievement would've been rationalized as aberrant, same result)
Thanks Chris! Hindsight is 20/20. Still super proud to have worked on Reader with y'all, we built something people loved.
you guys certainly did!
not only loved but miss. was an amazing product and haven’t been able to find anything to replace it since.
i think it says _something_ that a product changed my habits and when it went away, changed them again. that’s powerful
clearly he deserves to be let out of jail!
"Jail" is such an ugly word. We prefer "involuntary colocation facility". ;-)
This sounds like it'd be great material for season 3 of Serial
So, basically, yuvar the reason, I now hv to try 20 diff apps to see meh collation of my curation. Thx 4 reader tho @_singhshashi
Well @nickbaum I must thank you for it. You've indirectly opened my eyes that there's nothing for free and I've switched to paid @NewsBlur
Did you release the code? I remember devs were asking for it to run Google Reader themselves.
it was shut down long after I left, but I suspect the code is way too dependent on Google infrastructure to be usable.
Nick is 1000% correct
Don’t worry, a great ecosystem of feed readers emerged after that and the world have benefited from it since.
indeed, good ideas often find a way to keep going!
It was a damn good product. I miss it dearly. If it were to come back, I would be onboard immediately.
I don't think it's quite so simple. We all knew that Reader was a "rounding error" compared to Gmail.
Hence attempts to integrate into larger products: Gmail, prototyped at…, development started by @bhawkes.
Google Reader Redux
(no description)
But just because you can show a product to hundreds of millions of potential users doesn't mean that they'll take to it.
e.g. when we did a Yahoo! Mail/RSS integration usability study and it made it clear that a Gmail integration was not a slam dunk.
absolutely. I think we would have had to build a very different product altogether, at the risk of alienating our existing users.
of course, you could argue that this would have been no different than shutting down Reader and building something different.
Kind sir, this is way too reductive. If you accept the blame then I hope you accept the praise too.
Building digital products is hard. Hindsight is 20/20. Thanks for all the hard work you and the team put into Reader 👏
It will be missed, haven't found a replacement that was 100% the same
is filling the bill for me but i do miss my #googlereader #RIP
is good enough that I'm not looking for anything else but Google was better
Would love to hear one or two things we could do to fill that gap! I am / @edwk
lost when they closed reader without opensourcing /selling it. I now try not to rely on any of their new products...
I owe you thanks. I had become lazy & complacent. The shutdown of GR reminded me that I should control my own Internet services.
i loved reader. Still miss it. Thanks for a few good years!
I loved, loved GR. I've moved on and bear no ill-will :). I'd buy you a 🍻 for a much used tool that positively impacted my life.
I guess the real mistake was not seeing the potential value of the data (direct access to infoeconomic top percentile of users)
Loved loved loved Reader. Chin up.
thanks for your note. I loved Google Reader. Thanks for making it.
if you can make tasks, calendar & inbox work together, all will be forgiven. Seriously. @feedly is all right.
Great thread. But it is going to be a long one if every former Google PM lists out all of their mistakes...
Compared to other Google products it seemed resource-light. After it shuttered I stopped using RSS, likely to my detriment
Thanks for saying this. I still don't read news the way I used to with Reader but I adapted.
shutting down Reader was your fault? What a terrible thing to have to live with the rest of your life.
Google reader shutting down was a major driving force behind our company. We even say so in
Cloudron the best platform for running web apps.
don't envy you having that on your conscious. I still think its too soon to be talking about GReader, wounds still raw...
best product I have ever used. U guys did amazing job. Don't sweat it
No offense but I disagree. I think what it would have taken to make it google scale, would have killed it.
Integrating reader with G+ would have helped
I actually loved Google reader. I stopped using any 3rd party rss feed reader.
loved Google Reader, Nick!!
Now I know who to blame. I've spent too many hours trying to find the perfect reader.... my life has been empty.
😒 oh... It only was my favourite product... 😠
I finally have someone to blame.
srsly, though, I miss it to this day. The best social network @google ever had.
After reading this, I'm super bummed that I never got to try it!
Thanks for building a life-changing product. Helped me devour content and cultivate passions.
I still miss google reader
Then you are the reason I abandon all Google properties and switched everything over to Microsoft.
If only I could time travel and use @google Reader again! :)