I’m a huge fan of Google Reader. I use it daily and have about 30-35 RSS feeds pouring into it at any one time ranging from the general Foxnews feed to the tech blog Engadget to Ohio State basketball bench warmer, Mark Titus’ Club Trillion blog. It’s a really great way to quickly check for updates on sites you’re interested in. I specifically use Google’s because it’s web based, so I can access it from any computer and even my iPhone.
One potentially great feature of Google Reader is Trends. It is essentially a stat tracker for your RSS feeds. It keeps track of how many items you read, numbers read each day, time of day, etc. The time of day features is specifically interesting to me because I can tell when during the day I’m actually wasting the most time by reading news instead of doing work.
The other thing it tracks is the specific number if items read per feed. It compares that to the number of items posted to that feed to give you a percentage of each feed that you have read. This seems like it would be a great tool for helping to weed out what you don’t actually look at and what you’re reading the most of. But that’s where the problem comes in.
I move through large amounts of content in Google Reader by scanning the title of the article. If it looks interesting, I’ll click on it and continue reading. If not, I’ll just pass over it and when I get to the end of the list, I’ll click “mark as read” so that the unread count goes away. According to all the documents I have read, clicking “mark as read” isn’t supposed to count toward your read total (since you didn’t actually read, it just marked it that way). But while looking at my reading trends, I’ve noticed that it doesn’t seem to be accurately counting my items read. The image below shows the stats from my top-10 feeds. I can honestly say there is no way that I have read 720 different Engadget articles over the last 30 days. I scan through the vast majority of my feeds and don’t actually click on them to read them. According to this chart, I read at last 60% of most of my feeds. That is simply inaccurate.
For comparison, here is the same list, but with the “Read on mobile” tab selected. These are the stats for Google Reader from my iPhone. They seem to be MUCH closer to the truth.
So what is the problem? It seems to be only that the web based reader isn’t keeping proper stats. I’ve tried to do research on the subject and the general consensus around the web seems to be that this can be fixed by unchecking “In expanded view, mark items as read when you scroll past them” under the Google Reader settings. Well, I’ve had that unchecked for over 30 days now and the numbers have not gone down.
This is not a major concern. I’m certainly not using these stats for anything important, but it has been an enigma to me for a few months now and I’d just like to figure it out. It’s very frustrating to not be able to find an answer for something that seems fairly obvious. I can’t be the only one that is seeing this “trend”.
I’d love some advice here, Google. I’m not counting near the number of items read that you are…
Shooter McGavin: Oh, you can count. Good for you.
Mr. Larson: And *you* can count, on *me*, waiting for *you* in the parking lot.
UPDATE (5/1/09): It appears this has been resolved, as I’m now seeing accurate read counts for all feeds. I guess bitching about it fixed it…who knows.