- Boorstin, above right, meets with Leah Libresco and Paul Savitz at last month's protest. (Photograph by Joshua Yospyn)
It's probably self-evident why Google has been able to ignore the high-pitched whining of people cheesed off by its recent changes to Reader, a free product that makes it easy to read news online. As Jack Shafer wrote, "Seeing as Google doesn’t charge for its RSS reader I can’t complain much more than if a bar serving free beer suddenly switched from Sierra Nevada Pale Ale to Old Milwaukee."
But whether people are paying for it or not, the company's response to the surprising amount of criticism of the Reader redesign has been remarkably...restrained. The Google Reader blog hasn't been updated since Oct. 31, when its new design got pushed to users, and the only acknowledgment of the criticism of that design was a Nov. 4 tweet that announced titles and links, which had been turned gray in the new design, would be colored blue again.
That's probably as close as newshounds are gonna get to the old Reader layout. I rely heavily on my RSS reader to write an aggregated morning arts email. I tried using a few competing products but didn't like them particularly better than Google's even with the godawful new design, so I'm sticking with Reader for now.
Grumpy resignation works for me, but the "sharebros" who used Reader as an intentionally small social network appear to simply be hosed (Adam Clark Estes reported some are working on a new product called HiveMined that may ease the pain). A couple weeks ago I reported on a protest outside Google's D.C. headquarters, where a few area enthusiasts held signs and tried to get the company to back off its gutting of Reader's social functions.
Toward the end of the protest, a Google employee appeared: Robert O. Boorstin, a director of public policy for Google who said he'd pass on their concerns to the company's product team. Leah Libresco, one of the protest's organizers, sent Boorstin a detailed and concise email detailing her objections that same day.
Libresco says she hasn't heard back. I asked Boorstin today whether Libresco's critique had gotten any reaction inside the company, and he hasn't replied to me, either. My request to Google's media department, which is usually quite responsive, has gone unanswered, too. Should anyone get back to me on this pressing matter, I'll update!