An Open Letter to

Reader was my favorite social network, hands down. I was incredibly sad to see it go. When I found out existed, I was giddy all day.

I wrote the team to thank them (hello at theoldreader dot com) and to also trouble shoot a bug. They were incredibly kind and prompt in response. After they fixed the glitch my massive address book was causing, I asked the following:

Next dreams:
What are privacy settings? Can only people I follow see my posts, only the friends of people I post comments to see those comments?
Multi-shares in same social network list people who shared rather than showing the post repeatedly.
But these are again, dreams, not issues.
Are we going to be able to pay the team a nominal amount to keep the project going? I would like to be able to support a group to do continued support rather than having this thing we all love die again.

Their response:

As per our privacy policy, all shared posts are currently public. We do have ‘private accounts’ feature in our roadmap that will allow users to expose their shared items only to a limited number of accounts they choose. However, this has very low priority for us; most users only read public RSS feeds that are available to everyone in the first place, so hiding them makes little sense.
We have discussed the mechanics of multi-sharing before and decided to stick to the current implementation to avoid mixing comments to two different shares into a single thread. Sometimes people discuss not the shared article itself, but rather the sharer’s comment to it – so, each shared post becomes unique in a way and deserves a separate comment thread.
At the moment The Old Reader is not backed up by any company, and we are still looking for the best way to allow our users to support the project. We will definitely update our blog when we decide on something, so make sure you are subscribed to it 🙂

Here is what I have sent them. I hope you’ll join me in politely, lovingly, requesting the same. I would also like you to be willing to throw in to support the team if that is the route they go.

I’d like to lobby that privacy get moved up the list. A few reasons, personal, individual, and communal. First, I work in humanitarian and disaster response, with volunteer technical communities and military alike. I also have an incredibly dark sense of humor. The people I work with tend to check out who I am and what I like – having another public space on which to express myself doesn’t really allow me to express myself. Those same working conditions also make it incredibly important that I be able to have a safe space to talk and connect.
On an individual level, I saw friends discover themselves because Reader was a safe space. Things like gender, sexuality, and approach in life are not things which can be held without care. People with very public lives have been able to go through self-discovery with a small group of trusted friends.
And finally, communal – while with privacy my own shares are only to those who I have approved, my comments on a friend’s share are visible to their friends. *This is essential* – there is at least one pairing from our previous ShareBro network which happened because of this serendipity in safe space. They are now married.

As it is now, it’s more like a Tumblr than it is like Reader. I hope you’ll institute the privacy and sharing layers sooner rather than later. Again, I’m happy to contribute what I can towards this being a sustainable effort.

All my best, and thanks again,


Farewell, Dear Reader

My favorite social forum has been Google Reader for a good couple few years now. Honest discussion, silly trolling, and safe exploration have been its key features to me. I remember forcing myself to notice how seamlessly they integrated the comments feature, how it became an intrinsic part of my life easily in exactly the way puberty didn’t. We talked gender, culture, ideals, memes, and love. I saw romances unfold and collapse, revolutions half start and dissolve or evolve, friendships be shaken and cemented.

It was a safe place because I could say who had access to my shares and comments, but also see how “outsiders” interacted on the shares of dear friends. It was intellectual and thought-provoking because it was based on content, not social exchanges. It introduced people dear to my Tribe in a way that was based around shared ideals and interactive thoughts, not popularity or witticisms. And most of all, it was a way to normalize my friendships and emotional connection during constant travel. I always knew, no matter what timezone I was in, that someone had shared something, commented on someone else’s shares, and would have the consistency in character and access that geography and timezones made cognitively dissonent otherwise.

I’ve laughed at the persistent humor and intelligence of friends left in other geographies. I’ve seen and cherished the exploration and shift of gender, sexuality, and relationships of tender souls. I’ve learned about fashion and pleating and nails, things I never would have cared about but now find fascinating. I’ve trolled about Juggalos and claimed BUNK. This medium has allowed me the closeness of connection, the vulnerabilities, and the rejoicing that closely approximate real life. To someone whose “local” is geographically distributed, this has meant the world to me. It let me determine how public I was, and that is a rare and beautiful thing. And now, in yet one more place, my friendships and thoughts have become a commodity.

Apparently the same usability exists to people on G+, with some changes to make people “click” more instead of delving deep into the content, assessing, and responding. It’s more public, more based on how many followers you have. As someone who is fairly well-followed, I will be clear that the only way I can be as awesome as I am is because of my core group of dear friends. My dear friends who, as cristobat (of course a sharebro) says, “you don’t have to be cool around.” My dear friends who I can share a post about disaster response next to an image one of my kinks next to an article about cyborgs and their only response it to comment honestly about each in a way which honors, questions, and builds upon those aspects of my Self.

I can’t join G+ because I have an odd name, and risk losing acces to the other tools of theirs I use. Yes, they’re allowing pseudonyms soon, but there will be several weeks at least in the interim. Google, why are you succumbing to a broken system of “clickiness” instead of standing up for the very real, very dear exchanges that occur on your established tool? It’s like a city cutting taxes by removing the arts. Sure, it benefits a few people in the short term, but the long term societal effects are disastrous. I thought you would be better than that. I guess I was wrong. A strong and informed community would have been more beneficial to you in the long run than any capitalistic metrics of potential consumers ever would.

I uploaded screencaps of some of my favorite GReader exchanges. You have to be a friend on Flickr to see them, because they are sensitive. Ping me if you don’t have access and think you should. You can also see the Lexicon for an index of ways we’ve interacted and might one day interact again in the future.

Farewell, Dear Reader. It’s been great.