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Since I’m full of the milk of human kindness after a wonderful Christmas, I’ve been trying to remain calm in the face of all the Google Reader hysteria about shared items and so on — but wiping out on some ice yesterday and landing on my ass has made it hard to stay serene (combined with gashing my hand playing Wii baseball), so I can’t help pointing out that much of the moaning about “privacy” is just ridiculous.

Like Stan over at Mashable, I’m wondering what part of the word “shared” isn’t being understood in this whole scenario. Are the people who are complaining non-English speakers? That seems unlikely. So the idea of “sharing” items on your Google Reader must be one they are at least glancingly familiar with. Scoble has decided to take the high road and blame Google for not implementing ‘granular privacy controls’ — and that might be a good thing for Reader, just as it would be for Facebook.

But it’s not something that’s necessary, in my opinion, nor is it something Google should be slammed for not having. The company explained that shared items would be visible to GTalk contacts — pretty simple, in my opinion. Plus, they can only be seen by contacts who also use Google Reader, and those contacts have to specifically click on the shared items from other users to see them. It’s not as if they’re being emailed to your friends, or scrolling by on the Jumbotron.

Would GPC be handy to have? Sure. Would a better contact management system be good? No doubt. But if you want to keep something private in Reader, but still save it for later, there’s a simple way of doing that: use the “Star” function. The word “share” means exactly what it implies. In case anyone is interested, my shared items are here. They may not be as interesting as Scoble’s, but they’re the best I can do (they’re in the sidebar of my blog as well, via a Reader widget).

Update:

Steve Rubel has a post that shows how to share items with a certain group of people without having them shared with every member of your Google contact list — share them by using a special tag. And now Mark “Rizzn” Hopkins at Mashable says that Google has added the ability to move all of your shared items to a new tag if you wish to stop sharing them with everyone and only share them with certain people. The official Google blog post on the topic is here.

About the author

Mathew 2430 posts

I'm a Toronto-based senior writer with Fortune magazine, and my favorite things to write about are social technology, media and the evolution of online behavior

22 Responses to “Google ruining Christmas? Get a grip”
  1. OH NO THE SKY IS FALLING! I never understood the hysteria about this this week. Since Ol' Goog married GTalk and GReader almost two weeks ago to the day, you figure people would have expected this to happen, it's only a natural progression. But no, people are bemoaning the fact that their contacts can see their feeds.

    Let alone ignore the fact that, as you stated, they have to use GReader too. And you have to share items. And you have to specifically share your feeds with certain people in your list, or allow access to the shared feed. It seems in the Christmas fury, everyone forgot that just because you share an item doesn't mean everyone — or anyone — actually sees it without you authorizing them to.

  2. It is absolutely not a violation of privacy. It's this simple. When you “Shared” the item, you made it part of the public domain with a public URL. If you want to keep it private, don't share it.

    The Web is more transparent than ever. Blogging is public. Del.icio.us bookmarks are public. Shared items are public. The whining needs to stop.

    Forget About Privacy. Embrace Openness.
    http://www.louisgray.com/live/2007/12/forget-ab

  3. I can see how this a “no big deal” topic for the “embrace openness” crowd, which decided a long time ago that privacy was underrated. But outside, where the rest of the world lives, I mean, come on, is it that hard to see how this potentially could be an issue?

    I agree with Erick of TechCrunch in that this is more of a consumer perception problem than a privacy problem. And, Mathew, perhaps I don't understand the word “share.” But last time I checked, it didn't imply “publicly share” any more than “privately share.” And I'm sure you've done plenty of both types of sharing in your life to realize that the issue has little to do with semantics.

    But I do agree that the “ruining Christmas” rhetoric is a bit much.

  4. Here here. The voice of reason. “Sharing” is a matter of choice – the users choice. It might be a little singular – one share for all – but a choice all the same.

    And the benefits are substantial – a human filtered rss feed – now i can go on holiday – “mute” my feeds and refer to my fellow bloggers on my return.

    Hooray for a happy holiday!!

  5. I've never viewed share on Google Reader as anything other than making it public to anyone who's interested. Then again, i star more than I share.

  6. Finally, an opinion that matches my own. The current whinge mentality of the blogosphere is kinda starting to piss me off.

    Lets refresh our memories of what shared items are, in Googles own words, inside Reader when you click on it.

    “Your shared items are publicly accessible.
    They are available as a page at http://www.google.com/reader/shared/xxxxxx (and there's a feed too) “

    Are people seriously going to argue that Shared items are anything but? Its crystal clear. Black and white.

    If people want a private bookmarking service, use the Star or create a tag of your own. Click Settings > Tags and you will see that you can make any arbitrary tag public or private.

  7. […] Mathew Ingram says get a grip. A poll of Mashable readers rings […]

  8. I agree completely. This is a non-issue. It is very obvious that Shared Items are, well, shared. Google even clearly states the items have their own public RSS feed.

  9. […] Read the rest of this post Print Sphere Comment Tagged: Globe and Mail, Mathew Ingram, Voices, privacy, Google | permalink […]

  10. I'm with Bob 100% on this one.

    I knew my shared items were public, but I also thought it was only if someone stumbled upon them, or if i sent them the link. I never imagined that they would be PUSHED to my gmail contacts. and that's what Google did and is doing.

    I really, so very much really don't want my ex-husband being pushed my shared items feed. it's just creepy!! and I need to keep him as a gmail contact because we share custody of our dog. so, removing him as a contact is not an option.

    so, now I don't “share” any items but re-tag them. and I have emailed the few people I know reading my shared items to tell them of the new feed. but this is more hassle and completely stupid.

  11. I'm with Bob 100% on this one.

    I knew my shared items were public, but I also thought it was only if someone stumbled upon them, or if i sent them the link. I never imagined that they would be PUSHED to my gmail contacts. and that's what Google did and is doing.

    I really, so very much really don't want my ex-husband being pushed my shared items feed. it's just creepy!! and I need to keep him as a gmail contact because we share custody of our dog. so, removing him as a contact is not an option.

    so, now I don't “share” any items but re-tag them. and I have emailed the few people I know reading my shared items to tell them of the new feed. but this is more hassle and completely stupid.

  12. […] items that show up for some people.) The effect can be avoided but only with some backflips.  Mathew Ingram says it’s much ado about nothing although I can’t agree with his idea that sharing with some […]

  13. […] Items plus privacy initially gave the impression final December (and, per many groups of people, smashed their Christmas), they right away shows me whatever they were doing plus how to more adept subsume the mutual […]

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