The Google Way (5×8 – 3/14/13)

The risk of the free app, there’s money in parking spots, the search for Kira Trevino, the price of progress, and it’s Pi Day!


Is Google too big for its britches, and have people too willingly adopted its free products as part of everyday life?

The conglomerate announced yesterday that it is shutting down its Google Reader service, the latest free service that its decided to drop. Reader is a service that organizes RSS feeds in a single spot. This daily effort, for example, would be impossible without Reader.

“This wasn’t exactly unforeseen,” says.” Reader had long been basically ignored, its updates were few and far between. Last month, when many users started reporting problems, Google simply ignored the issue for several days before even commenting on it. The end of Reader has been in plain sight for some time.”

Tim Worstall at Forbes writes today that this is simply the Google way:

They’re just not romantic about these things: they’re very hard headed. Which is what we all want in a would be profit making company of course. It might sound pretty hippie and relaxed that all engineers get the time to pursue their own projects. That an ad company (which is what Google really is) designs driverless cars for example. But exploring the space of possible technologies is a good basic policy. But only if, as Google is, you’re prepared to kill off those things which “work”, but which don’t make a profit.

The real story, Jamie Thingelstad writes, is we should stop expecting to find useful apps and products on the Internet for free:

If your replacement for Google Reader is another free app you picked up in the App Store, you are going to be here again. You need to pay for this service. Either with a direct fee, or by hosting it on your own web server or running your own application on your computer. I don’t believe RSS Readers are products that can be offered for free. They use resources, and are complicated. If you agree to pay for this valuable service, you’ll make a market for it! If Google couldn’t do it for free, do you really think others can? I say no.

There are alternatives to the product — Lifehacker has some here. But the larger question is whether it makes any real sense to allow Google to spread into critical elements of daily life?

Related: Google Concedes That Drive-By Prying Violated Privacy (NY Times)

Google Glass: The end of privacy? (Marketplace)


What are 55 parking spots worth, MPR’s Curtis Gilbert asks? About $400,000. Saint Paul, making room for a new stadium for the Saints in Lowertown and needs to buy the parking spaces from a condo association it sold the spaces to years ago for less than half that amount.

There’s money in parking, which seques nicely — thank you, very much — to the latest Freakonomics episode which reveals that there’s no such thing as free parking.


There’s still no sign of Kira Trevino, the Saint Paul woman who apparently told her husband she was leaving him, and hasn’t been seen since. He’s charged with killing her.

Her cousin, Nicole Krause, writes an op-ed in today’s Star Tribune that offers a small piece of humanity — a recognition of the people who helped search for her:

But as the group discussed more search details — like digging, dragging the river and ultimately finding a body — I felt sick and had to look away. When I turned around, I found myself facing Mark’s girlfriend, and I felt the compassion and strength that radiated from her.

People we didn’t know and never could have imagined meeting banded together and started combing the park, shovels over their shoulders and two-way radios on their belts. Each person was willing to climb the steepest bluff to investigate plastic garbage bags and scraps of clothing.

In fact, this group of 30 to 40 strangers quickly bonded — united by a single mission: Find my poor cousin Kira.

At times I had to stop, barely able to see the ground in front of me through my tears, having to be held up by my husband. My stomach jumped and my heart sank each time someone yelled, “I found a bag!”

We all want to find Kira. But honestly, it’s a mix of hope and horror.

Yet amid the agony I felt a renewed sense of humanity when we needed it the most. Last week, these dedicated searchers had never heard of Kira, nor of my family. Yet here they were — and it moved me to tears more than once.


There is little similarity, perhaps, in Saint Paul’s old Rondo neighborhood and the Vermont farm of Romaine Tenney, who milked 25 cows by hand at the farm with no electricity. He wanted to be left alone to farm. But like the people of the Rondo neighborhood, the interstate highway came calling and, like them, with tragic results.

You will not read a more compelling story today than the Yankee Magazine article on Romaine Tenney and the price that’s paid when progress comes calling.


It’s Pi Day!

Bonus I: The mechanics of the pull-up (and why women can absolutely do them) (Scientific American)

Bonus II: Poll: 60 percent of Republicans want the party to move in a more conservative direction. (Pew)


Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, who last year accused fellow church officials of hypocrisy for forgetting that Jesus Christ bathed lepers and ate with prostitutes, was elected pope Wednesday. He chose the name Francis, becoming the first pontiff from the Americas and the first from outside Europe in more than a millennium. Today’s Question: What should Pope Francis focus on?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: The battle over the budget in Washington.

Second hour: How can a nation so wealthy have a hunger problem? Plus: The future of the Macy’s building in Saint Paul.

Third hour: Should Minnesota lawmakers ban Triclosan?

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Live broadcast from the Westminster Town Hall Forum. Speaker: Anna Lappe, on food, sustainable farming, and the root causes of hunger.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – Where’s the line between thought and deed?

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – — The 40th annual Twin Cities Auto Show is underway at the Minneapolis Convention Center. It runs through this coming Sunday. Many folks come to admire the pristine new vehicles and just dream of owning one. The show takes place as the industry is rebounding. New car and truck sales have been on the upswing. Martin Moylan reports.

University of Minnesota student leaders say too many of their classmates don’t call 911 in an emergency when they’ve been drinking. Many hesitate because they’re not sure how serious the situation is. And they’re afraid police will cite them — and their friends — for underage consumption. Alex Friedrich will have the story.

  • Robert Moffitt

    Bonus II: In the last election, Team GOP lost 10 seats in Congress and a shot at the White House. They lost the minority (soon to be the majority) vote, and the female vote and the youth vote. Does this sound like a nation crying out for “more conservatives?”

  • jon

    @#1 – I was just looking for a replacement for google reader.

    It is how I know when to come to news cut.

    and so far the alternatives I’ve found don’t have the same functionality as reader either in a web browser or on my phone.

    Of course the real reason why reader is being shut down is that it’s not generating revenue. Look at the reader page… there isn’t a single ad on there. Gmail has ads, Google+ has ads. Though concerning Google drive does not have ads. Google makes it’s money from ads. I would accept ads on the google reader page rather then it’s retirement, but it is not likely to be.

  • Aaron

    Intriguing thought/question that I learned from Newscut today: Don’t let google absorb too much of your daily life.

    New pope and google puts kittens in the blender all in the same day!

    Maybe I’ll check out what Melissa Meyer has been up to lately.

  • Disco

    Not happy about Reader. I have used it a couple hours a day since about 2007. None of the alternatives appear as good.

  • Kat S

    Have I been trusting too much of my online life to Google? Maybe, given how much time I spend on Reader (and Gmail, and Drive… ah well). But I spent it there because it was the best tool for me, so I can’t say I’d have avoided using it just because the rug might get pulled out from under me. That’s kinda the nature of the Internet, whether or not the service you’re using is paid.

    Still easier than the migration from one email address to another after I switched ISPs or graduated from school used to be. I’m perfectly willing to trust Google– or other companies– with large parts of my extended brain as long as long as I can freely move the data out.

    All of the resignation above to the side, I’m not happy Reader’s going away. Like Disco and Jon, at the moment I’m struggling to find an alternative that’s as good without being confusing, and I know that some bloggers are going to lose readership from this.

  • Tyler

    Knowing Google, they have crunched a LOT of numbers on Reader. I would imagine they know exactly how much content we’ve consumed, versus what the opportunity cost is of related “lost” revenue (ads or whatever).

    What I don’t understand is why they haven’t figured out how to make money out of knowing what news we read. Surely the amalgamation of our reading habits is worth quite a bit, at least to the content providers? There must be a way of watching reading trends and starring articles and coaxing money out of it.

    Emotionally, though, I feel like this is the first time Google has broken their motto (“Don’t be evil.”) I use this service more than anything. Reader also acts as a proxy – if a given website is blocked, but Reader can access the site….if I can access Reader, I can get the website’s content.

    Finally, the people that use Reader are Professional Interneters. It’s what separates the casuals from the dedicated. I’m stunned that Google would see fit to piss off that crowd.

  • BJ

    So what would Reader be worth to the “Professional Interneters” – $500 per year, $1000?

    I would guess for a viable business they would need to have income around $3-6 Million per year and growth potential. My guess is it was the growth that killed it.

    I’m a pretty big consumer of information and I have only ‘heard’ about Reader, never used or even thought about using it or any service like it.

  • Bob Collins

    // Finally, the people that use Reader are Professional Interneters.

    Only in the sense that if you pick up the paper off your front stoop you’re a professional newspaperer.

  • Mark Gisleson

    Tech sites comments are all weeping over Google Reader today. For me it just means I’ll have to migrate all my feeds over to Calibre so I can read them on my Kindle. Or maybe one of the old aggregators that Google Reader KILLED will come back to life?!

    Funny how a lack of users doesn’t ever seem to kill Google Plus.

  • Kevin Watterson

    In high school I could do a combination of 20 under- and over-hand pull-ups. One day I did 26 and beat the State Trooper who worked out with us. That was 15 years and 20 pounds ago. Today if I can crank out five without stopping I done good. Over-hand is merely a wish.

  • Tyler

    One more note on Reader – lots of other aggregators use the Google Reader API and/or Reader sync functionality. I haven’t seen information as to whether these will go away or not.

  • Xopher

    Reader is how I read this blog, along with 40 others, and I also RSS several search queries on Craigslist. I tried three replacements yesterday. The two web-based ones crashed while I was setting up the accounts, and the application was 100% different and confusing.

  • JSK

    Another dedicated Google Reader user here, too. First they took way the search toolbar (which I managed to hack to I can continue to use it). Then they took away Google Notebook (at least they transitioned all of that stuff into Google Docs/Drive), and now Reader. We won’t really talk about Wave. 😉

    Anyway, Reader is how I keep up to date on tech news. It allowed me to go back and read about 2 months’ worth of posts as new-to-me news because life is so hectic now that I can no longer keep current in some subject matters. Sure, most of the blogs/news sites I read have an FB presence but that most certainly isn’t a substitute since FB continues to dictate what they think is important to me.

    I wouldn’t worry about Google Drive. It’s too hooked into their Google Docs/Business offerings for them to kill it off (at this point).

    Bob, thanks for the story about Romaine Tenney, too!