May 21, 2008

Google Reader, Why Dost Thou Taunt Me?

What if you got into your car and saw the fuel tank registered at full, but you ran out of gas after you exited the driveway? What if your laptop reported full battery, but the screen went black before your e-mail application even opened? What if you bought a dozen donuts, and opened up the box to find only crumbs?

It's this feeling of first hope, and then, emptiness, I'm getting tonight with my Google Reader. While Google Reader, despite significant competition of late, is still the best online feed reader out there, its occasional quirks are almost always worth highlighting - especially as the small team does such a great job the other 99.9% of the time.

So do I have 229 new items, or zero new items? Confusing!

Tonight, after only about 30 minutes away from the computer, I returned to my feeds and found more than 200 new items awaiting - an astounding number, even for the most prolific readers. But after reading a small handful of items, I was done. Amusingly, Google still said I had more than 200 new items, even though it also claimed I had no new items available. Clearly a minor error, but a misleading one, to say the least. As you can see from the two screenshots, it's as if Google Reader cached my "unread items" list at some point earlier in the day, and didn't clear them from my "to do" list, even as I methodically read each post.

Google even knows which feeds I need to get to!

What if this "number inflation" suddenly sweeps through all Google apps? Will I seem more popular on GMail even though nobody e-mails me there? Will miles be added on to every trip where I get directions from Google Maps? Will I see the number of search results dramatically increase, but only have one link per page? The possibilities are mind-boggling.