Official Google Reader Blog - News, Tips and Tricks from the Reader team

I like big charts and I cannot lie

1/03/2007 04:03:00 PM
Posted by Mihai Parparita, Software Engineer

Items read/dayI've always been a big fan of charts, tables and other ways of analyzing and visualizing data. On my own blog I will often plot things just to get a handle on them. Even here I've posted some analyses that I've done of the data that the Reader team has on hand. It's therefore no surprise that my favorite blog of 2006 is Data Mining.

With this in mind, I've always wondered how I could apply this interest to Reader's feature set. It then occurred to me that there were plenty of things that could be dug up about the items that a person reads and the feeds they are subscribed to. Perhaps some feeds post very often but don't actually get read, so they may as well be removed. Conversely, other sites may not have updated in ages, so they're just taking up room in the list of subscriptions.

Subscriptions tablePlaying around with these ideas, I created a simple Reader "trends" page, inspired by Google Trends as well as the Search History Trends page. After showing it to the rest of the Reader team and a few other interested Googlers, I began to gather feedback and implemented it. Most helpful was when Jeff and Doug rolled up their sleeves and applied some of the same thinking that went into Measure Map to this new Reader page. This went beyond just making things pretty; they helped make things easier to digest and understand.

The result is the Reader Trends page, accessed via a link from the "Home" page. For example, it lets me see the spike in read items two days ago (the result of my New Year's resolution of staying on top of my 322 subscriptions). There are also my subscriptions sorted by various criteria, so I can see which I'm having trouble keeping up with. Each subscription has a unsubscribe icon next to it, which I've used for those that I decided were not worth keeping around.

If you have any New Year's resolutions about time management or are a chart geek like me, trends should be useful and fun. You may discover things about your reading habits that you didn't know.