Unread Bug

“Unread counts now go to 1,000, so that you can know just how far behind you are when you come back from vacation.” – Google Reader

WTF? Telling me there are a 1,000 new things in the world is a feature? Hell, where’s the count of all the people I haven’t met, all the foods I haven’t eaten, all the places I haven’t gone, all the women I haven’t slept with.

None of those numbers are valuable, useful, or relevant.

Plus, as proven by the recent addition of search, if I’ve read something – there’s a far great chance that I’ll want to find it and read it again. So if anything, there should be a ‘read’ count.

Seems so much more optimistic and encouraging.

UPDATE Oct 5, 2007:
I’m now confident that ‘read’/’unread’ – whether in email or RSS readers – promotes poor inbox management. If you can visually identify new stuff, there’s no reason to eliminate the old stuff. Want to reach Inbox Zero? Turn off your read/unread.


“In, let;s just say, Gmail, do you need a statistical breakdown of how many people you have BCC’d in the last day? Week? Month?…In Google Calendar, do you need to know the average number of appointments you have had on Tuesday afternoons, over the last year?…No, because that would be freaking stupid.” – Gabriel Cheifetz

“I give up. Select all, mark as read.” – Lou Springer

“Been neglecting my Google Reader feeding list for days. Terrified to log in.” – nathantwright

9 thoughts on “Unread Bug

  1. What you’ve read is itemized under Trends. They have a lot of reporting there. And Starred items.

    I find the unread number valuable since I can judge the time commitment I’ll need to catch up on things. It turns out that 100+ isn’t particularly unwieldy when people subscribe to photos or Twitters.

  2. “From your 947 subscriptions, over the last 30 days you read 20,188 items, starred 463 items, shared 349 items, and emailed 0 items.”

  3. Sorry, don’t know where the rest of that comment went.

    I was saying that those numbers, along with the 1000+ or 850+ are useful to me. I’d actually prefer that they didn’t cap it, but showed the real number all the time.

    Regardless, nearly all of those numbers tell me something about the current state of my feed reading.

    The 30 day moving count of items read tells me that I’ve been doing much less feed reading the last few weeks. A “normal” number for me is more like 30,000 or 32,000.

    The starred and shared numbers tell me that I’ve been marking more items for my own followup than sharing, which isn’t normal.

    And, the fact that I’ve got 1000+ unread at the moment, with the newest unread item coming from 4 days ago means I am probably going to mark the remainder as read tonight.

    All of that combines to tell me that it’s probably time to cull some of the least read, least starred, highest volume feeds from my subscriptions because I’ve been too busy to read as much as I’m used to.

    I’m not saying there aren’t *more* useful stats, but I’ve got a use for all of the numbers they throw at me.

  4. I do pare down my feeds, like J, based on the stats. It’s usually a case of signal to noise ratio, such as feeds from people who don’t turn out to be as interesting as I originally thought. Or my interests change after, say, a vacation.

    The Trends stats are key to understanding where my time went.

  5. I only just discovered the stats the other day.

    I’d unsubscribe from the feeds that don’t update, but since Google Reader just shows new items, I don’t even notice the infrequent updaters. Of course I probably also wouldn’t miss them at all if they were gone.

    Like Ed, I like being able to see the total unread number so I can judge the time commitment.

  6. Knowing how much unread stuff I have in, say, my “local news” folder after a week away on my honeymoon (real-life example) helps me determine whether I bother to scan through them or just shit-can the whole show with a lovely “mark all as read.”

    At the same time, regardless of the number, I always look at every one of the bajillions of unread items I get in my “monitoring” folder because I need to keep an eye on what’s going on with respect to my company and my clients. Having an accurate “unread number” (like Select Comfort would say, “What’s your Unread Number?”) just lets me know how much coffee I need to get through monitoring crap.

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