Google Reader just added another feature that made me glad that I very recently started using it. Now it provides a trends page filled with graphs and widgets that keeps you up-to-date on your own usage. It displays charts of your monthly reading volume as well as your reading habits by day and time of day. It also shows you which feeds you read, star, and share (via your Google Reader supplied Shared Items). It also shows which feeds are most prolific and which feeds are now inactive (it would be nice to be able to delete from this widget).
The most promising widget shows you a tag cloud based on your feeds. The size of the tag reflects the number of items with that tag. The darker the tag is the more of those items you have read. It’s a great way to know what my feeds as an aggregate are buzzing about and which bits of buzz I am actually tracking. This will make a great widget for my Netvibes homepage. Mine is only showing seven tags at the moment. If that is the default number I hope they raise it; I’d like to see twenty. I would love to see a tag cloud associated with each feed.
As mentioned, I only recently switched to Google Reader. Since abandoning my favorite RSS Reader, Feeddemon, when I left the Windows platform earlier this year I have tried a variety on the MAC platform that did not do it for me (the open-sourced Vienna came the closest to satisfying me). I missed Feeddemon’s ease of use, integration, and usage reporting. Google Reader’s UI revamp, a plethora of tools, and the addition of Greasemonkey scripts that integrate it with GMail made it the RSS reader for me. The trends page is serving to validate that decision for me. Now the Google Reader needs to get search and the ability to set-up “smart folders” (searches of my feeds).
The Google Reader trends page is a great example of myware for a web app. Myware reports back what you are doing to you. It gives you the information to help you guide your software usage in a healthy way. I have been using apps on my MAC to track just that. How much time am I on the web? How much time did I spend on that single email? Seeing this information gives me a good feel for where my time is spent. Unfortunately, web apps aren’t easily tracked from the desktop in quite the same way (especially with the advent of AJAX). I hope these start to become more common – especially in productivity tools.
Update: It was pointed out in the comments that you can delete feeds from the Inactive Widget. I had completely missed the trashcan icon.