One code-savvy, soon-to-be-former Google Reader user would rather create a new site for the RSS-feeds than switch to Google+. Last Friday, Google announced that it was getting rid of Reader's social features — the ability to follow other people, to share content within Reader and so forth — in order to encourage more people to use Google+ for those kinds of activities within a week. The backlash online was immediate and visceral, and a small group of protesters even picketed outside the company's DC offices, calling for an Occupy Google Reader movement. We tried contacting Google a number of times over the past week about how they were responding to the complaints and when the changes would go into place but never received a reply.
Hearing radio silence from Google, self-identified Google Reader fanatic (also known as a Sharebro) Francis Cleary decided to take things into his own hands. Cleary tried using Google+ a bit but says it didn't feel right. So over the past ten days, Cleary has been devoting every minute of his free time to building his own social RSS site that will keep Reader's dying features alive. For now, he's calling it HiveMined.
So far, the Sharebro community seems pumped about the new open-source Reader alternative. "I'm definitely excited about it," Stu Watson told us in an email, "It seems like Francis is trying to preserve the elements of Google Reader that have been lost in Google+."
Cleary expects to launch a private beta test for HiveMined on Monday, and for now, most of the features will resurrect the features that Google plans to kill off. People can subscribe to RSS feeds, read the content in the same window, star or like their favorite items and follow other HiveMined users. With the help of fellow Sharebro Peter Shafer, each user can sign in using a HiveMined account or their Facebook log-in credentials and with the help of the Open Graph can quickly find out which of their friends are already using the site. The site is built using Django and Twitter Bootstrap, a framework for web design built by the developers behind the microblogging site. (The Facebook and Twitter functionality must sting the Googlers working on Plus, at least a little bit.) Every story is shareable, there are no ads and Cleary says that like the old Reader everybody loves, the focus is on "content, content, content" This is where Google+ comes up short.
Although he also didn't finish college before moving out to the Bay Area, Cleary is not trying to be the next Mark Zuckerberg. He's just interested in keeping the Reader experience alive, and people around the world are offering help, money and support. The Iranian freedom fighters who depended on Reader for basic social networking features have reached out, and Cleary says he's doing his best to build HiveMined in such a way that the government won't shut it down like they did Facebook and Twitter. In fact, he told us that he'd prefer not even to be referred to as a founder of Hivemined, because he's not trying to create a startup or fire up a new business unless he has to. "I have a full time job," says Cleary, who works as a software developer in San Francisco. "I just need to find a way to pay for the servers, and I'm gonna pay out of my pocket until I can't."
We couldn't help but ask if Cleary secretly wanted to work at Google, but he didn't bite. "I do like the idea of trying a startup or at least a trying to set up a lifestyle business," he said. "Who knows maybe this or another idea will turn into something. I'm just going to keep chugging along and doing what I love."