Google Reader’s dirty little secret? You can’t tell when your subscriptions are broken.

Google reader is probably the best all around feed reader there is. Its easy-to-use interface works from just about any device and it makes keeping tracks of many websites a “one stop shopping” experience.

Imagine my surprise when I decided to try out an competing feed reader only to discover a number of my subscriptions had been broken for a long time, and Google Reader never bothered to alert me.

This is a huge issue; Google Reader’s only job is to reliably deliver updates from the websites you choose, and it doesn’t tell you when it fails? The equivalent would be sending emails and not getting “bounce” messages back if the message couldn’t be delivered.

Why were my subscriptions broken? After I subscribed, some of the websites had upgrades that changed the address of the subscription. Then when Google Reader tried to retrieve updates the requests failed and Google Reader was silent. I never knew my subscriptions weren’t being delivered.

This reminds me of the whole Seinfeld “What is a reservation?” routine:

The workaround is to use the Google Reader Trends functionality and and look under the Inactive Tab under Subscription Trends heading. If you have a subscription that hasn’t been updated in more than a few days it probably broken.

You have been warned.

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