Nik's Technology Blog

Travels through programming, networks, and computers

Google Reader 'Shared Items' Widget Broke My Site in IE7

As an avid user of Firefox the dangers of using one browser (apart from initial testing) became apparent today, especially considering most web users still use Internet Explorer.

I recently converted my site to use Blogger, and I also thought I'd share interesting news articles I read with my visitors by using Google Reader's Javascript widget.

Google Reader is still in Beta

I placed the Javascript widget on my home page and my blog pages a while back. I just checked my site in Internet Explorer 7 and was amazed to see only the template was rendered. There was a distinct lack of content!

I looked at the source HTML, and the content was there. I was puzzled for a few minutes until I realised what the blog page and the home page had in common; The Javascript Google widget.

I quickly removed them and FTPed the pages, the problem was resolved. I grabbed the URL the script block was trying to call and tried to download the external Javascript straight to my browser... it timed-out.

It appears that Internet Explorer will get stuck when external Javascript doesn't load, so be aware of this the next time you choose to use an externally hosted Javascript file. Opera and Firefox didn't seem to have a problem.

Google Reader Mobile Interface - Good, But Room To Improve

I'm a big fan of Google Reader. I tried the first Google Reader interface not long after it was released and couldn't get on with it. It didn't have much going for it. It was hard to use and read articles from, and it was buggy although it was a beta release.
Since the interface was changed however it has progressed in leaps and bounds. It is now my feed reader of choice. I didn't particularly like the Bloglines interface either.

Mobile Feed Reading

I'm a busy person and I don't get much time during the day to catch-up on the news I want to hear about. So after purchasing a Windows Mobile MDA with unlimited 3G Internet access I was on the look out for a decent mobile feed reader.
Even though browsing normal websites with mobile devices is possible, it's not a rewarding experience because not many sites are optimised for the small interface.
Thankfully Google Reader has a fairly decent mobile interface, that includes a mobile proxy to reformat normal web pages to make them much more readable on small mobile devices.
Google have managed to shoe-horn most of the functionality into the mobile version, but it is a lot more buggy than the normal web version. Perhaps some of the bugs I come across are down to buggy web feeds, but Google should be able to find a way around most problems.

Google Reader Mobile User Interface Enhancements

Here are some of the bugs/bugbears I have with the mobile interface (in no particular order)

  • There should be a link straight through to the article on the site in question, not just the summary page in Reader. This will reduce the amount of clicks if you know you want to read the article even without reading a summary first.
  • Why do we need the more... Link when we now have the mark these items as read... Link?
  • When you star an item it reloads the whole page. Can it not return to the list on news items?
  • Some blogs cause http errors, produce no article when you click through, feature loads of links that you need to scroll through to get to the content, or show the summary as being the same as the blog title.
  • I would like the option of being about to read only a subset of my feeds from the mobile interface.

..and finally...

I use the new shared items widget on my blog to let my users know what I've been reading lately. From the web interface you can quickly share feed items with a simple click. This functionality is missing from the mobile interface however. So the work around for the time being is to star each item I want to share with my readers and click the share button on each item when I get on a desktop machine.

The interface is improving all the time, so hopefully Google will listen to its users, because I know I'm not the only one who has views on some of these topics.