Greadermanship: The Strategic Art of Google Reader Sharing

Since I took on the role of Google Reader Proselytiser To The Masses, my flock have been coming to me, crying out: “Tim! What items should we “share”? What are the rules, the conventions, the strategies”?

And so, in the true pedagogical spirit of sharing knowledge, allow me to present a brief primer in GoogleReadermanship (with apologies to Stephen Potter).

Here are the commonly accepted reasons to share something on Google Reader:

The Identity Signaller: This is the most basic and simplistic reason for sharing something. In essence, you use GReader to signal certain character traits you wish to convey as well as your interests. As such, it is critical to share items about a wide variety of intellectual topics. Reading the actual articles is purely optional (in many cases even not-advised). Rather, the whole point is to convey the image of a cultured man, with wide-ranging interests. It is especially recommended to find yourself a few niche topics of interest, that other people would not be interested in. For instance, no-one really cares about the obscure nuances of Russian Foreign Policy as it applies to Tajikistan, Mass Transit in Boston, or obscure points of constitutional law, but as signalling devises, they are gold.

The Well Read Intellectual: It is insufficient to share things from the common sites that everyone else reads. Rather, you need to stamp your intellectual superiority upon them, by showing you read obscure and deeply intellectual blogs, that other people would have never found. This is usually done by reading a few intellectual link aggregators, for instance Arts and Letters Daily, and sharing not the ALD post, but rather, what they link to. As such, people assume you regularly read the linked to site, and the fact that you only subscribe to 5 blogs, all of which are aggregators, would never be suspected. NEVER FORGET: Google Reader is a competition, and whoever is subscribed to the most obscure blogs wins.

The Wilson Gambit: A more sophisticated form of the Well Read Intellectual, this plays upon people’s expectations regarding hat-tipping. It is well known protocol that if you share an item that was originally shared from a friend, you credit them with a h/t. Also, it is clear that if you were to never h/t, people just assume you steal your posts from others. However, if you always h/t, you do not receive the Well Read credit that is so vital. As such, the genius of this gambit is that you h/t 20%  of the posts you find through your friends. As such, everyone assumes that you credit always, and you get Well Read credit for that 80%. In order for this to work, all you need is a couple of intelligent friends to steal thigns from, and you don’t even need to read a single blog yourself. Ingenious, no?

Praise Through Association: A staple of the blogosphere, more recently persons on Google Reader have begun to utilise this very effective technique. You would obviously never praise yourself in a note. However, if you share a good item with the note it was written by a “good friend” of yours, those reading the note think that you are the sort of person who hangs around with Very Important And Impressive People, and you get the credit for their accomplishments. For the purposes of this technique, someone you met for 30 seconds at a bar 4 years ago qualifies as a close friend.

The Self Parody: Of course, if you only share serious items like those above, you run the danger that people might think you’re a bit of a git. As such, it is imperative to balance these out with the occasional self-deprecating item, mocking yourself (and indeed your Google Reader persona), showing that you are self-aware of your foibles, and making you both more likable by showing a subtle sense of humour.

King Of The Meme: This technique is fraught with danger, and only applies to the most expert sharers. It involves sharing the latest meme sweeping the internet. In order to succeed, however, your feed must be the first place your readers have seen the shared item. If you succeed, then when the meme goes mainstream, you are credited with being ahead of the curve, and an internet hero. If, however, the shared item has been seen previously, even by a few minutes, then you fall into the firey abyss of just being someone who has hopped on the bandwagon.

Vindictive Superiority: Not for the faint of heart. This involves sharing something by someone widely considered an intellectual with a note indicating your contempt for them. In doing so, you demonstrate yourself as being even better than they are. Amateurs on the right try this with people like Ross Douthat and David Brooks. But really, they are such easy targets, that you get few points. Instead, think big. Call Tyler Cowan or Arnold Kling an idiot, disparage George Will for being a poor writer, be condescending to Volokh. Because if you’re superior to people universally considered as pretty damn smart, then clearly you must be nothing short of brilliant.  Of course, if you can’t pull it off, you just come across as a twat.

Impressing Idiotic Girls: Some men like to share items of “cute” things. There is only one explanation for this: they are trying to impress an female who fancies herself as an intellectual (why is why she is on Greader), yet in reality is an idiot, and upon seeing cute kittens, fluffy rabbits, or waddling ducks, goes “aww” and thinks the sharer is a man of great sensitivity. WARNING: Engaging in this kind of sharing will lose you the respect of persons of substance, and is only to be used in the most extreme situations.

Thinking Of You: Often related to the previous post, this involves you sharing something with a specific reader in mind, thereby demonstrating how you care about them and think about them and similar things. Alternatively, you can share something just to illicit an angry response from someone, as you know it is an issue that pushes their buttons. If they respond to the bait, you win. If they refuse to, they are secretly dying of frustration and anger from not responding, so you win anyway. Only way you lose is if they don’t care, but then, no-one really knows, so it doesn’t count. You can also use Google Reader to mock people’s identity construction, such as when you post something with a specific “ATTN: X” note.

And there you have it. I hope this guide has been helpful to you, and let me know if there have been any I have missed. Of course, I should note that it is theoretically possible to share an item simply because you think other people would enjoy reading it, but seriously, why on earth would you want to do a thing like that?


3 Responses to “Greadermanship: The Strategic Art of Google Reader Sharing”

  1. Rafe Says:

    dang, you have exposed my full bag of tricks!

  2. Jake the Muss Says:

    “The Self Parody:”

    Extra points for meta humour Tim.

  3. Ben Says:

    This explains so much.

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