Shyftr Won’t Shift Me or the Web

There’s no shortage of feed readers. So what’s different about Shyftr, and why has it been attracting attention? Mashable Paul describes it as:

akin to Google Reader, or some other aggregator, albeit with the added power of giving users the ability to carry on a conversation within its own framework, devoid of any significant connection to the source(s) (blog, news site, etc.) of information shared through its engine.

My first reaction is that the conversation about Paul’s post at Shyftr does have a connection to the source, in the form of a link to the post itself. I think that the main difference is the implication that Shyftr, rather than Mashable, is where I’d want to have the conversation. That might actually be the case if I was part of a network of friends who all like to converse at Shyftr, but I’m not.

If I want to converse about a post at Mashable (or pretty much any other blog) I do so by commenting on the post itself, or by posting about the issue it raises on this blog, which is of course what I’m doing now. If I want a dialogue with the person who posted, then I’d use email.

This post’s connection to Paul’s source post will be bidirectional. When I link to a post, WordPress.com pings the source. In this case, the source is Mashable, and I expect that Mashable will, as usual, make the ping visible to its readers.

Of course, not every connection is bidirectional. For example, if I link to ReadWriteWeb’s post on Shyftr, the ping won’t show up. I could try to trackback, but my trackbacks show up slowly, if at all, at RWW, and trackback demands that I actually do something, whereas pingback doesn’t.

If I link to Louis Gray’s post about Shyftr and the fracturing of the conversation it may lead to, I’m not sure whether I’ll automatically get a link back. I should link anyway, because I want to approvingly quiote the following.

I can see how content creators can feel threatened or wary of services who leverage full RSS feeds, or might actually have a case if they have publicly asked for no repurposing of their content… But I also see that the whole idea of reading feeds in isolation, without engaging, is going to soon be something of the past.

The conversation was already fractured. Like Louis, I think that we need “to adapt where the conversation is being held.” I’d add that there are still great opportunities to develop tools to help us in that adaptation. Like Paul, I think that Shyftr “really does not seem to drift past any kind of technological comfort zone.” That will remain true for me even if Shyftr becomes popular.

I don’t see it becoming popular. Is it a great entrant into the already-crowded feed reader arena? As a feed reader, I don’t find it outstanding, or even up to par with incumbents such as Google Reader. For example, once I’d “shyfted” the feed for Mashable, I couldn’t see a way to place it in the same folder as RWW. (It looked as though I could drag it, but it wouldn’t drop in to the folder. OK, having gone to the help screen, I see that the little icon that looks like it explodes into detail is actually for drag and drop.)

So Shyftr’s reason for me to use it is that I can have conversations there. But it looks like just another new silo in which I have a profile. That’s not what I need, and I don’t think it’s what the web needs. We need tools to cut across the silos.