Friday, November 02, 2012

Managing Blogs in Google's Discontinued Friend Connect Service

A long-standing problem I've had with Google's Blogger is Friend Connect.  Friend Connect was one of Google's attempts to build a social network.  Like many other services which failed to gain critical mass, Google discontinued the service last March 1, 2012.

All told, no great loss.  Friend Connect wasn't really all that popular and Google+ eventually superseded the service.  However, it seems that Friend Connect was the basis for the Reading List under Blogger.

Now, it used to be that I could add and remove blogs to the Reading List at will.  With Friend Connect gone, something broke, and I can't follow or unfollow any more.  So even though the dashboard continues to offer the promise of managing the blogs
 it always led to the following error message.
"We are unable to load your FriendConnect data at this time.  We apologize for the inconvenience.  Please try again shortly."

Annoying much?

Visits to the forums and other calls for help yielded nothing much.  Google hasn't responded to any of this, despite months of complaints from several users because, hey, it's a free service, right?  And we should all just be grateful.

This glitch bothered me mostly because I'm obsessive-compulsive and I like a clean dashboard.  There were some sites I didn't want to follow anymore, and yet I had no way of removing them from my list.  And worst of all, they kept cluttering my Google Reader so much so that I stopped using Google Reader altogether.

Today, after some mucking around, I finally came upon the solution to managing the reading list.  Google Friend Connect still shows up as a widget on Blogger.  That's the entry point to cleaning up the list.  Here are the steps I took to do that:

1. On the Google Friend Connect widget, select "Join this site."
 2. This will open a window prompting you to authenticate.  Log in with Google, and the window will close.
 3. Back to the Friend Connect widget, you'll now see your profile and underneath your name, Options. Click on that, and select Site Settings.
 4. This will open another window.  If all you want to do is unfollow the site, click on the "Stop following this site" link.  However, if you want to manage all the other sites you're following, the third link down on the left menu options says "Sites you've joined."  Click on the link...
5. Voila!  At this point, you can select which blogs to stop following.  It might take a while to process each one, but the process works.

Checking back on the Reading List on the Blogger dashboard showed me that I had successfully dropped the sites I didn't want to follow anymore.