Why does Google Reader forget old unread posts?
August 10, 2011 10:03 AM   Subscribe

Sometimes when I have a more than a week's backlog of unread posts on Google Reader, I notice that it will suddenly forget a couple of days' worth of unread items, annoying me to no end. Has anyone else noticed this and/or has tips for how to prevent this from happening?

Normally this isn't an issue for me, but when I go on vacation, my backlog grows a lot and it takes me some time to get it back under control. Today, my oldest items jumped from July 29 to August 1 across all of my feeds, forcing me to manually go to sites to figure out what happened for those days.

Other details:
  • I read oldest first and typically in the All Items folder. When I have this backlog, I'll also switch every so often to one particular feed / folder and read it fully (i.e., I don't read a couple of days then switch back).
  • I read in details mode.
  • I currently have 381 feeds in there that produce a lot of content (right now trends says I've read 28,370 items over the last 30 days).
  • I am not sure how the jump happened today, but earlier occurrences of this appeared to happen in the middle of the page (i.e., one item was from July 29, the next one was from August 1). It may have corresponded to a refresh point where Reader requests more items.
posted by RyanAdams to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
I've noticed that older stuff gets marked as read without me reading it a lot. Like I read a TV show blog but I don't want to read about that particular episode until I've watched so I leave the post unread but then I can never find the post because it isn't unread anymore.

I don't know how to fix it, but you aren't crazy.
posted by magnetsphere at 10:06 AM on August 10, 2011

I have noticed this as well. This is only a guess, but I think Reader only keeps either a certain number of days or a certain number of posts. When it passes that threshold (whatever it is) it gets rid of the oldest.
posted by cnc at 10:09 AM on August 10, 2011

This forum post on Google is two years old, but presumably the issue is still the same.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 10:16 AM on August 10, 2011

Yes, I'm pretty confident that Google Reader drops older items after a certain point. I don't think it depends on whether you read oldest/newest first, or in details mode, since my configurations are the opposite of yours. I'm a little surprised your July 29th things got dropped already, because I was going to say it happens after a few weeks or even a month. Maybe it depends on your volume? I have fewer than 5% as many unread items as you, and mine definitely seem to stick around for weeks.

As for what to do about it, I do not have any suggestions.
posted by rkent at 10:17 AM on August 10, 2011

Horselove Phattie: I think you may have hit on something. August 1 was when I returned from vacation, and I have been getting caught on certain folders (like my shopping deals which have a *lot* of entries). It wouldn't be too surprising if I've read / marked as read 10k entries that are newer than that day.

I guess the moral of the story is to keep reading the All Items feed as-is and be careful about reading individual feeds / folders until I get caught back up to a reasonable time. Bit of a shame about them not supporting more than 10k items, but whatever.
posted by RyanAdams at 10:31 AM on August 10, 2011

I hated this issue so much, I've switched to FeedDemon, which syncs nicely-enough with Google Reader.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 2:35 PM on August 10, 2011

Sorry - hit post too soon. I say "nicely-enough" because sometimes the syncing doesn't happen fast enough for me, or at all. But it's a minor problem compared to Google marking my older shit as read!!
posted by SuperSquirrel at 2:36 PM on August 10, 2011

SuperSquirrel, I am curious: how does FeedDemon sync with google, yet not sync the switch of old items from unread to read? (for the record, this issue is my single-biggest complaint about gReader)
posted by misterbrandt at 2:43 PM on August 10, 2011

I honestly don't know, misterbrandt. Horselover Phattie's link above includes some info from a Google employee that seems to indicate Google marks older items as read, but that didn't seem to carry over to FeedDemon for me. On my initial sync, I thought I had all sorts of old items suddenly visible. Granted, I wasn't really paying a lot of attention.

Could it be that the "Marked As Read By The User" flag on a post is functionally the same as the "Marked As Read Simply By Aging Out of Google's Arbitrary Unread Post Timeframe" flag, but programmatically they are different settings and maybe FeedDemon is only picking up the former?
posted by SuperSquirrel at 3:46 PM on August 10, 2011

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