Migrating from Google Reader (GReader) to Tumblr


This post is Google-fodder for people who had the same problem as me. Read to find out more about Tumblr; otherwise ignore. I provide a script for migrating content from GReader to Tumblr.

Table of Contents

If you just want the script for getting your GReader shared items into Tumblr, get it here.

1. Why I moved to Tumblr

I recently re-evaluted the various options in the market for what is now know as tumbleblogs: small logs of links and snappy content, but without the excessive minimality of Twitter, falling in between that and the full scale of a traditional blog. There are a few main options on the market. Firstly, Google Reader is the simplest, and I suspect has the most users (though Google’s not giving out exact figures). It’s now the most popular web-based feed reader, which is still an indispensable tool even in the age of Twitter and Facebook, so it’s no surprise that several of my friends are using its sharing feature. Items you like in your feeds you can share (like RT), there is a bookmarklet for sharing links to any page, and the much-less-used feature of adding unlinked Twitter-like comments to your stream.

I started using GReader shared feeds a little while back, and I’ve been sharing an item every few days for the last year. There are several drawbacks that led me to wanting to switch:

  • There is very little flexibility. I can’t format things nicely, and the output is clunky and has poor HTML handling. I can’t mark different items as quotations, or links, or post images nicely. It’s just too limited for me now.

  • You get locked into an obscure Google silo. GReader itself is very popular, but shared item feeds are a funny little microcosm and it’s very hard to pick up subscribers. Worse, you need to be using GReader to comment on items in someone else’s feed, and your comments are not made public. It’s a tiny little island on the still disconnected and poorly thought through Google social world, isolated from Buzz, Talk, +1, and so on.

So, I’m hardly a trend-setter to make the switch so far behind the times, but I realised I would make my use of technology a bit easier if I moved.

The two competitors are Posterous and Tumblr. There are plenty of comparative reviews (such as), and Posterous has its advantages. In the end, it is not quite as flexible, nor as popular in terms of making sharing easier for my friends, nor does its feed and social integration quite manage to do what I want to concoct. Tumblr wins. If you want to make a micro-blog with quotations, links to YouTube videos you like or articles you read, with some commentary, or make short updates to your online status, use Tumblr.

2. Migrating to Tumblr

There are various good options for getting content into Tumblr, but not for GReader. I wrote a quick-and-dirty tool to do it. It works for me, but does need some manual tuning. It runs on your own computer rather than a web-service (sorry to Windows and Mac users, who are dependent on other people’s kindness because their operating systems don’t come with enough standard tools to do odd jobs like this—snide, but true). It is PHP though, in case someone does want to do the last mile of work and easily host it as a service.

Get the script.