Sometime this week, Google Reader will retire its many confusing sharing features, in attempt to force their small but passionate community to relocate to Google+. It's part of the company's portal-wide redesign effort that will soon affect Blogger and Gmail, where Google will be adding new features instead of taking them away. But if you're a devoted Google Reader user, however, the chore of figuring out how to recreate your old Reader experience in the absence of friending and following far outweighs the upgrades like fancy new button gradients and Google+ integration. Don't worry. We've got you covered.
Creating Reader-Specific Circles
We borrowed the term "Reader-specific circles" from Google's executioner-like blog post about the outgoing social features: friending, following and sharing. This is the full-conversion solution that Google hopes most Reader users decide to pursue. If you're familiar with Google+, setting up the Circles is dead simple, but finding those friends and adding them to the circle one at a time is huge pain. (Unless, as hinted in the official blog post, Google launches an easier export feature with the redesign.) Google+ also won't perfectly re-create the Reader sharing experience. And if you had any doubts about how badly Reader needed a redesign, the number of total steps and illustrations needed to sort everything out will dash them.
If you share items publicly in Reader, you don't have to change a thing - All of your Reader shares should be viewable by everyone following you. You just have to tell them to add you to their Circles in Google+.
Create a specific circles for your Reader friends
Go to your Google Plus homepage and click the Circles icon at the top of the page (or this hyperlink). This will pull up all of your existing Circles and suggest a bunch of friends to add to them.
Feel free to start dragging and dropping people into the "Create a New Circle" bubble on the lefthand side, but it'll take you a while if you have a lot of people to add. We've figurd out a work-around so that you can add everyone at once.
Move all of your Reader followers and follows into Circles
Click on the "Share Settings" button at on the lefthand side of the page. It should be a link at the bottom of the "People You Follow" box. (You might have to click the + sign to expand the box.) It might be useful to name it "Reader Followers."
Click on the link for "### people are following you." This should bring up a lightbox showing all of your followers.
Once you see the list of people following you, open a new window with your new Google+ Circle. The only way to make sure your old followers will see your new Google+ posts is to add them one-by-one to your new Reader share circle. (Are you confused yet? It's confusing.)
If you want to create a different circle of people that you follow, just re-do step one--name it "Reader Follows" or something. On step two, instead of clicking on the link for "### people are following you" click the link that reads "You are following ### people." This will pull up a list of people you're following that you can then add into your new "Reader Follows" Circle. Now whenever you want to read your old followers shared items, just click the "Reader Follows" Circle on the lefthand side of the Google+ homepage.
Some Alternatives to Google Reader
If you're feeling burned by Google and want to ditch it altogether, there are a couple other RSS readers on the web that we'd recommend. However, social RSS readers have been hit hard by the successes of sharing on Facebook and Twitter so the once crowded marketplace that included start-ups like Streamy and Feed Each Other is now pretty barren. Tumblr also used to support RSS, but they axed the feature this summer. We'll be the first to say that the Reader alternatives are not great, and it might be time to admit it: RSS is dead.
Netvibes - Once a Google Reader competitor, Netvibes is a decent RSS reader with very basic sharing options: email, Facebook and Twitter. There's some bonus functionality in being able to set up Netvibes as an iGoogle-like homepage, if you're into that kind of thing. Bloglines is a very similar service.
BuzzBlaze - Earlier this year, The Next Web posted a preview of BuzzBlaze, an application that looks like a next-generation Reader. However, for now it's in private beta, but you can sign up for early access.
Google+ - As much as it hurts to admit it, Google+ is probably as close as you're going to get. Five months after launch, the social network is facing flagging traffic, struggling to keep people on the site and not making much progress with power users, like celebrities (as Twitter did) and brands (as did Facebook). But Google+ isn't finished yet. In the past few days, a small wave of new features have been splashing around in other Google products, like Reader and Blogger, and Google executives have announced that they'll soon allow pseudonyms on the site. It might even get a music store!