I think that's partly because Google has been flailing about trying to figure out what they mean by this (versus, for example, the "follower" feature in Blogger). Google's social graph strategy is a ruddy mess, but of course we knew that when they dumped their original Google profile shared items.
Looks like the latest incarnation is leveraging Google's new core products: Gmail, Google video chat, and Google Voice/SMS services:
Managing Friends via Gmail Chat or Google Talk - Google Reader HelpI don't think it's going to work. The set of people I chat with is not the same set as those I want to follow via Google Reader shared items, nor the set I want to have on my "Friend Shared" list.
... To add a friend to Reader, you must invite them to chat with you in Gmail or Google Talk. Once your friend accepts the chat invitation, you will become friends in Reader. If you invite a friend who doesn't use Gmail or Google Talk, an invitation will be sent to your friend to sign up. Here's how to invite someone to chat with you...
There will be more iterations and confusion to come ...
Update: There's also something buggy going on. Jacob R is seeing my shares, we have a chat relationship, but I'm not seeing his shares. I added his share stream as a distinct feed for now. (See below, turns out when Google switched to their even more befuddled social strategy I wasn't in Jacob's "Friends" group, so his sharing feed went away. He added me in and it reappeared.)
Update: Wow, this is really screwy. Google has things set up so you do the feed stream share thingie with ONE of (not both of)
- Your chat contacts
- "Friends" as defined by Gmail - "Friends, Family, and Coworkers are groups to help you organize your contacts. You can move contacts in and out of these groups at any time. Various Google products let you share information with people in these groups.
In addition, you can create a Google profile to help people in these groups keep in touch with you. They will be able to easily find your profile from various Google products."
If you understood all of that you need to drink more.