How I read the Web

I’ve often told friends that the Internet has made me dumber. Here’s why.

In the early 90s there wasn’t really an internet. Most of the content I wanted to learn about came from magazines. At the time, I was a heavy duty Commodore Amiga nerd. I would get a couple Amiga magazines that I would devour each month. It was really my only source of tech information. I could easily say I was an expert in this subject.

Today, I have more information then I could ever hope to digest. My problem is I have an insatiable hunger. You could say I’m a glutton for information.

Surfing the web is like sitting down with a bag of chips. You only intend to consume a little bit and before you know it you eat the entire bag. And, like someone who eats too many snacks, I’m left unsatisfied and feeling a little sick. I don’t really feel like I absorb the information, my mind doesn’t really become enriched.

I am trying to go on an information diet and cut down on the things that I’m consuming. In order to help me with this I’ve developed a workflow using some cool web and iOS apps that I’d like to share with you.

Pinboard and Pocket

My new internet consumption workflow involves three services. Pinboard – a bookmarking service, Pocket – a read it later service and If This Than That (IFTTT) – a really interesting service that allows you to glue together internet applications.

Here’s what I do in brief.

When I come across an article I think I want to read I send it to Pocket.

I then use either the Pocket website or, more likely, Pocket on my iPad or iPhone to read the articles I’ve saved.

If it’s an article I want to keep around, I favorite it in Pocket. IFTTT automatically saves all favorites as bookmarks in my Pinboard account.

Here’s how to set this up.

  1. Create an account on Pinboard. Pinboard is a paid service but I think costs less than $10.00 for a lifetime membership. If you want to store your bookmarks online and make them available everywhere then it’s well worth the money. An upgraded version will actually store the content of the webpages. Over time you’ll build up your own personal web cache of all of the pages you’ve ever bookmarked. This is great for research.
  2. Install the Pinboard chrome extension. This extension lets you bookmark a webpage from within the Chrome browser. There are extensions for other browsers too.
  3. Create an account on GetPocket. Pocket is a free service.
  4. Install the Pocket Chrome extension. There are extensions for other web browsers too.
  5. Create an account on IFTTT. After creating an account, use this recipe which will take any item starred within Pocket and save it to Pinboard.
  6. Start reading the internet!
  7. From time to time, visit your Pinboard account and add extra labels to your articles. It will help you when you try to search for things a year from now. Note that if you upgrade to the full web cache then you get full text search. This makes tagging less necessary.

Time will tell if this is a good workflow for me. So far, I like it. It solves two big problems I have with consuming information. The first is removing distractions. Pocket allows me to read the web without ads and extra distractions that go along with a web page. The second is remembering to bookmark things I read. Now, I operate under the assumption that if an article was worth my time reading at all then it’s worth bookmarking.

How do you avoid information gluttony? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

About Joe Cotellese

Joe is the founder of Learning OS X. He's often spending way too much time playing with new Mac software in order to improve his ability at "Getting Things Done."

Comments

  1. Greetings,

    Do you happen to know how I can *stop* Safari from tiling new windows? I hate it. (10.8.3 / Safari 6.0.4)

    Thanks.

    • Joe Cotellese says:

      I’m not sure what you mean by that. When I open a new Safari window it pops up in a new window or a tab.

      • It means that when you open a new window in Safari, it displaces the top edge of the (new) window downward — presumably so that one can see / grab the top edge of the window(s) behind it. This has absolutely no functional utility, even for the people who still insist on dragging windows around to reveal ‘hidden’ windows. I prefer to have my windows stacked-in-alignment — as in Chrome. And if users learn only two shortcuts, they should be Cmd-Tab and Cmd-Tilde.

        • Joe Cotellese says:

          If I’m following you then you can set the Tabs preferences in Safari.

          1. Cmd-,
          2. Click the Tabs menu
          3. Set the option “Open pages in tabs instead of windows” to Always.

          Hope that helps.

          • I understand the options for tabs vs windows. I use *both* tabs and windows to organize my browser-life. So I might have multiple windows, each pertaining to a different subject, with multiple tabs in each window.

            The point here is that Safari insists on tiling new windows — which behavior (successively) reduces the size (area) of new windows, and contributes to a messy screen — with no advantage whatsoever to the user. I was hoping there might be a Terminal command to disable this ‘feature’. A small thing? Maybe, but Apple is all about the details, and the details matter. Another thing — even more annoying: there’s no way to disable horizontal scroll in 10.8, which — if you happen to use a Magic Mouse — will make you crazy in Safari.

        • Joe Cotellese says:

          Grey,

          You could try one of the window managers available for OS X.

          I’ve used Divvy, Tyler Window Manager. Both are paid applications that let you control window positions. There is a free one called Slate which I haven’t tried yet.

          I don’t think they are exactly what you are looking for, however, they are pretty powerful and do let you tile not just your Safari window but all of your windows.

          Hope that helps. If so, I’d appreciate you either giving me a FB Like or a G+ like!

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