Category: Web and Technology

Found: An app for saving and viewing my Internet reads

Do you suffer from Too Many Open Browser Tabs Syndrome? Or Where-Do-I-Put-This-So-I-Remember-to-Read-It-Later-itis? I’ve been there, too.

Thanks to the Internet, I’m always finding articles and posts on that I want to read. Just a quick scroll through my Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook feed can produce a generous number. But rarely do I have time to read them right away.

For years, I would open an article in a new tab and leave it there till I got around to it.

This created a cluttered screen and an overshadowing sense of unfinished work. Those webpages were accusing me of neglect, even though I’m the one who decided I wanted to read them.

When I started using Evernote, my computing life changed (it was probably helped along by the fact that I also purchased a tablet). Inspired by The Secret Weapon Getting Things Done® method, I began clipping articles to Evernote and tagging them “Read.” Then, when I had the time, I would pick up my tablet, find a comfy chair, and easily sift through my clippings.

Doing this greatly cut down on the number of open, lurking, unread webpages. Ahhh, wonderful.

It also made me more selective with my interwebs reading. That article that sounded soooo interesting at the moment I spotted it? Lost its allure a few hours (or days) later. Time = saved.

But then I ran into a problem. This month, for the first time, I’ve nearly run out of Evernote storage space, with a week still to go. You see, unless you subscribe to Evernote, you have a limited amount of storage space per month, hence a limited amount of clipping space (It’s a generous 60MB, and the subscription fee for 1GB is not outrageous. But right now I’m sticking with free.) Plus, I don’t always want to keep every article I clip. So if I clip an article then later delete it, I’m wasting (as far as I know) part of my allotted monthly portion.

Mind you, I’m not complaining about Evernote. It’s free, and I use it for more than just reading: I write down and flesh out blog post ideas, organize my networking contacts, file recipes I find online, and keep track of my to-dos. It’s fantastic, and I highly recommend it—along with a thorough tagging system to keep things organized.

Still, I was out of space. I needed another solution before the browser tabs took over—and one appeared just in time.

As they say, there’s an app for that.

Pocket app screen shot

“‘Cause I got one hand in my pocket…”

It’s called Pocket (formerly “Read it Later”). It lets me save webpages, blog posts, articles, etc., with a click. All I had to do was sign up and install the extension for my browser. Easy-peasy, and faster to use than Evernote’s web clipper.

Like Evernote, Pocket saves the content of a page, not just the URL. Also like Evernote, it syncs across devices, allowing me to save something on my laptop then access it on my tablet (or vice versa).

Depending on your organizing preferences, Pocket gives the options to tag, archive, share, favorite, and delete items. It also has options, similar to an E-book reader, which let you increase or decrease the font size, select either serif or sanserif text, and view the text as either white-on-black or black-on-white (and sepia, at least on my tablet).

Plus, if I decide that I do want to save the article to Evernote after all, I can use the “Share” option to send it over. I haven’t tried it yet, since I’m nearly out of Evernote space.

Results so far: My computer screen remains de-cluttered, Evernote space is used effectively, and all my reading is right where I want it. I like it.

The fine print: Nobody paid me to write this tribute to Pocket. I wrote it ‘cause I like it. I’m also not making money off the link to Amazon.

Meaning comes from the intersection of multiple sources. In the old days, journalists triangulated truth against a handful of sources. Today, we need to triangulate truth against millions of sources.

 

Brian Solis, Without Analytics, Big Data is Just Noise

What smart people don’t think to do

I know this because I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I’ve done it myself. Thus, this post is half observation, half public service announcement.

So what do even smart people not always think to do?

They don’t think to look up the answer when…

  • they don’t know how to do something
  • they don’t know what a word, phrase, or concept means
  • they don’t know where to find something

How can I make such a claim in the Internet age, when PewInternet reports that 91% of adult Internet users in the U.S. use a search engine to find information?

Let me relate a quick story.

When I worked with master’s and doctoral students at a research university, I was taken aback by how many of them didn’t know how to solve their MS Word formatting issues (something they needed to do in order to submit their theses or dissertations). After all, these students are researchers. They’re problem-solvers. They’re smart.

It got me thinking—how often do we compartmentalize our knowledge and problem-solving methods and simply don’t think of transferring those methods to another task or region of knowledge? How often do we settle for not knowing—even when we need that knowledge to do our work well?

Or even—how often do we not realize how easy-to-find the answer actually is?

It’s not a matter of being stupid—it’s a matter of making the connection. Of developing the habit of looking up those questions that we might not quite know how to phrase. Of risking a little extra time on the chance of getting the results we want.

In the case of the grad students’ MS Word formatting issues, a quick google is likely to turn up the answer—even if they don’t know quite what keyword to use (e.g., “hanging indent”). It’s amazing the number of tutorials that other users post online to help people out.

Of course, we all know that one’s presence on the Internet is no guarantee of one’s expertise or integrity (as this State Farm® “French model” commercial cheerfully illustrates. “They can’t put anything on the Internet that’s not true.” Cracks me up every time). Caveat emptor.

So, the moral of the story?

Be the smart person you are. Look it up.