Managing links + reading

Next installment in the “How I use my technology” series, let’s talk about managing links and reading.

Between my professional RSS feeds and my personal ones, I read a sort of scary (no, edit that, it’s not ‘sort of’) number of blogs, accounts, and other resources online. To be precise, that’s currently 98 feeds in my professional account, 153 in the personal account, and somewhere north of 250 accounts between Dreamwidth and LiveJournal (there’s overlap there, and I’m not going to bother to count exactly how much)

Now many of those don’t necessarily update all that regularly (at least half of the above update somewhere between once every couple of days and every couple of weeks, and very few update multiple times a day.) But that’s still a lot of stuff to sort through.

I read very fast, which is handy. And I skim even faster.

Anyway, as you might guess, there’s a lot of interesting stuff that comes my way, and I use a couple of different tools to manage it. It took me a good while to figure out, though, once I moved from using one computer most of the time to using at least 3 different devices regularly, and sometimes four (my work computer, my home computer, the iPad, and the iPhone. I mostly don’t read webpages/etc. from the phone, but every so often…)

My requirements for workflow:

  • Had to be accessible from every device
  • Had to make it easy for me to dump info into other resources
  • Had to be quick to do – I’m a lot more likely to save something for later if I don’t necessarily have to come up with tags or descriptions or whatever all at once.

My RSS feeds live in Google Reader (the professional ones live in my work email account, the personal ones live in my personal Google account). I use the Mac/iPad app Reeder to read them, often, but I also read directly from Google Reader. (Depends what else I’m doing, where I’m reading, etc.)

I use Instapaper for the next step. I keep the bookmark on the top of every browser I use, and each time I read a page I want to save for later (either in my own bookmarks, or to include in a link roundup), I click the bookmark, the page saves, and I can go back to it later.

Every so often (which ranges from “every month or two” to “every week or so”, depending on what else I’m doing with my life), I go through the Instapaper folders, and sort everything into subfolders. Mine include the following:

  • Tech (for anything technology related)
  • Alternity (the big hobby project)
  • Recipes (food is a good thing)
  • Read/Watch/Listen (for stuff I want to do those things with)
  • Religious life stuff
  • Links (links I want to collect for the links posts here, or drop into my bookmarks for later reference)
  • Knitting (like it says on the tin)

I intentionally keep the list relatively short, so it’s easier to navigate. Instapaper doesn’t have the easiest workflow ever for this, but it works well enough. (I really want a checkbox down the side where I could select all and then move, or whatever.) Most of the time I don’t need to reload my page to remind myself which category it goes into, but every so often I reload the page.

Then, periodically (depending on the folder, this is every couple of weeks or every couple of months, or “Didn’t I save something about this knitting thing in there?”) I go and sort through those folders. Links get shifted to a link post or Pinboard or both, depending. And things I want to read/watch/listen to get shifted to Evernote, where I can corral them somewhat more usefully, and tag them in a way that would make my Pinboard tags more annoying to manage.

Pinboard: Way back several years ago when Delicious made a bunch of changes, I shifted over to using Pinboard, which is a very anti-social social bookmarking service. It does cost money (based on total number of accounts: it’s now right around $10, and that account is forever – it’s not an annual fee) but it seems to be working very nicely for the project.

This is where I store anything I want to come back to a substantial time later. Everything gets at least one tag, and my tags are grouped. I should probably come back and talk about tagging in its own post, but I use general.something.something as my format for most tags, with a few exceptions.

For your amusement, some of the more interesting ones include:

  • certain.people.are.brilliant – posts made by people being very smart about things, that I want to refer back to.
  • all.communities.have.politics – for things about a certain kind of group dynamics issue.
  • for.bad.days – we all have bad days. These are links that will reliably make me laugh.
  • subjects.[whatever] for everything from folklore to history to science.
  • tech.blogging.while.female for discussions of gender and online interaction.


Evernote is the thing I am currently experimenting with for tracking things I want to read/watch/listen to. Periodically, I pull things out of that folder in Instapaper, and drop them into Evernote, where I tag them very specifically. (Tags there include place where they’re set, time period, all sorts of things.) I intentionally dual-process them (review them) because it helps me go “Yeah, nto that interested in that, actually” in a more useful way than just putting things into Evernote in the first place. Also, it’s much faster to drop it into Instapaper many times – I might come across a web page referencing a book title, but not want to actually go search for the Amazon page or other information right then.

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Hi, I’m Jen

Librarian, infovore, and general geek, likely to write comments about books, link collections, and other thoughts related to how we find, use, and take joy in information.

I'm the Research Librarian at the Perkins School for the Blind

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