Keeping track of what you read online can be a challenge with the diverse ways of finding and reading things. Now there are devices everywhere to get online. Even Twitter provides a string of links so it can be hard refind things that you were looking at. One of the great things about the maturity of the web and the technologies associated with it is that thanks to APIs and standards it’s not an impossible challenge. I’m a happy and enthusiastic recent convert to the minimalistic bookmarking site Pinboard. It’s where I consciously as well as automatically bookmark things in public and private ways and it’s a place where I can always find what I’m looking for if I’ve looked at it.
Back in the old days I was excited about tags and tagging starting with Flickr, del.icio.us and Technorati tags. I started using del.icio.us in November of 2004 to bookmark things. The biggest plus for it was that it was a way to get out of being locked in to having bookmarks in any specific web browser. You could get to your bookmarks from any browser on any computer. As the number of bookmarks increased, the tags became much more useful in finding things. One of the very attractive things about the way that del.icio.us was set up was the minimalism and almost aggressive simplicity of the site without many instructions. It was the reliable place to put any of my bookmarks.
It was great and with the API it was possible to post to Delicious (as it was renamed from the geekier del.icio.us) in various ways. One of the neat ways was with the simple OS X program Pukka which gave a slightly better way to add a bookmark (and it didn’t leave the web page). Pukka also provided a quick way to find a bookmark before launching a web browser. So as I switch from web browser to web browser it means that things at least stay the same with my bookmarks.
The way that I kept up to date with things on the web was (and still is) through the RSS feeds from many different sites. My method of choice was through the great NetNewsWire for OS X. One of the great things in it was a quick keyboard shortcut to add a bookmark for something in Delicious (which could also send something out to Pukka). So I would go through my feeds, flag things that I wanted to read later or possibly bookmark and then go through all of the flagged items and then save bookmarks of things that I wanted to keep. This worked great for a number of years and my workflow is still similar.
With Yahoo purchasing Delicious it didn’t seem to make a difference in how the site worked and was evolving. There was the change in the way to log in with the addition of your Yahoo ID, but it seemed as though things were going well. But then in December of 2010 word leaked out that Yahoo was restructuring things that the Delicious team was let go and that they were looking for someone to buy the service. But without the team that created and ran the site, it’s probably not that attractive to buy. I’d heard of Pinboard before and thought that I’d take the plunge and try it out. It took a few minutes and then I brought all my bookmarks in and never looked back.
As the iOS world began evolving I found that the reading of things and discovering of interesting things in RSS feeds moved to my iPod Touch. My preferred way of going through feeds now is with Reeder on my iPhone. When I find something interesting that I want to keep I will bookmark it in Reeder and it allows me to add it to Pinboard right in the app. If it is something longer I will send it to Instapaper to read later. Then when I’m reading it in Instapaper I can decide to add it to Pinboard (or even post a quote to my tumblelog on Tumblr).
Bookmarking things are the conscious additions to Pinboard, but the really powerful method is how I can automatically add stuff there too. If you still use Delicious you can have bookmarks from there added automatically. With my Instapaper feed I have all of the things I save to read later become bookmarks in Pinboard. The other powerful part of this is that with the automatic bookmarks you can set your preferences to whether the bookmark is marked as “unread”. If it is “unread” it doesn’t show up in your public feed. That was important to me as I didn’t want a steady stream of things automatically added. Now I can look through was is unread and decide if I want to add some more tags and make it public.
Pinboard also is a great way to keep track of all of the tweets you are sending out. You can link your Twitter account and there will be an archive of all of your tweets going forward (and for a chunk of recent ones that it can get). The very cool part comes when you go in to the preferences and can automatically create bookmarks for any links that show up in tweets. That’s a great way to have a set of links that show up in your twitter stream. For me I usually post a lot of links to films that I watch, so they will be added to my stream. Then I add a few tags and make them private (so they don’t clutter up my feed of bookmarks) and then I have a list of films that I’ve watched with a set of links to their IMDb pages.
Pinboard isn’t free, but has a signup fee that is based on the number of people who have joined the site (around $10 now). It’s an innovative way to set pricing and it discourages spam. I happily paid the fee because I want to support a great project. But the most powerful and useful part of Pinboard is in the archiving that you can pay a bit extra for ($25/year). With archiving the link and the page that it goes to is archived, so if the page changes or the site disappears there will be an archived version that you can always go back to. This is quite powerful and means that the bookmarks that you have will keep working even if the sites that the bookmarks are pointing to don’t work.
I love the simplicity and attitude of Pinboard. It does what it sets out to do with clarity and precision