untangling 9000 cables

I’ve been spending some time recently working through a backlog of unread bookmarks on my Pinboard account. I don’t think I ever intended to use Pinboard as a place to stash a giant slush pile of “read it later” links, but at some point, it turned into that.

One of the articles I read today is this one, about CERN’s effort to identify and disconnect 9000 obsolete cables. That seemed somewhat apropos, though I’m not sure if I have quite that many unread links in Pinboard (though it kind of feels that way). I also read an article about Marie Kondo, which also seemed apropos. I feel like she would want me to discard any links in my Pinboard account that don’t bring me joy. (And the Kondo article I read isn’t the NY Times one I linked here, but now I can’t find the one I read…)

I did indeed discard a few links, but not that many. I’ve been thinking about what I can do to clean things up some more and maybe get some good workflows figured out, between Pinboard, Instapaper, and Evernote. I found this article from Diana Kimball interesting:

The Bookmark represents what we wish for. It’s the earliest indicator of intention, and the most vulnerable; by definition, the act of saving something for later means that whatever we hope for hasn’t happened yet. Bookmarks are placeholders for the future. By thumbing through them, we can start to see what might happen next.

That quote above is quite right. Today, I came across bookmarks about learning a new language (Portuguese or Latin?), 52 places to go in 2017 (Botswana!), and a whole bunch of bookmarks on interesting programming languages and libraries (very few of which I’ve actually followed up on). So it’s definitely an indication of intention, though often it’s purely aspirational intention.

She does a pretty good job of figuring out what differentiates services like Pinboard, Instapaper, and Evernote. And here’s another key observation:

But the most important feature of Read Later tools has never been the resulting queue; it’s the peace of mind that comes from knowing that, once you’ve saved the thing you stopped scrolling for, you’re free to move on.

I guess there is some peace of mind, though then there’s always that nagging feeling that I need to get back to the things I’ve “saved for later.” Oh well.

Getting back to the practical stuff, I’m currently using Pushpin on iOS to save bookmarks to Pinboard. It works pretty well, but the app has been neglected for a while. The developer seems to be interested in picking it up again though. A lot of people like Pinner on iOS. I’ve never tried it, but I might give it a spin one of these days. On my Mac, I just use the Pinboard web site, but I’ve been thinking about trying Spillo. It looks like it might help me get those bookmarks a bit more organized.

I’ve also been playing with LaunchBar a bit lately, trying to learn how to use some of its more esoteric features. I think that figuring out Pinboard integration might be worthwhile. There’s no built-in support for Pinboard, but there are some extensions available that add it in.

And now getting back to the more general topic, I’m starting to figure out some general workflows that I’m trying to stick with. One of them is to cut down on the number of places in which I bookmark stuff. For a while, I was bookmarking NY Times articles with the “save for later” capability built into the NY Times website and apps. But now I’m trying to stick with saving them directly to Pinboard or Instapaper. And, for stuff in Pinboard, if it’s simply a link to a book I might want to read, I usually try to find it in Amazon and add it to my Amazon wishlist, then delete the Pinboard entry. That does cause me to lose some context as to where I first stumbled across the book, and maybe why I was interested in it, but I can generally get that back if I need to.

My Amazon wishlist, of course, is also a gigantic graveyard of intentions. But I’ve found that there’s a lot of power in adding something to it. It really does clear my mind of the thing, and frees me to go on to the next thing. And any time I want to find something new to read, I can just browse though my wishlist and find something. And it’s much better than just buying a bunch of books that I’m not going to get around to reading. (I’ve got more than enough of those already.)

I also frequently do something similar with music, converting Pinboard bookmarks into Amazon wishlist entries for CDs, but I’m hitting a bit of trouble with that now, since I’ve been finding a whole lot of stuff on Bandcamp that I’m interested in, and that’s not on Amazon. So I might need to find some way to lasso a bunch of those Bandcamp bookmarks and do something with them, to get them out of the way. (Convert them into a list in Evernote maybe?) Really, if I were to purchase all the music I’ve bookmarked in Bandcamp over the last couple of years, I’d be spending hundreds of dollars and downloading more music than I could ever listen to.

One more wrinkle in all of this that I’m thinking about pursuing: maybe using IFTTT to tie some of my bookmarking into Day One somehow. Or at least find some way to get a bit more insight into my bookmarks, from a chronological standpoint. I’m not sure how much value there is in that, but I think it might be interesting to know stuff like “a year ago on this day, you bookmarked three articles on JavaScript via Pinboard and read an interview with Neil Gaiman on Instapaper.” Or maybe that would be pointless noise. I don’t know. I’m getting exhausted thinking about all this stuff now. I wrote this post to try to get some of this stuff out of my head, but it’s still all rattling around up there!

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