The FreeBSD of Read Later Services

Linux vs. Mac OS vs. Windows.

Instapaper vs. Pocket vs. Readability.1

Since temporally delayed reading became a thing, I've invested a considerable amount of time and effort in both Instapaper and Pocket. Each one has its strengths and weaknesses and I've gone back and forth more often than I care to count. And now, for various reasons that I won't bore you with, I've ditched both of them. But not because I've seen the light and embraced Readability2. After all, that wouldn't fit my absurd analogy comparing the three aforementioned services to the three aforementioned operating systems.3

So what, then, is the fourth option? The FreeBSD of read later services, if you will. It's Pinboard. Like a lot of tech nerds I jumped on Pinboard in the early days. And let it languish mostly unused. Even when I wrote my Pinboard reading list script for Pythonista, I wasn't seriously using it in any meaningful way4. But in the back of my mind I knew it was there, waiting for me to find a good use for it. Now that there's finally a good Pinboard app, I have.

The single biggest advantage to this new "workflow" is that everything is in one place. I'm not reading articles with one service and "bookmarking" them with another. And since I pay for the archiving service, the full content of the pages is automatically saved for me. I don't have to worry about pulling the page into Evernote or something similar for long term storage. Besides, I'm lazy and forgetful so in most cases it just wouldn't get done.

As a side benefit I can also view the articles as the authors intended them. Getting rid of the clutter that junks up a lot of the web pages on the Internet is useful, but most of the sites I read are actually well designed. It seems like a waste not too see them in their natural habitat.

The only problem I have with this "workflow" is with the apps I use. The correct way to send something to Pinboard is to fetch the url and populate the title field appropriately and set the to read flag. Or give me a dialog box so I can do it myself. But every app I use does it wrong. And they all do it wrong in different ways:

  • Reeder - gets the title right, but doesn't set the to read flag. Oddly, the iPhone version gives you the option to set the flag yourself, but the iPad version doesn't.
  • Zite - has no send to Pinboard functionality built in. I need to copy the link and add it via Pinbook5.
  • Alien Blue - gets the title right, but for some reason sets the private flag.
  • Twitterrific - sets the to read flag, but populates the title with the text of the tweet6.
  • Felix - doesn't set the to read flag and populates the title with the url being saved.

In the past week or so Feed Wrangler and Tweetbot have replaced Reeder and Twitterrific for me and thankfully they both do it absolutely right. I have some other issues with Feed Wrangler though that I'll save for a future post.

tl;dr: get a Pinboard account, buy Pinbook, be happy.

  1. The comparison is mildly hyperbolic. 

  2. To quote Stephen Dedalus: What kind of liberation would that be to forsake an absurdity which is logical and coherent and to embrace one which is illogical and incoherent? 

  3. I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to decide what maps to what. 

  4. And now that we have Pinbook, I don't have to. 

  5. Which actually gets me the results I'm looking for so maybe it's not a bad thing. 

  6. Try saying that five times fast.... 

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