Neal Sheeran

Rants, Raves, and Geekery

Reading the Web


I’m not sure when reading the multitudes of blog posts and news articles–and keeping track of the interesting things–became a challenge, but I suspect getting an iPhone was actually a contributor.

First, some background: The first piece of software that I bought that didn’t come in a box from an actual store was NetNewsWire, way back in 2003. RSS was new to me at least and it made surfing a bit easier than actually going to every site in my ‘Daily Read’ folder and scanning for new posts. If I found something interesting that I wanted to keep filed away somewhere, I did one of two things: mark it as “flagged” in NNW or opened it in Safari and saved a bookmark in my ‘Stuff’ folder. Now and then I would go through these and move items to other bookmark folders, delete the ones that weren’t interesting anymore, or maybe blog about some of them.

Around this time, social bookmarking sites such as Ma.gnolia1 and Delicious were all the rage. I think I had accounts at both of them–obviously I didn’t use them–and I think the reason was I didn’t really get (or care about) the “social” aspect of them. I just wanted something to easily track the interesting things I read. I didn’t really care what other people thought was interesting.

Along came the iPhone, which I’ve had for almost a year. My current newsreader app is Reeder, by way of Byline and the iPhone version of NetNewsWire. I’m also a big fan of Instapaper. Also around a year ago, I got started using Pinboard, the “anti-social bookmarking site.” The apps I use are interconnected to some degree: NNW on my Mac and Reeder on the iPhone (which both sync via Google Reader) can both post articles to Instapaper. Reeder can also post directly to Pinboard. All that being said, reading and bookmarking stuff on the web goes something like this:

On My Desktop

Plowing through NNW. If the blog post itself is worth saving and I’m short on time, I just flag it. If the post is linking to a long-ish external article, I’ll send it to Instapaper. Sometimes I’ll find a link to an interesting site and then one of three things happens:

  1. Interesting articles like web tutorials or new software I may want to try still get dragged the ‘Stuff’ folder in my bookmarks bar.
  2. Snarky / cool / different kind of interesting tidbits get posted to my Elsewhere sideblog.
  3. Or I just send it to Pinboard. I’m still trying to figure out what I should use Pinboard for. Right now it keeps really good articles I’ve come across and a holding bin for web design specific links. If there was an easy way to seemlessly incorporate my Pinboard list to feed into my sideblog, that would be huge.

I try to go through my ‘flagged’ items in NNW daily and do one of the above things with what what’s in there, or I just unflag it if I don’t think it merits permament, filed-away status.

On my iPhone

The two apps I use most on my phone are Reeder and Tweetie. I use Reeder just like NNW and a key feature of Tweetie for me is the ability to send followed links to Instapaper directly from its own browser. Same goes for Reeder. Cell coverage where I work is spotty, so being able to archive links for future reference without having to go through Mobile Safari first is nice.

A note on Instapaper: the only time I really use it as it was intended (you know, to like read articles and stuff) is when I’m on a plane flying somewhere. I also you use it as a separate and miniaturized feedreader by subscribing to the developer’s Long Reads and Give Me Something to Read folders2. When I find something here, I star it for further reading or one of the steps above.

In summary (finally… – Ed.), worthy articles, posts and other assorted web goodness either gets flagged in NetNewsWire or Reeder, saved to Instapaper (from either of those two, and sometimes Safari itself), or sent to Pinboard. Or sent to my Elsewhere blog. In the case of this awesome New Yorker article about magician and actor Ricky Jay, it was nearly all four. Yes, I’m sure there is a cleaner way to do this, but I haven’t settled on what that is yet.

Now, if I can just figure out how exactly to put my desktop and iPhone versions of Evernote to good use…

  1. In January 2009, Ma.gnolia had a massive server crash and lost a ton of users’ data. The site went down for months and within days of relaunching, ownership received a cease-and-desist letter regarding the Magnolia name and they changed the name of the still-not-full-up service to Gnolia. Good luck.

  2. I found both of these from within the iPhone version of the app itself (Add Folder, then Browse Recommended Sites), but it seems this list isn’t populated anymore.