How I consume the Internet

I am an information junkie. I go from one obsession to the next. The Internet deals me out a constant supply of articles, images, music and video on any and every subject I can imagine. It is very easy to get sucked in. If I’m not careful I will find myself reading about some obscure religious rite or the mating habits of deep sea creatures or Neuromancer fan fiction. Every subject is represented. There are niche groups living within niche groups. Unbelievably, there is just too much information.

I’ve been dealing with this issue for a long time. We all deal with it to varying degrees. It is necessary to limit ourselves or we will be on the Internet all day. Some of us have to go to work and food is nice from time to time.

But how do we deal with it? We can’t just ignore it. Every year, more jobs revolve around data from the Internet. My job certainly does. I am a software developer, a field that is constantly changing. If I don’t keep myself informed, I will soon find my skills irrelevant. It’s not just my job that is effected. In fact, almost every aspect of my life is improved by consuming information on the Internet. What is the best music or movies out right now? What advances in technology have been made? How much are Bitcoins selling for? Will George R.R. Martin ever relase the next Song of Ice and Fire book? Pretty sure the answer is no, he’s just going to let HBO write it for him.

I am faced with a horrible realization. There isn’t enough time in the day to consume everything on the Interet that interests me. I must limit myself or at least be more efficient. To maximize my time, I have devised a system for managing all of the articles, videos and images that I want to view.

My Tools

  • RSS Reader - GoRead is an RSS reader that was created to replace all of the funcitonality of Google Reader, which was shutdown in 2013. Where most RSS readers that I have found try to be everything for everyone, GoRead does one thing good. It lets you subscribe to and view RSS feeds.

  • Bookmark Browser Plugin - Save to Pocket is a browser extension for Chrome which adds a button next to the address bar used to tag links to read later with Pocket. The extension also adds a context menu item when you two finger tap a link using a Mac or right click using Windows. Another cool feature of the extension is the keyboard shortcut for saving a link. It is by default Command+Up+P for the Mac and Ctrl+Shift+S for Windows.

  • Read Later List - Pocket allows you to tag links and save them for later use but I typically use the default list as a list of web pages on the Internet that I intend to read.

  • Article Viewer - Pocket lets me view articles three different ways: web application, mobile application: Android | iPhone, native OSX application. Each gives me a list of links that I previously saved. When I click on a link, Pocket allows me to read using article view or web view. Article view cleans up the page so that it is mostly text. Web view displays the full website. If I am using the web application, web view open the link in a new tab. For both the native OSX and mobile applications, web view displays within the Pocket application.

My Daily Process

Discovery - At least once a day, using my RSS reader, I browse through new items by category. If the title looks interesting, I right click on the link and select “Save to Pocket”. On some occassions, I save a link to the read later list based entirely on the author. For example, I read everything Seth Godin writes. I also check sites like Reddit, Medium and Twitter a few times a week.

Browsing - Througout the day as I am browsing the Internet, I may come across something that looks interesting. I am able to save a bookmark using the Pocket bookmarking browser plugin. It keeps the popup window open long enough to allow me to tag the link if I care to. I can trigger saving the link to Pocket by either clicking on the extenion’s button next to the address bar or by the keyboard shortcut.

Reading - Whenever I am in the mood to read, I can open up Pocket using either the web, mobile or native OSX application. If I am using either the mobile or native application, the article displays in a frame with a button bar that lets me either archive, trash, tag or set the link as a favorite. Once I’m done reading, I tag and archive the article if I think it has future value. Otherwise I trash the document. I have yet to use the favorite feature.

Missing Features

As easy and convenient as this system is, there are still some features that are missing that would make life easier.

RSS feeds for Tags - There should be a way to tag a link on the internet and then subscribe to an RSS feed based on the tag. I use my RSS reader as a discovery application. Now, when I tag a link it goes straight to my read later list. If I could subscribe to a tag feed I could add to this list without having to decide to actually read the article or not. I could decide later during my actually discovery process. This would allow me to tag links without putting much thought into if I cared to read it later. I could tag links based off of many different criteria such as subject, author, or who recommended the link. It would be nice to have the ability to quickly tag links that might remind me of why I was interested in the subject in the first place.

Link priority - It would be nice if I could prioritize how interested I was in a link. There are times when a certain link makes it to the front of the list and I just don’t have the energy to read it, but I do want to read it eventually. There should a way to push it to the back of the list or at least further down the list.

I am constantly tweaking this system of consuming data on the Internet. New tools come out all of the time, hopefully someone will create a way of fixing the missing features I mentioned. If you have a better system, I would love to hear about it.