Five Tools To Remember Everything You Read Online

February 4, 2014

EvernoteThis brief item in Gigaom about the massive expansion of data center storage capacity caught my eye yesterday — particularly the last line: “Sometimes, I can’t help but think that we’re just digitally hoarding.”

Let me put any doubt at ease: Yes, yes we are digitally hoarding.

But so what? After all, it’s not just unheard songs and cat photos that are filling up all those thousands of hard drives that Backblaze, Box, Dropbox, iCloud, OneDrive (née SkyDrive), et al. are using.

No, there’s also the hoarding of interesting web pages, articles and marginalia happening in the web’s virtual filing cabinets — the kind of hoarding among magazine lovers and book worms that would have once taken place in physical stacks instead of virtual ones.

I’m thankful for this digital hoarding, since I would probably be one of those people with folders full of interesting articles cut-out of the New Yorker, Dwell and Lucky Peach if I didn’t have the alternative.

With these digital tools, I’m able to keep and recall far more than I could with paper — the semi-interesting, not just the super-interesting.

You’ve heard of it. You’ve probably used it. It has a cult following who swear by it. I’ve been using Evernote since 2008, but I never really have used it the way most do. For the first couple years of usage, I would type an occasional note and that was it. But now Evernote is the hub of my digital hoarding strategy, enabling my to tag and search everything I put in it. And believe me that searching your own library of articles you’ve read is often a much better way to recall than trying to find the same article on Google.

Undoubtedly one of my favorite tools of the past couple years, IFTTT (short for “if this, than that”) plays nervous system to Evernote’s big elephant brain. IFTTT provides “recipes” that automatically perform an action on one online service when triggered by another service. I’ll share some recipes in a moment.

Feedly is another tool you probably know, having risen to fame in the wake of Google Reader’s demise last year. I’ve had my gripes about Feedly in the past, but it gets the job done for sifting through numerous blogs, news sites, discussions and more. A few weeks back I tried replacing Feedly with Digg Reader. I was back using Feedly after only a day. Among other reasons, Digg Reader doesn’t integrate with IFTTT.

Or Instapaper. Or Readability. They all do essentially the same thing: provide a distraction free reading environment and queue. And they all integrate with IFTTT. Throughout the day, I add articles to Pocket via Tweetbot, Feedly and Pocket’s own bookmarklet, which I can later read on my iPad.

I used to use Delicious, but switched to Pinboard after the former was sold and re-imagined one too many times. It’s a great way to save bookmarks and serves as a supplement to Evernote. Pinboard automatically sucks up any link I tweet, while Evernote is used more for saving the full text of articles. It also has IFTTT integration, because obviously.

To tie these and other tools together, you’ll want to experiment with the full power of IFTTT, but here are two of my favorite recipes:

Make a habit of using these tools. Then next time you’re trying to recall the details of an interesting articles or a good recipe you saw, pop into Evernote, do a quick keyword search, and you should find what you need. Happy hoarding.