A few hacks for avid online readers

3 min read
Reading Time: 3 minutes

I consume A LOT of news & blog posts and have developed some simple systems to make reading more pleasant and to refind stuff I’ve come across in the past. If you are the same, some of these hacks may help you.

  • Don’t read articles online.
    I scan headlines and perhaps take a brief look at content. If it looks like it is worth reading, I put it into Pocket to read at my leisure later. I do this with a browser extension or sometimes add links manually.

    • The reading interface for Pocket is far better than reading a web page (see  Reading on your phone the right way)
    • The premium version of Pocket indexes the articles you save making it easier to find content later on.
    • Readability is an excellent alternative to Feedly. I prefer Pocket’s interface but love that Readability gives reading time estimates.
    • If I absolutely have to read an article on my desktop, I use Magicscroll.
    • Level up by adding a reading time estimate tag when you use Pocket. Get an estimate using this Bookmarklet.
  • Blogs:
    • I follow my favorite blogs using Feedly RSS reader (the goto reader for those missing the days of Google Reader).
    • Again I scan headlines/content then save the better articles to Pocket.
    • I regularly review my feeds and give the axe to any that are not worth the effort (usually because the are just churning out lots of crap content).
    • If some feed is so stellar that I read every single post, I use IFTTT to pop those articles straight into Pocket*.
  • Facebook is another major source of content:
    • When scrolling through my Facebook feed, I often “Save links” to check out later. Then I periodically go through the saved links and put the interesting ones into my Pocket reading queue.
    • I also make heavy use of Facebook lists creating lists by category. This is useful if there are a few specific topics you want to follow (eg Health, Science, Local community).
    • I archive every link I share on FB in Evernote with IFTTT. I do the same with text posts (status messages). This makes refinding this content much easier than trying to work FB’s lousy search (which they cripple intentionally… WHY?). IFTTT has a bit of a learning curve but can make your life more efficient in many ways. Check it out.
  • Twitter:
    • I used to use Nuzzle to surface good content from my Twitter lists but found little of the stuff they pushed me was interesting. But loads of people swear by it.
    • I now focus on a handful of users whose interests overlap with mine including @dangillmor for journalism and privacy @motherboard for weird science news and @internetofshit because we are on the road to hell…
  • Other content sources: there are a couple of curated content providers that may be worth your time
    • This.cm. I so love this site and get their daily digest. You should make the initial investment of following a few peeps. I’ve found it particularly good at unearthing compelling long reads and commentary on social justice.
    • Azeem Azhar: The Exponential View. This is a weekly well curated digest of tech news and more. Why aren’t you subscribed?
    • NextDraft: This is a favourite of many so I am listing it here but eventually I dropped it because although the content was interesting, the curator’s tone began to grate. But it can be amusing. Imagine what kind of commentary you would get if Andy Borowitz was curating your feed.
  • Managing Subscriptions:
    • For the firehose of newsletters and other potentially-useful-but-mostly-time-wasting stuff that comes into your mailbox, I cannot recomment Unroll.me highly enough. This monitors your email and pulls out all the newsletters, serving it back to you as a daily or weekly digest. You have full control over what gets put into the digest and what stays in your inbox. It is absolutely FANTASTIC at reducing email noise. And you will be simply amazed at how many mailing lists you are on. Turns out I am on over 300… not anymore!

TLDR: Get these tools


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 * I only ever did this for one blog: Seth Roberts.