This year I’ve been working on managing my digital collections and consumption and trying to get more efficient and strategic about it. I’m addicted to Pocket, the read it for later saving service, and one of the dragons I had to slay was my insane 1,600-article Pocket archive that I built up over the years. (I’m floating around 200 articles now, most which are long-reads and videos, so getting through that will take some time.)
Here are some processes and tricks I learned from going through this massive de-cluttering and how I’m going to proceed in the future:
- Don’t bother ‘Pocket-ing’ tech news unless you’re committed to frequently staying on top of your archive. I can’t believe how many articles on now-antiquated technologies I saved and only half read or didn’t read at all and no one died. Commit to reading it in the moment or commit to batching these sometime in the week. I was also shocked by how many dead links were in the archive. Digital decay is a huge problem not many people are talking about. Even institutions like Charlie Rose changed their CMS or archive process and broke a ton of links I’d saved.
- Use some sort of system for tagging. Tagging and memorizing a complicated taxonomy can have diminishing returns on time saving when you’re on the run and just want to save something quick for later. So I say use as minimal tags as necessary. I’m trying out these currently (I might might modify them to tag a non-existing word so when I search the results will be more narrow):
- “Soon” (Timely reading I need to finish this week, like tech and current news)
- “Weekend” (Longer reads and such, ideal for Sunday mornings with coffee on the patio)
- “Fun” (Non-deep stuff for lighter reading time, like on the metro)
- “Work” (Jobbie job stuff)
- “xHobby” (Topical around my current hobbies and interests)
- “xMood” (For when you need happy/funny/emotional stuff and want to sort by the mood)
- Use reverse chronological order mass batch your reading from the back forward. This also helps you move quickly, especially if you have an archive that’s half a decade old. Some things are just going to be out of date. The article about the launch of the Nexus One is nostalgia and not adding a lot of value.
- Use multiselect and commit to finishing articles. On the web version, you can long click to multiselect several articles, when I knew I had an hour or so to dig through some of the archive, I’d batch about a dozen at at time, command-clicking them into different tabs for reading/watching and then multi-select archiving them. It’s kind of a Pomodoro for Pocket reading.
- Search for topical keywords and then focus on chomping through that archive when you’re in a certain mood/focus. For instance, I was able to do all the background reading on responsive web design much more easily in this search mode. Rather than getting the randomness of my straight feed with an article about RWD, then relationships, then science, then Lifehacker, etc. The focused, topical reading list helped keep me in the zone. This can be used to sort by year fairly nicely too if you are looking for random ordering, but to clean up the older stuff in your archive.
- Commit to dedicating weekly time to reading. The biggest factor in staying on top of Pocket and making sure your archive is manageable is finding regular, committed time to reading. Make it a habit. Either before bed, on the metro or Sunday mornings with breakfast. If you neglect and just keep piling up things to save it becomes a junkyard of randomness and you *think* you’re getting value when you’re just deferring learning to ‘sometime’ in the future (or more likely, never).
- Backup / save your archive somewhere that’s searchable. I use and pay for Pinboard to keep archives of sites and web pages I want to save. Pocket offers a premium version that will do this for you too (I haven’t tried it since I have Pinboard, but if I ever lost Pinboard I would do it). I have an IFTTTT recipe that automatically saves new Pocket items to my Pinboard.
- Automate an army of Pocket robots to help you out. IFTTT offers a lot of Pocket integrations that you can use to track topics, RSS feeds, social media and automatically save things to your Pocket for review. This can be dangerous and lead to careless overload, so I’m very targeted about this, but I definitely have Youtube “Watch Later” videos and keyword-driven RSS feeds from a few favorite blogs like UsesThis.com auto added to my Pocket.