Bookmark the web
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In the last edition of The Untangler, we talked about the single inbox approach to recording and processing all kinds of data: emails, photographs, notes, ideas and so on. I asked readers to simply dump all such data into software applications and then use search functions to find what they want instead of laboriously tagging and categorizing things into folders or categories that they will seldom end up using. The less annoying your recording process, the more you will record and, therefore, the more you will recall later.
In this edition, I want to talk about one particular source of information, the recording of which can be as useful as it is finicky: websites.
How many times have you come across a website with interesting information—a great recipe, a great essay on weight loss, a great video tutorial on monetary policy, a great column on untangling your life—and then saved it somewhere, only to never find the link again? It happens to people all the time, it is infuriating, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
There are many different ways to bookmark the Web. You could, if you are thusly inclined, just right down URLs in a little notebook. You could also simply bookmark Websites on a text file somewhere on your desktop. Or even the bookmarking function on your favourite Web browser can do this job for you.
But there are much smarter ways of bookmarking links. They broadly fall into two categories. The first is where you use multipurpose apps that already record other things for you—notes, images, audio—to also save websites. The second is where you use apps specifically designed for Internet bookmarking.
Now the trick with bookmarking the Web smartly is to adhere to most of the principles of the single-inbox system. You should be able to mark sites quickly, and then dump them into a receptacle you can search through later.
In the first of the two categories mentioned above fall apps such as Evernote, OneNote, Google Drive, Google Bookmarks, even Inbox, Google’s new-ish email app. The smoothest way to use these apps for bookmarking is to install their add-ons or extensions to your browser. That way, all it takes to save an interesting link is one click on a button next to your address bar. Evernote will not only save the link but also an entire snapshot of the page. The Google Drive button saves an entire PNG format image of the whole page into a preset folder.
This style of bookmarking, where you not only get the link but also a copy of the whole page itself, is extremely useful for many reasons. All too often, websites can vanish and links can break. That great recipe for tender paneer can vanish if a particular food blogger goes out of business. The snapshot feature retains a copy for your records for posterity.
Many of these apps can also work on your phones so that you can speedily save and access links across any device. However, do keep in mind that services such as Evernote and Google Drive offer only limited storage before you have to start paying for serious storage.
The second category of apps are those expressly designed for the purpose of bookmarking. I am particularly fond of apps used by academics and researchers for saving research papers. This might seem like overkill to many readers. And some of these apps can be a bit intimidating to get into. But once you do, you may find apps such as Mendeley, Zotero and Paperpile very useful to build a formidable database of links and PDF files. You don’t have to be a PhD student to find them useful.
My favourite bookmarking tool, however, has to be Pinboard.in. At first glance, the site looks like a relic from the Internet of the 1990s. But that is the genius of the site’s developer and sole employee Maciej Cegłowski. Cegłowski has built a service that makes it as simple as possible to maintain a superb collection of bookmarks. There are browser extensions and apps for mobile as well, making bookmarking across platforms a breeze. The basic annual subscription costs $11 (around Rs750) . But pay a bit more, $25, and the platform will also save a copy of the website, PDF, or whatever it is you wish to bookmark. You can then search through the complete archive. Pinboard also integrates with several other services such as Twitter or Pocket. But those are optionals that you can ignore.
I use it every day, on phone, tablet, desktop and laptop, to save the many interesting things I come across on the Web. So far, I have saved 5,091 bookmarks, of which I have fully searchable snapshots for around 97%. Pinboard is well worth the $36 a year it costs for the full service. A personal archive of the bits of the Internet that matter to you. That never vanishes. Consider the Web untangled.