Pick Pocket – ideas for reading list triage

Finally conducted a triage of my entire Pocket queue on 1.12.20

Starting with, 3180 items; ended with 799, or around 25%! I tagged items ‘antilibrary-archive’ and then archived. Future passes could include further tagging things, for example, ‘homework’ or ‘reference’ or ‘todo’, for different classes of antilibrary items.

I used the Mac app for this; the web app is actually nicer / more modern (with some nice features like showing reading time for each article) but it doesn’t have quite as good keyboard shortcut support — with the desktop app I was able to select and save the tag and archive all with keyboard shortcuts, which made things faster.

This took the better part of a day in total (I think I archived 400 or so per hour!)

Initial observations:

  • One great article on a topic is usually enough
  • Many things are interesting but just too long!
  • Stories on politics & startups go stale immediately
  • Climate stories need better hooks
  • A few fave topics I return to repeatedly
  • Too much shallow analysis
  • More distance = my interest declines
  • Interesting to see rise and fall of publications
  • Many very good writers IMO not adequately focused on impact, even at big pubs
  • But also: there is too much interestingness, it’s futile to seek it all, can be better to enjoy limitations

More detailed observations:

So many current event stories seem irrelevant mere months later! Often I’ve read one thing on a topic + no longer feel any need to read the dozen others… Profiles, too — not only do they have a shelf life, they’re often just soooo long! (Same w/ many New Yorker stories, they seem interesting, just not worth the time)

Climate stories…so damn many, often similar, kind of overwhelming! Hard to have a unique hook. (Ditto stories on politics, progressive activism, economics…politics gets stale quickly.) Yeah…seeing a lot I’ve saved on things like climate chaos / end of the world / apocalyptic…hard balance here. And some stuff’s just too vague…e.g. lots on future of economics, liberalism, tech…but lacking clear differentiator.

Some topics I’m likely to keep in the inbox: books / reading, internet culture, language / translation… Kind of obvious but: the more unique, the more likely I’ll want to read it! (Also helps to have a personal / distinct voice or lens!) And title / clear central idea = pretty key to this when I’m trying to decide in just a few seconds…

Very weird stuff…can go either way! Either strong urge to read, or wft nahhh…

Particular writers definitely = factor in quick judgement (I agree with Robert Cottrell on this…)

Lots of stuff is just…lurid / sensationalist / gossip lol…easier to see in hindsight! (Also lots of very shallow cultural analysis…I want to read the deep ideas / insights!) (Also also: I don’t really want to read about crime / violence, with relatively few exceptions…)

Less likely to save on this second pass: NYT (superficial or fleeting), New Yorker (bloated). More likely to save: Quanta, other stuff that feels particularly niche and definitive and a bit weird. (Fiction…I almost never want to read in Pocket, much prefer paperback or Kindle!)

Also mixed: archives (many articles) from a single site…sometimes too much, sometimes still want! And interviews are pretty mixed too! Often less dense / more rambly than profiles… Ditto: esoteric art / theory / philosophy shit… And anything on startups / specific companies tends to get outdated within like a year!

After getting a few years back, my archive rate seems to be going way up… The formula here is something like: more distance = larger gap with both current interest + relevance. And of course, more old stuff suffers from link rot too…though surprisingly not a ton!

Interesting to see rise and fall of publications (Aeon, Nautilus, Narratively, Contents, Appendix, etc.) And the rise and rise of some (Quanta again comes to mind here!) And some discovered-out-of-nowhere incredible miscellaneous blogs…

There’s a whole genre of very good writers writing overly-narrow pieces without much real lasting impact. Flip side: this is a function of there being too much interestingness! Futile to seek it all… Boils down to a) try to read so widely you have to miss out on good but narrow or b) enjoy limitations…

Still to do:

Go through all archived articles (actually, entire list + Pinboard bookmarks too) + pull out interesting “ideas”; eventually add them to the Antilibraries site (specific “ideas” section for this).

Maybe look at favorites + compare with that list / taxonomy of nonfiction and how it can be good / interesting (source TK; linked from David Laing I believe)

A thing I want:

An easy tool to triage your Pocket queue — something to help sift through hundreds / thousands of accumulated links and toss out all the ones that no longer excite you…

Could do it Tinder-style, like the “Twindr” app that lets you unfollow people on Twitter by swiping their cards — for Pocket articles could display title, author, perhaps first hundred words, image if applicable…then swipe L or R!

This should be called something like “Pick Pocket”

This open source library looks promising:

See also:

Or, perhaps simpler to implement:

Also an IFTTT integration for Pocket:

I’ve currently got an action to send Pocket favorites to Pinboard…

There’s also a built-in Pocket integration in Pinboard! It requires disabling password protected RSS feed in Pocket + turning on in Pinboard settings — but note this will auto-add all, and mark either ‘read’ or ‘unread’, so not quite what I want…unless I mark all “unread” and then combine with IFTTT to mark ‘read’ when archived?