Posted on April 10, 2012
Two online tools I use and recommend
Just a quick post to pimp two products/tools/sites I use every day — neither of which is nearly as famous as some companies that announced a billion-dollar deal yesterday.
Pinboard. This is NOT the famous Pinterest that everyone is talking about. It has a few minor similarities (a “pin” metaphor, for one), but it’s not competing in the same arena. Pinboard has replaced Delicious for me. I used to save bookmarks to Delicious. It made finding those bookmarks again very easy and fast. It let me tag my bookmarks and write descriptions for them. I could make bookmarks private, if I chose. I could easily share my bookmarks with students, friends, colleagues.
Then Delicious was acquired (April 2011), and redesigned, and it turned to junk. Some things I liked about it did not work the same way anymore. But most important for me — it became really slow.
Enter Pinboard. When I moved to Indonesia to teach for 10 months, the slowness of Delicious became unbearable. (I’m not going to discuss how slow the Internet is here. But trust me, it’s slow. That is, when it works at all.) I use my bookmarks a lot — I save a lot, and I search a lot. If they’re not fast, it slows down my whole workday. So I became desperate to find a viable replacement.
Pinboard is not free. It’s a one-person operation, and that person claims he will not sell Pinboard and wreck things. He says that by paying for the service, we make that possible. Take it or leave it. I paid (less than $10), and I am very happy. It’s a one-time fee.
I transferred all my Delicious bookmarks to Pinboard. It was easy. And fast. Check it out.
Instapaper. This one is free, but I love it so much, I subscribed for a dollar a month. That is wholly optional. Instapaper lets you read articles from the Web without all the surrounding garbage (ads), and in a nice, big, readable font. It’s pleasant and attractive.
If that were all Instapaper did, it wouldn’t be very noteworthy. But what hooked me on it is that Instapaper can send all those articles — the full text, with no garbage — to my Kindle. Using wi-fi (not WhisperNet), this is 100 percent free. I got hooked on this so fast! Every time I come across a long article or blog post that interests me, I click the little bookmarklet for Instapaper in my Web browser. The article (and its URL, so I can find it again online if necessary) are saved to my Instapaper account. I send them to my Kindle by going to my Account page at Instapaper and clicking “Send Now.” It’s awesome. (Read the FAQ for details.)
Recently I paid $4.99 for the Instapaper iPhone app (iPad and iPod Touch too). Sweet! While I still send everything to my Kindle, sometimes I’m stuck somewhere without it — but I always have my iPhone. The app downloads all your stuff from Instapaper to the phone and lets you read it offline — this is quite important to me here in Indonesia because I only use my (U.S. locked) iPhone with wi-fi; I don’t have phone or data service enabled (I use an Android phone here). The readability on the iPhone is fantastic. (I would assume it’s nice on the iPad too.)
So if you’re a big online reader and a compulsive bookmarker (like me), I recommend these two tools very highly. Let me know what you think.