I used to be a meticulous online bookmarker since the 90s. I used Yahoo! Bookmarks, then switched to Delicious (before it got acquired by Yahoo!), moving to local browser-based bookmarks, and then on to experimenting with Faviki, Diigo, and Pearltrees. After all these years, I am realizing that I don’t really use bookmarks in their true sense anymore.
Working in the field of technology news 24×7, I am consuming more information than ever before. How do I keep up with this real-time information firehose? That’s what I’d like to share in this post.
First, let me distinguish between two kinds of bookmarks.
Short-Term Bookmarking: Read It Later
This is epitomized by services like Instapaper and ReadItLater. You use these services when you come across something interesting, don’t have the time to read it immediately, and save it for reading later.
This is necessitated by our 24×7 online lifestyle, where we are more at leisure to read things on our favorite device screens at specific periods during the day.
Long-Term Bookmarking: Read, Like, Save for Reference
This is the traditional bookmark where you want to save a link for future reference because you liked it, and want to be able to reference it later.
For example, here is a Pearltree I created when Facebook announced its Privacy Changes last year:
Today, I use neither of the above two kinds of bookmarks.
Read It Now, Or Never
I do not use any service that lets me save a link that I can read later. Because, by the time ‘later’ comes, there is already plenty of new stuff for me to check out.
Living real-time means it is always now or never.
What happens when there’s a really long article, say an op-ed, that’s making the rounds? I use speed-reading techniques, like these, to absorb the gist as best as I can, before moving on. New tools like tldr.it are coming up to summarize long articles for you.
Another factor is that if a really long article is really that important, it will be referenced, shared, and discussed in your own personalized online world sufficiently enough that you will have ample opportunities to read it later. As Mathew Ingram put it in 2008, “if the news is important, it will find me”.
Google Instant Search Works Better Than Bookmarks
Google’s stated mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. If bookmarks were the most efficient way of finding information for reference, you would think that Google would have produced the best bookmarking service on the web by now!
Have you read anything of the kind “Google plans to kill Delicious”, “Google introduces new service to obliterate Diigo/XMarks/etc.”? Probably not. Because, in my experience, Google Instant Search is far, far more efficient than any bookmarking service out there.
That is the reason why Google has not invested heavily in its obscure bookmarking service, but rather focused on improving its search engine and make it more efficient.
I am not exaggerating. You will find dozens of carefully curated links in most of my lengthy blog posts, but not a single one of them was bookmarked. All of them were instantly looked up in the process of my writing, without interrupting the flow.
What About Digital Memories?
In Timeless vs. Real Time, I waxed lyrically about the waning shelf-life of digital artifacts. My philosophy about stuff that is personally important to me is simple: I save it locally on my own media.
If there is any article, photo, music, or video that you would really like to preserve, don’t use any online service or social network to preserve it. Online web services may or may not remain in business, may or may not allow you to port data. Why take the risk?
Finally, this post is not intended to suggest that everyone ditch bookmarking. Everyone’s requirements from their online lives are different. This post is about how I live in real-time, which may not be what everyone would like to do. What I do want to stress is that with this approach, I am able to consume far more information than I did previously, more efficiently.