Living Real-Time Means It Is Now Or Never

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.


Social Bookmarking – The Land Time Forgot by my friend Keith initially inspired this post, followed by the recent Does Anyone Bookmark Anymore? from the Sysomos Blog.

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:

Facebook Privacy


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 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.

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  • I have the same dilemma…. I read a lot but can’t read everything in office (else i’ll be out ;)), so i mail that article to my personal mail id from google reader. It works best as it takes snapshot of whole article and save it in my mail.. but its piling on in my inbox now… 2000+ unread articles… Can’t help this information overload….

  • Thanks, Anand. I can completely empathize and understand!

  • Anand, you and I have the same problem. I currently have 1000+ unread items on Google Reader and all my unread mails (85) are sent by me to me! These are all links that I came across when at work and mailed so I read at home. Like Mahendra mentioned, there is more to read every few hours and minutes. Its become increasingly difficult to read what was good a few hours back. Real time catches your attention then and there.

  • Very interesting and completely agree with what you’ve written. I have stopped using bookmarks and even RSS readers as they used to clog up with “old” information. We live in an instant age, one in which information passes through quickly and it’s quite daunting to think of the speed of our news reading these days!

  • Thank you for the feedback, Kyle!

  • Eclectitech

    So where do we go from here? You can’t be any more real-time than real-time…

  • manielse

    Bookmarks to me are for condensing my reference searches for later. Great for finding clips of information you’ve read or that app you read about a few months back. Ideally, I’d move every condensed clip to something in Evernote but it’s much more time consuming.

  • I don’t find the need to condense searches anymore. 🙂 Thanks for the feedback, Mark!

  • Thanks for this really interesting post.

    Just two points :
    1. there are a lot of way to use the Internet.
    – Some people are in the flood of news, they often make a living of it (journalist, bloggers, market watchers…). They don’t need to keep stuff
    – Some others are need to dive in specific topics and need to gather and organise information (Fans, digital hunters, collector, people in academics).

    2. the flood and the background are not in opposition
    I think I can enjoy a news flood provided I get the context. I think it is the specific role of digital memories to build this background and to keep it updated. To that you need a community of people that organize continously the living memory of the web. Some call them the curators. The goal of pearltrees is to gather the first community of digital curators, that could organize the digital memory

  • Absolutely agree with you, François!

    Patrice Lamothe has frequently tried to encourage me to use Pearltrees more, and I must say I have disappointed him! 🙂

  • May be one day! Soon you will be able to team-up on specific interest. We will keep you posted

  • You share browsing methods with most of my friends. My style is to bookmark references I truly enjoy, but were discovered through social search, or manual crawling, aka high search ranking, but high personal relevance. The majority of these bookmarks are coding based with a few that I constantly access.

    Typing the URL in the Chromium/Chrome auto searches my bookmarks which is faster than my folder organization method. This works as long as I remember distinguishing text from the page/post title.

    I rely on Instapaper to batch process posts to sort through later. I prefer periods of focused search, followed by dedicated reading or development time. Lately it’s been more reading than coding, something I need to tune.

    While mobile browsing I prefer a few favorite blog bookmarks, and rely on apps like Twitter, Instapaper and occassionally Reeder. Mobile is where I find myself firing off a combo JavaScript shortcut that both sends a page to instapaper and to for later personalized search. Have you found a good mobile app for buzz, sometimes the web interface is slow to load or respond.

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  • Thanks for sharing your perspective, Mark. I guess things are different indeed when you’re a developer!

    About – isn’t the functionality a subset of that offered by FriendFeed? Any advantages over FF?

  • Friendfeed is an aggregator with great search. aggregates and focuses on URL body content more like Instapaper. Friendfeed is built around sharing and commenting, where I find is growing rapidly as a dedicated personal search tool. also has alert like functionality like Google search.

    One of the best advantages for me, is personally knowing one of the tool crafters. Seeing active development and iteration is a compelling feature.

  • OK, got it. Thanks for elucidating!

  • Well it only took me a week to get around to finally commenting on the article (pardon my delay).

    I’m obviously a big fan of bookmarking because I need a personally indexed web. Whether I’m bookmarking stats or useful tips the fact is I could never find many of these articles again without a bookmark. My bookmark library is truly my library and digital brain.

    What’s interesting is in this world of realtime I’m the guy people come to when they are looking for “that article you tweeted a couple of months ago on XYZ”.

    Unfortunately I think I’m in the minority. I see bookmark usage dropping and the services languishing.

    I enjoyed your post and I appreciate the link friend. (PS: Had this post in my instapaper account as a reminder to come and comment. 😉

  • Appreciate your feedback…as I noted, it was your post that triggered this one! 🙂

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