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Cover image for An elegant way to archive our voracious curiosity

An elegant way to archive our voracious curiosity

yoric profile image Yoric ・3 min read

Web curiosity = crazy tabs

As a developer, we are curious, and end up browsing a lot of links on the Internet.

Tabs

Some doesn’t worth more than 1 sec attention and we close the tab right away.

Some catch our attention, and we wish we could come back later,
Perhaps it was funny, or interesting, or heart moving, or chocking, you name it.

That’s what bookmarks are for.

However, imagine what would happen if you bookmark 20 links per day ?
That’s 7000 bookmark a year, and that’s not handy.

Solution 1: Text Editor

I used to copy / paste links in text files.
I would create a new file in my TextEdit / NotePad or Vim like this:

Memo

Pros:

  • Easy (doesn't need any extra software)
  • Lighweight (doesn't consume much memory nor cpu usage)

Cons:

  • Content get messy really fast: mixing links, personal notes, various topics
  • Not easy to search into for anything older than 2 months.
  • Loss of data: we surely backup when we format, or change computer, but still those text get buried into backups that we never open again, because, we’re busy.

Solution 2: App and browser extensions

I actually didn't try this option in the long run.
Using app like Evernote, OneNote
Or extensions like OneTab, Tabs Outliner, Toby.
They all look great, and I should will give them a more serious try.

highly.co is also interesting, as you can highlight text from any web page. It didn't click for me though. Maybe I like simplicity overall.

While I was writing this article I discovered some other options that look awesome.

Solution 3: Self-hosted Web App

Why a web app ? Sounds complicated.
Well, at first I wouldn’t even think about it.

Until I saw Shaarli in action... It's a > 10 years old product, but it's still there, being used every day by the author, with over 23,000 links.
It’s a minimalistic webapp you can host yourself. It aims at storing the links you want to keep track of.

Why I love it:

  • Lightweight: It's not a monster.
  • Once you install it, you own it: your history won't go on third-party servers.
  • Super easy to install. git clone https://github.com/sebsauvage/Shaarli. Done.
  • No Database: all your history is stored in one single text file.
  • Saving a link should fast and easy. And so it is.
  • Interface is clean. You can just browse thousands of links fast and easily.
  • You can add notes and tags along your links.
  • The "Tag Cloud" feature is actually useful.
  • Links can be "private".

Illustration of the popup you get after pressing the navbar button in order to save your current page link:
popup

Final Note

For such a common task as saving links, we all have our personal preferences.
It's a matter of taste and habits.
What works best for you ? Simplicity, or specialized tools ?
While I am eager to test more productivity tools, I have a tendency to come back to the basics, with the good old plain text.

Now that I have rediscovered this Shaarli webapp, I am excited to give it a try on my (empty) personal website.

I would love to know how you handle your browsing gathering and retention.
(If you mind installing your own Shaarli instance, feel welcome to share your url, that could be awesomely informative)

Posted on by:

yoric profile

Yoric

@yoric

I'm a developer, currently taking a break from my regular 9 to 6 job.

Discussion

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Editor guide
 

I use Feedly for RSS and also for saving interesting articles thanks to its new feature Boards. Works good together with handy extension Save to Feedly Board. I'm satisfied with current setup, though, it's great we have so many possibilities 🤓.

 

Thanks for sharing your use case. I gave Feedly a try, and it works pretty well.
I also tried "inoreader" and I can't decide which one I prefer yet. Both look pretty solid.

 

Thanks for using Feedly, Roman!

 

I have used Shaarli and also got the feeling it was a very good tool. However, I notice that when I want to find some info I mostly regoogle it and Google let's me know that I have visited that page before it even says how many times and last access date.
It seems that I bookmark stuff I find relevant and worth keeping for future reference (not much "read later"). But rarely use the bookmarks I have saved.
I was torned when delicious went down as I lost a trove of links that were like my internet history of interesting sites and articles. Later I used a Tumblr like microblog (tags, my comment, maybe a screenshot), worked well for archive until they shut down. Now i have a self-hosted wordpress blog (but find it rare to keep feeding it) and Google Chrome bookmarks because they get synced, are natively in the browser. I tend to save only very good pages or pages that solve a very specific problem that took me long time to find.
On the subject of tagging bookmarks, one thing that worked really well was tagging each link with 1 to 5 stars.
Beyond links, the problem of how to organise the information we have found interesting (bookmarks, webclips, microblog,...) remains unsolved.

 

I didn't even notice there are a "visit count" and "last date visit" on Google search :) It's actually weird because this information is sometimes missing even though we did visit the page (and the link color is purple)

I agree it's faster to google again (except for specific information we had a hard time to find, as you said).

Like you I used Tumblr to archive links. I didn't feed it for 6 years (wow !) but it's actually still online.

However, I find it handy to have sort of a "clean history" of what we did actually read over the months and the years, and what we get from it. It produces the same effect with blogging or journaling: we become more conscious about what we consume, asking questions like "What piece of information is useful here ?", "What am I here for ?", "How would I sum up what I just read ?", "How can I implement it ?". Like being more mindful.
Of course, making that extra-effort takes time, and it slows down our browsing experience. That's why most of us don't do it I guess.

Your technique to tag bookmarks with 1 to 5 stars is interesting. So you differentiate what's really awesome from the casual bookmarks.

In the end, Organizational and Productivity tools are tricky, because you need to find out what works best for you. It requires you to be pro-active, to try a bunch of it, and see if you can stick with it over time.

 

I agree with you. Most likely while we keep curious we will, from time to time, look for a better way to do things (like saving bookmarks).
About the star system, I would tag this page here as "bookmarks, organisation, dev, ****", while one of those curated lists of awesome software would probably got "*****".
I also found that if we do take the time to feed those "note to self" blogs we get something like better consciousness (or something like that) about what we have been doing. It also demonstrates that you did something with all that online time :)

 

Currently I'm using Pocket, but frankly I find this overwhelming. I love reading and learning so my Pocket is filled with tons of articles I want to read one day.

I found your solution interesting but also it's also comforting to know I'm not the only one who hoards articles for "later" and thinks of ways to hoard them better. xD

 

tons of articles I want to read one day

Hehehe it's a good thing to be curious about so many things, only that our to-read list keeps expandig to infinite !

 

I don't save that many links so I use bookmarks: they have a name, metadata, they can be searched and automatically synchronize between devices.

I used to use Instapaper but not that much lately.

I still have a Pinboard with a bunch of links as well

 

Bookmarks with meta sounds good. I probably don't use them at their full potential. Firefox support tags natively, but it looks like it needs an extension with Chrome (like EverSync).

 

I meant the basic metadata you get when adding a bookmark :D

I don't use tags, just folders.

Again, I don't have thousands and thousands of links.

Most of the times I end up using google anyway to go back to the page (because I did not remember I had it already saved in the bookmarks :D)

 

Another option under solution 2 is Workona which allows you to separate your tabs into workspaces and share workspaces with others.

Full Disclosure: I know the founder and I have been a user tester. But I do actually like and use it in my daily life.

 

Just started using worka this week and I'm really loving it so far

 

One question: when I try to bookmark existing link again, does it add same link or it inform me that is already in the list?

p.s. more up-to-date and modern fork according to original author can be found here:
github.com/shaarli/Shaarli

 

Sorry for the late reply,

  • Yes, Shaarli "remember" if you already bookmarked that same page. It will popup your previous notes and tags about it, which is definitely cool to update / review your previous informations.
  • As you noticed, there's a more up-to-date github repo there, but still, I prefer using the old one for several reasons: 1/ I got problem installing the new version on my shared host platform (it didn't work). It looks like the server configuration is more complex, I don't have Docker, and I couldn't use composer for php dependencies. 2/ I like the old theme better 3/ I didn't see any of the new features to be useful for me
 

I use Vivaldi as my browser and the features that browser has gives me the ways I can easily save things for later without having to get an extension.

I can easily add and manage notes/links. They can either be a hotkey away or I also have them on the sidebar Vivaldi has so I can easily browse them.

 

I didn't know about Vivaldi. I gave it a try and it looks like the next generation web browser, with awsome tab previews and features we only see in extensions for other browsers.
It also looks proc consuming on my laptop.

 

I test internet research productivity tools. I believe there is no one size fits all product yet. Bookmarks are only valuable if they can be found and utilized when needed. For this most people need saved links to resurface when using google searches. There are three products that I am aware of that immediately show you bookmark results along side of your google searches. I have only tested and used Chrome extensions for the following...

  • Evernote. (which can be more than some people need)
  • Diigo. (only returns results from library to google on the paid plan)
  • Papaly. (my personal favorite although development was abandoned)

Raindrop.io is a good fit for many and for free you can manage large link collections.

If you want to store links with sensitive data, log ins and passwords, I'd use Roboform. It is the only password manager with bookmarks, secure notes and log ins. Making it easy to log right into a site saved. The bookmark folders are about the same as most browser folder bookmark systems, if that works for you.

Start.me has a unique market position with a tabbed based start page that you can store bookmarks, widgets such as rss and weather. Much like the iGoogle pages of long ago only more modern.

Personally I use Diigo premium. Tags, screenshots, sticky notes saved to webpages, annotate, highlight, share, outliners and returned results in google are very helpful. I only wish it had column views but ... it is as close to perfect as I have found.

Just my 2 cents worth..

 
 

Yes, I have been playing with it some. Got annoyed with image sizing. Need to go back in there and play some more. It is a very impressive application. Like dropbox paper and airtable had a beautiful baby! lol

Yea in the last few months that it has got a lot better. Especially with table support.

 

I end up with this solution :

getpocket.com for easy bookmarking, I put a lot of tag

workflowy.com/ if it's not from the web (a book or stuff like that) as part of my GTD tree.

Sometime I forgot to save in pocket and use my browser history, and I have to say that in all competitor (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, IE, Opera) search is not so great...

 

I tried Pocket, indeed, so simple. I like the one-click-to-bookmark extension that comes with it, with the possibility to add tags on the go (unlike with feedly or inoreader). Tags are surely a key to find informations afterward.
In that sense, it is very similar to "Google Keep".

I didn't know about workflowy, thanks for mentioning it here.
I created an account and started to play with it. It looks fantastic because of its simplicity, and how fast it is. All the articles by Frank are fascinating to go beyond its basic usage. I'd like to implement GTD too and see if it fits me.

 

I use Pocket a lot, coupled with its browser extensions. One click on the icon in the browser, and the link is automatically sync'ed across all my devices, with support for offline reading. I also like the search and suggestions features. But will soon switch to a self-hosted instance of Wallabag, as an Open Source alternative.

 

It sounds great, I want to try the self-hosted Wallabag too !

 

I now use a Trello board to store and sort my ideas. Its nice because I can save whatever idea from any device and process it later.

Its also great for letting the idea build too. Maybe it will turn into a fun project or something with its own board.

 

I just have an elaborate set of folders on my bookmark bar, all of them using Unicode symbols to represent the main category.

 

Unicode symbols is clever, thanks for the tip.
Taking the time to create an elaborate set of folders is key. It surely worth it in the long run.

 

Well, by elaborate, I mean I created five. Then I defined subfolders as I needed them. Here's a sample of my own folder structure right now:

  • !!! Read Soon
  • 📘 Articles and Documentation
    • Articles
    • Docs
    • Bug Reports
    • Publishing and Typesetting
    • Music
    • Writing References

  • </> Code
    • OSes
    • Repos
    • Software
    • Themes
    • Web Dev

  • 🎓 Learning

  • 🛠️ Tools
    • Audio
    • Books
    • Computer Tech
    • Editors
    • File Transfer/Download
    • Fonts
    • Graphics
    • IT
    • Minecraft
    • Music
    • Nerd
    • Programming
    • References
    • Web
    • Webmastering
    • Words
    • Writing
    • Unicode

I do the same but have everything in notion.so with notes I can take too. I also use icons to visually filter notes

 

Right now my favorite setup is using notion.so . I have an "inbox" folder I just throw everything into during the day so I don't have to worry about organizing.

Then I go through them at the end of the day. Often times there's ones I decided not to read. The ones I keep I put into a learning folder/note, under a "readme" section. Once I read them I put them in in the same learning folder but under a topic for whatever I read. What's nice about this is that I can also write down any notes about that. Or link to other things for reference.

I periodically go through the read list to prune things.

I find that just mass bookmarking things or using stuff like pocket, I Mark a lot of things GS I eventually never want or need to read. So this works for me really well.

 

I used to us Delicious when it was still around. I now use Pocket mainly because it is integrated directly into the Firefox Developer Edition and I can just hit the Icon and get going.

 

I didn't even know about the developer edition. I tried it, and pocket integration works well indeed. It looks like this edition contains more developer tools and beta features.

 

It is my go to browser at the moment. the screenshot and color dropper feature are worth the price of admission alone..

 

I use the chrome bookmark, very accessible, can be well organized through folders, and most importantly synchronizable.
i will differently give Shaarli a try though.

 

Well organized folders are indeed important.
Shaarli is more like a customized "bookmark history" that cumulates hundred of links, whereas bookmarks are useful to jump on our everyday's website.
I'll be curious if you git it a try.

 

Nice!
I've used google Keep for long time. But now i'm sold to Toby, it's amazing how simple and yet powerful way of organize your tabs.

 

I make an encrypted chat with myself in Telegram and just paste my links there. Will use topical #hashtags along with the link. Secure and easy to search.

 

Nice process, very well thought out. I currently don’t really have any actual process for this at the moment.

 

Hey thanks Ben for your interest; and for bringing this unique feel to dev.to
I don't have a process either. I'm just questioning everything since I took a break to step back.

 

I use Keep to sync across devices. Most my reading is on my phone, and most reference lookups is at work. I saved this article to check out your suggestions, thanks!