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How to Archive Everything You Read Online

 How-to-Archive-Everything-You-Read-Online

Why bother to archive everything you read?

Ever had that situation of vaguely remembering that interesting article on that cool thing, but couldn’t quite remember the details or where you saw it?

Using this workflow you can search the things that you’ve read by date and/or keyword, which makes it much easier to rediscover and re-read items that you’ve already found.

It’s worth asking why anyone would want to save everything they read online. Isn’t it just digital clutter, a mass of unnecessary data?

Possibly. But if I decided an article was worth my time reading in the past, I’d like to think it’s at least worthy of the option of future retrieval.

To be clear, this workflow does not capture every web site you visit, but only the posts/articles that you actively read and then choose to archive. If you don’t value the piece, and don’t archive it, it won’t get saved to your database.

Once this system has been set up it’s automatic, requires no maintenance, yet allows you to track and access whatever you have read online. For me, it’s there for piece of mind — in case the article is taken down — as well as easy retrieval within the comforts of my own database software.

What this automated workflow will do:

The workflow is built around three stages:

  • selecting what you read;
  • saving the best bits to read later;
  • archiving those pieces in order to access them in the deep, dark future.

This approach evolved from anti-procrastination method I use. To defend against going down the rabbit hole of the interwebs I have a simple golden rule:

I am only permitted to read stuff online through a read-it-later service.

– The Golden Rule

After regularly using Pocket, it seemed an obvious step to create a method to save the articles that I read onto my own computer. (You can export to Evernote within Pocket, but I wanted to automate the process.)

This workflow will gather your long-form internet reading in one place and will automatically save the articles you choose into an offline-accessible database.

A few free services to sign up to:

Here are the services that the workflow needs to function. All that you need are the basic versions, which are free:

  • Feedlysign up here to get blog updates from your favourite websites via RSS feeds (e.g. Here’s mine).
  • Pocketsign up here to use it as a bucket for all those things you mean to read.
  • Evernotesign up here to ‘remember everything’.
  • IFTTTsign up here and ‘connect’ the above services.

This might seem like a convoluted process, but once it’s set up it runs automatically, I promise. I’ve been using the workflow for many months without the need for any tweaks.

Automating your own internet archive:

First, log in to IFTTT and use this recipe to save Feedly bookmarks to Pocket. You can also install Pocket bookmarklets to save items directly from your desktop and mobile browser.

The principle is to funnel all your reading into Pocket.

feedly_to_pocket

Next, log in to Pocket. (1.) Click options and then privacy. (2.) Enable ‘Public RSS Feed’. (3.) Copy the URL of your ‘Archive Feed’.

(I use the ‘Archive Feed’ rather than the ‘All Items Feed’ as a quality control measure – I delete rather than archive the dud articles.)

pocket_rss_options_arrows

Next, go to Five Filters and navigate to the Full-Text RSS tab. Paste your Pocket ‘Archive Feed’ URL into ‘Full-Text RSS Feed’ and click ‘Create Feed’. Copy this new feed’s URL.

pocket_to_fulltextRSS

Finally, create an IFTTT recipe that uses your Five Filters RSS feed to create a new Evernote note into a notebook of your choice. (If = ‘new feed item’. Then = in Evernote ‘create note’).

rss_to_evernote

Yay you did it! Now everything you archive in Pocket will be automatically saved in full-text format to an Evernote notebook of your choice.

No fuss, automatic, and easy future access to the dynamite content all your procrastination hard work found you.

Customise the workflow

You can easily tweak this system to meet your own needs and incorporate other services that you prefer to use.

Tell me if I’m missing something or if you have a better system – I’d love to hear about how your online reading workflow works for you.

Happy archiving!

How To Read On A Computer Screen

computer_monitor_book

I try to read on-screen as much as possible. Why? Because notes typed on-screen can be searched for later, marking/highlighting can be saved, and it makes keeping track of what I’ve read and then retrieving it again later much, much easier. (UPDATE: I’ve changed my thinking on this.)

You can even take your entire library with you for that moment on the beach when you just *have* to flick through that book you read 3 and a half years old…

But the switch to paperless reading isn’t effortless. Initially it’s not as easy or comfortable as reading on paper. Paper is ‘real,’ you can mark it anyway you like, there’s no computer related eye-strain, all you need to do is pick up a book and you’re ready to go. I don’t need to explain how books work :-)

Setting up your computer for heavy duty on-screen reading is not quite as simple as picking a weighty tome from the shelf:

  • What software should I use?
  • How do I manage pdf documents for reading?
  • How can I reduce eye strain?

However, with a little setup and downloading mostly freeware or open-source software, it’s quite easy to go paperless and reap the rewards of on-screen reading.

Here are some tips and techniques I’ve found to be useful:

Pocket / Instapaper / Readability:

Reading webpages without all the banner ads and other distractions makes it a lot easier to get through web text. A number of read-it-later service can do this for you. They strip out the fluff and leave only the core text.

You could use an ad blocking service for this (i.e Adblock: https://adblockplus.org/). But you’re still left with website layout design of varying quality. Isn’t it annoying when you have to click ‘next page’ every few paragraphs?!

I use Pocket, which syncs across the web, my Mac, and my mobile phone. I try not to procrastinate (too much) with long-form reading throughout the day, so these services are also a good way to ‘save up’ reading for later.

In fact, this has become my Golden Rule, which I seldom break:

“I am only permitted to read stuff online through a read it later service”

– The Golden Rule

This way you can read clean text and also avoid the internet rabbit hole.

You can start using Pocket here: http://getpocket.com/

Start using Instapaper here: http://www.instapaper.com/

Start using Feedly here: http://feedly.com/

Use Skim to read PDF Files:

A large chunk of academic reading is of pdf journal articles. I use the open-source software ‘Skim’ to make sense of them.

Skim lets you highlight and make notes directly within the pdf file, which means you make the article your own and don’t lose track of your notes or markings. I find that it’s much more useful to have that one easily retrievable annotated pdf file on the computer. The article and my notes are all saved in just one place.

Skim is available for free here: http://skim-app.sourceforge.net/

PDF Xchange Viewer is Windows compatible and is available for free here: http://pdf-xchange-viewer.en.softonic.com/

I’ve also started using an iPad for reading and annotating. If you have an iPad (or other tablet) you might this post on ‘Annotating PDFs on an iPad‘ useful.

Avoid Scrolling:

I previously used a tool that automatically scrolls down the page at a slow speed. (Info available here.) Auto-scroll seemed fantastic: ‘No more page turns,’ I thought, ‘I can read forever!’.

The reality: I could only read for half an hour before my eyes began to burn.

Following the text as it edges down the screen is a terrible eye strain. You’re asking your eyes to focus on a back lit screen, comprehend a digital font, WHILE IT’S MOVING. Please don’t do it.

Rather than continuously scrolling, use the page down key; it means your eyes don’t have to continuously readjust to the moving text. It should be right there on your keyboard and if it isn’t, learn the short cut. (It’s fn+down on my Mac.)

Pocket has a feature called ‘flipping’ if you use it on your mobile device. Once enabled it stops scrolling articles and instead formats them as pages. If you use Pocket I would strongly recommend learning how to use this feature!

Automatically Adjust Screen Settings with Flux:

Flux is a bit of freeware that alters the screen lighting on your computer, shifting the colour based on the time of day. It’s brighter when the sun is out and automatically changes when it gets darker. I find it helps reduce the eye strain from screen glare that sometimes comes with reading in the dark.

Flux is available for free here: http://stereopsis.com/flux/

Zoom In and Use the Biggest Font You Can:

Reading a big font is more comfortable than reading a small font. Obvious, right? There’s no reason to be squinting to read web text on your screen. It is very easy in most browsers to change text size, usually with an easy shortcut. I use Chrome and the shortcut “Command & +/-” to increase and decrease font size as needed.

When reading a pdf, zoom in. If you’re using a small laptop with little screen space, consider getting a second monitor. I have a cheap second monitor I use alongside my laptop that’s extremely useful and worth every penny.

Resize the Window:

As well as zooming in and out to adjust text size, you should adjust the actual window size as well. This way you aren’t scanning across the whole width of the screen, which invites eye strain. It’s easier on your eyes to make the window narrow and allows your eyes less lateral movement.

I use the Kindle app on the computer fairly often and it lets me manipulate the window size very easily. I like a narrow, single column format on a sepia background.

Any Others?

I’ve listed just a few simple things to do / tools to use that make reading on the screen that much easier. I’d love to hear your own tools and tips in the comments:

Think of your eyes:

Nothing in this post is very imaginative, most of the suggestions are to reduce the workload on your eyes. Be kind to them and on screen reading will be much easier.

Some Links:

How to Make Reading on Your Computer a Better Experience

Computer Eye Strain: 10 Steps for Relief