Hello Pocket, Goodbye Instapaper

A couple of weeks ago I moved my Instapaper account over to Pocket. The reason for the move was that I wanted better organisation of the articles that I had read and that meant more than just being able to file what I had read into folders. Don’t get me wrong, Instapaper is great for taking content and making it easy to read, but after that you can only file what you have read into folders. Instapaper does offer a full-text search facility in their premium plan but I found that I needed something in between folders and searching.

Pocket caught my eye when it first came out as a re-brand of Read It Later. I did trial it for a few days but it duplicated what I already had in both Instapaper and Pinboard. Since then I’ve moved on from Pinboard and I handle my bookmarking needs with a collection of Markdown files. What I needed was better organisation of what I had read. Searching amongst hundreds of articles is okay for unique keywords but I have a lot of articles on web development and some of them are difficult to find.

Pocket offers more than just the ability to queue up articles to read. Tags allow you to organise what you have read and there’s full-text search also. Lastly Pocket stores a copy of the article for you should the original go missing. Those last two features are in Pocket’s premium plan, but at just $45 for the whole year, I would say that it is worth it.

The only problem I have is that when I imported my Instapaper articles into Pocket, I had over 3,500 articles. That’s a lot of articles to tag and I will eventually get round to tagging everything that I keep. It’s not all bad though. During the import Pocket tags articles with their original folder name in Instapaper, so I have some form of organisation to start with. Also, it gives me a chance to check my archive and remove articles that are irrelevant. Lastly, Pocket offer clients for OSX, iOS and Android and there is also the web client which anyone can use regardless of your preferred platform.

Instapaper is a great service for those that want to read and archive their content and I would still recommend them. If though you want a little more organisation to what you’ve read, then I think Pocket might be a better fit.

Bike vs Taxi

via PEDAL Consumption

The Distant Observer

It’s close to a couple of months now since I stopped being an active user on App.net. The only time I’m posting updates now is when I want to reply to any mentions I get about my blog posts and shared links. That’s as active as my timeline gets these days. I’m still getting notifications of people unfollowing me as they realise that I’m not that active there anymore. In the past that might have been a big deal but not anymore. I’m just not spending as much time on social networks anymore.

App.net isn’t the only social network I’ve chosen to distance myself from. I got fed up with the Twitter service over a year ago and decided to stop tweeting. At the time I was questioning the value I was getting from Twitter and whether I could afford the time to participate as often as I could.

The problem I have with any social network is the incessant checking of your timeline that becomes an hourly ritual. With every spare few minutes I had I was checking timelines, replying to people, favouriting posts, posting pictures and everything else that social networks bring.

Being active on any social network and getting work done requires discipline. I just don’t have that discipline and rather than fight a continual battle against getting stuff done, I’ve opted to simply stand by and observe. I still have my App.net and Twitter accounts that I share links to, but that’s all they are for.

I guess being a software developer I already spend enough time with my head buried in technology and being online during the day that when it comes to outside of the work day, I prefer to distance myself a bit from things like social media.

It hasn’t been all bad though. In the last few weeks I’ve managed to read a lot more, both online and offline. I spend more time with the kids and I’ve even had time to build an idea for a daily email service. It’s still under wraps, but progress on it is going well.

If I don’t “socialise online”, then where am I getting my daily dose of interaction? Well, I share content daily on my blog, writing for it as often as I can and have even become part of a small circle of bloggers that frequently refer to each other with links. You know who you are gents!

So being a distant observer of social media has its benefits. I might not have my finger on the pulse of what’s trending, but I’ll happily trade that to get the time do other things.

Is Success Only In Your Head?

Curtis McHale asks if success is only in your head?.

Well worth reading if you’ve failed in the delivery of a product or service and are second doubting yourself.

Stairway to Space

Space, stairs, butter, motorcycles and slinkies.

And they say education is boring! I got my oldest to start reading these. He struggles with some of the words, but he gets the gist of the explaination.

One Year On With My YNOT Gulper

Just over a year ago I noticed that working from home eradicated my need for two separate messenger style bags. In the past I’ve used a North Face bag for commuting to work on the bike and a Fossil bag for shorter journeys off the bike. The North Face bag is great for the bike but it is bulky, even when it’s empty. My Fossil bag was over five years old at the time and was starting to show signs of wear and tear. I needed a single replacement for both.

I needed something that could take the volume I needed for errands on the bike but also be comfortable enough to sling on my back if I was visiting a client or working away from home and needed something to carry my MacBook and a few other things.

This time last year I took delivery of a new YNOT Gulper roll top backpack. I had my eye on the bag for a few weeks, but when I found out that it was on sale, I took the opportunity to buy it. Over the last year it’s been my go to bag for biking and day trips for when I’m working away from home.

My YNOT Gulper backpack

The roll-top style of opening means that the bag can effectively expand to carry a few more extra items or can roll back down for minimal loads. Two deep side pockets offer spacious storage for things like lights, locks and a tool bag and there’s a front pocket for smaller items.

Over the last year this bag has proved itself time and time again. It’s main use is as my go to bag for when I’m not working from home. I use it to carry my MacBook, a notebook, a smaller bag with a mouse, cables, and a few pens. I don’t have a Swoop compatible laptop sleeve to clip my MacBook in but my own laptop sleeve offers enough protection.

It’s secondary use is for running errands on the bike. I’ve taken to using my bike rather than taking the car, especially when the weather is good. The roll-top feature of this bag helps when I’ve got a lot to carry. In a matter of seconds I can expand the volume of the bag. I did initially have a concern about how much weight the back will take and while I have done a number of runs with the bag full loaded, it’s thankfully still in one piece.

The Gulper has been rock-solid in its use as a bag for both on and off the bike and it’s massive volume makes carrying even the biggest loads easy. With more biking planned for this year, it will be put through its paces again.

Fixie Friday - Treshombres CLASSY

Lurvely!

Photograph of Treshombre CLASSY bike

via FGGT

Less Listening, More Learning

Podcasts and screencasts can eat up a lot of time. I’ve started to see a swing towards listening to podcasts and watching screencasts and less time spent putting what I get from them into practice.

For the last year I’ve been a healthy listener of a variety of podcasts. They are centered around software development, programming and freelancing. Every week I listen to about five or six different episodes on these topics. While they’re entertaining to listen to, I’m starting to see that I’m not getting as much value from them. Sure there’s sometimes a glimmer of programming language knowledge that you didn’t know about, but is it worth putting in a good half hour of your time for that one little morsel of knowledge?

Then there’s the screencasts. I had a few of these going last year, again on the topic of software development. Screencasts definitely need more of your time as you can’t watch them when you’re out on the bike or in the car, they need you to both listen and watch. In terms of getting time to watch these, I simply didn’t have the time available. And then every few weeks I would simply declare screencast redundancy and remove them from my list to watch.

Since removing these from my list of intakes I’m seeing more of a move towards reading online, books and RSS feeds. They can be more easily consumed on the go and using smaller blocks of time. This in turn has allowed me to spend a bit more time learning those things that I only listened to in podcasts or watched in screencasts.

Learning isn’t simply about consuming as much information about the topic that you’re interested in, you need time to apply what you have consumed and seeing if you can in fact you use it correctly. I hope to be doing that a lot more this year and re-address the balance of learning.

Back on Track

Minor setback this week as a couple of viruses knocked me and Jen out of contention for a couple of days. Last day and half has been me trying to get back on track with work.

Almost there.

Learning with Rust

I’m always reading about other topics in software development. Over the last few years I’ve read about web design, JavaScript, Ruby, agile methodologies and practices, Go and even Objective-C. Reading books on these topics has provided some insight into their respective topics but with the exception of Ruby and agile methodologies I haven’t been able to take what I’ve read and use it in a practical exercise.

A couple of years ago I read about the Go language from Google. So I started reading a couple of books about it. Since then I haven’t written more than one hundred lines of code in Go. Was that time spent reading about Go a waste? I think so.

More recently the Rust language has peaked my interest but I haven’t started reading about it yet. I’ve been asking myself if there’s something I can work towards using Rust that will let me learn the language. Using Rust in a practical use hasn’t been something I’ve been able to come up with until a couple of days ago. There I was reading Hacker News over the weekend when I seen an article about writing a shell in C. Well, why not write it in Rust?

Building a shell in Rust should give me the chance to explore and learn the language but also give me the chance to try out something other than web development. I’ve been working with Ruby on Rails for over four years now and while I enjoy the work, I have been looking at a systems programming language to learn. We’ll see how it goes.