I joined Pinboard, the new, ad-free, pay-once-get-it-forever social bookmarking service a few months ago for an educational tech project I am working on. I’m not new to social-bookmarking — I’d been an early user of delicious, a Diigo migrant, and ultimately became a lapsed bookmarker, confused about why the whole thing hadn’t worked out.
I think I may no longer be confused. The thing is, I was doing bookmarking wrong. I was bookmarking articles I thought were stellar, carefully pruning my tags. I imagined strangers stumbling on my account, and being impressed by the well curated collection, like the man with the owl-eyed glasses in Gatsby’s library before he realizes the pages aren’t cut.
In other words, I thought social bookmarking was about the social element.
Now, with a Pinboard archive account that indexes the whole page text of whatever I bookmark and rock-solid API support, I’ve made social bookmarking about me again. And it’s wonderful. I no longer agonize about what to bookmark. If I read something — anything — on the web that I think I might like to remember at some point I click the toolbar Pinboard link and file it. I come up with some terms to index it, but don’t spend more than a couple seconds on them. The point of bookmarking is now to be a Memex, to turn those moments where I tell someone “I think there was an article about that I read a few months ago” into “Here’s a link to an article on that from a few months ago.” Or, more importantly, to call that article to hand when I need it for my own writing.
There are a couple developments since early social bookmarking that make this approach possible. First of all, Twitter and Tumblr have largely satisfied the “I’m recommending these links to you” market. Rather than bookmark only notable articles, I use an IFTTT script that takes anything tagged “to:haplr” and posts it to Twitter and a Tumblr linklog, along with my comments. Feed-reading is also integrated. With Feedbin, any post I star flows automatically into my Pinboard bookmarks, creating the rich searchable archive that we once had with Google Reader, only this time hosted in a paid service that is less likely to pull the rug out from under the user. The ease of private bookmarking in Pinboard also changes the dynamic — allowing you to bookmark (and archive) material that you might not want to clutter your public bookmarks with.
But perhaps the biggest shift is seeing how unsuited Twitter, Tumblr, and other link-sharing mechanisms can be to certain forms of serious work – the number of times I have found myself paging through my tweetstream trying to find a link to an article I tweeted out that I now need to reference is embarrassing.
In any case, if you were once a bookmarker but abandoned the practice, try giving it another shot with a “bookmark it now and sort it out later” approach. Get an archive account, and start caching pages of what you read. Play around with the IFTTT options. I think you might be surprised to find that the abandoned child of the Web 2.0 revolution is actually what you’ve been yearning for the past couple of years.