Read it later services are nothing new, with Instapaper and Pocket being the two leaders of this particular niche. Apple’s Safari browser even has a built-in ‘Reading List’ feature.
My personal read-it-later strategy is to (1) drag pages I want to read later into a special folder on my bookmarks bar and (2) proceed to forget about them entirely1. The idea outlined in this blog post develops stage 1 in the hopes of turning stage 2 into actually reading articles when I have time for them.
- This browser extension creates a special folder on the bookmarks bar. Items can be dropped in here directly (in Chrome I like to drag the URL by the favicon into my read-later folder) or a button clicked or keyboard shortcut triggered to more quickly add the page. Then the magic happens…
- The extension then analyses the page to estimate reading time and appends that metadata to the link. If the page seems to be a video page, then the running time is used here. This bookmarks list can be organised by time required to consume the content, so if I only have a spare 5 minutes I can more easily pick something suitable.
- Links in this folder also have an expiry date so nothing you add will stick around forever. This is partly in an attempt to create a nagging deadline in the mind of the user (“I really should read that interesting article before it vanishes”) and partly to prevent the folder from becoming an excessively large chore to use. Users should be able to configure settings that govern the expiry date, but it will mostly set the date using an algorithm based on factors like:
- How newsworthy is the link? (News gets old fast so should be deleted sooner.)
- How long is the content? (Long reads might take longer to find time for so should be kept longer.)
- Has the user got a history of actually reading content from this source?
- Lastly, the extension would create a visual list of all the links on a custom page designed to be more useful to browse than a folder. Something like digg or Feedly. This woule serve to better remind the user why they wanted to read that page in the first place.
Of course, there could be other features, like sharing and sourcing more information from social media to use (eg: if a link is getting shared on Twitter a lot, rank it as more important) but these features would take second place.
So, in summary
- A folder of links to read later that can be sorted by the time it takes to read (or otherwise consume) the content.
- Automatic expiry dates on each link.
- An visual overview page to promote browsing of your saved pages.
If you have the skills to make this plugin and are inspired to do so, please do! I only ask that you let me know so that I can use it.
Other ‘great’ ideas of mine up for grabs
- A bookmarklet for making web citations (I still really want this one)
- An idea for the iPhone home button
- An idea for more meaningful ‘like’ buttons
- Ideas for Minecraft
- If I’m mobile, my strategy is to email myself links and ignore those instead.
When someone lets you know they’ve made this, let me know. I’d use it if only for the ‘expiry date’ feature alone. That is a brilliant idea.