Reading debt [tl2]– bookmarking things you’ll never read[/tl2]

Reading debt [tl2](also known as bookmark debt or Ctrl-D compulsion)[/tl2] is a concept in [tl3]casual[/tl3] web browsing that reflects the implied cost of additional bookmark organization and undesirable future reading. It’s caused by reckless pressing of Ctrl-D instead of using your brain [tl3]for a moment[/tl3] to consider if you’ll ever want to read the [tl3]damn[/tl3] thing later.

No, this isn’t a[tl3]n existent,[/tl3] known concept. I wrote it into its existence [tl2][tl3]a few moments ago[/tl3], following the sentence structure found on the Wikipedia [tl3]page[/tl3] about technical debt[/tl2].

[tl3]It does however embody a sentiment of frustration that revolves around an unorganized mess created by hoarding and bookmarking material that will probably never be read.[/tl3]

This [tl3]Friday[/tl3] afternoon, as I was adding yet another bookmark to the already overcrowded bookmark bar[tl3](filled with idiosyncratically named folders, the names of which are now reduced to mostly two-character acronyms, so more can fit)[/tl3], I decided [tl3]I had enough and determined[/tl3] to do a [tl3]general[/tl3] cleanup.

[tl3]Just as a junk food addict would say, “This is my last burger before I go on a diet!” I said to myself, “This is my last recklessly created bookmark!”[/tl3]

Finding the solution

[tl2]I remember I used Pocket some years ago – before Mozilla acquired it, and before it changed its name (it was named “Read it Later” previously).[/tl2]

[tl2]My research went that way – looking at the current state of Pocket and its alternatives[tl3], including Pinboard, Instapaper, and Raindrop.[/tl3][/tl2]

[tl2]While I definitely understand how some people find value in these services, I realized they wouldn’t solve my problem. [tl3]If anything, they would only make it worse – encouraging me to save more and more articles to read later, creating even more reading debt.[/tl3][/tl2]

[tl2]These services would help me organize the debt better[tl3], and they would undoubtedly display my hoarded treasure in a sexy way[/tl3], but that’s not what I want. I want to get rid of (most of) it.[/tl2]

[tl3]Shift in thinking[/tl3]

[tl3]I ended up going to bed that night after failing to come up with a proper fix that’ll prevent me from ending up in the same situation two months from now – being overwhelmed by the amassed heap of hyperlinks I considered deserving of keeping at the time.[/tl3]

[tl3]I kept the reading debt problem loop running in my mind for the next two days, albeit with a lower priority.[/tl3] What I came up with is a low-tech solution. So low tech, it consists of [tl3]merely[/tl3] three questions I’ll ask myself [tl3]every time[/tl3] before I [tl3]want to[/tl3] save something to read later[tl2] and a [tl3]simple[/tl3] weekly reminder that will notify me to revise the status[/tl2].

This is the algorithm:

  1. Every time before you [tl3]want to[/tl3] save something for later, ask yourself this:
    1. Is this an advertisement or a puff piece?
    2. Does this have a short expiry date, with no relevance [tl2]to you, your family, or your job[/tl2]?
    3. Do you need this for [tl2]your[/tl2] future research[tl2]/writing/development[/tl2]?
  2. If the answer to the first two questions is no, and the answer to the last question is yes, bookmark the reading material.
  3. Revise the status [tl2]of the reading material[/tl2] weekly. If the article has not been read [tl2]within a week[/tl2], trash it. If you need it for further research, tag it and store it[tl3] properly[/tl3].

[tl2] Only a week has passed since I incorporated this into my thinking process, but I can already say I recognize the benefits after the first revision. [/tl2]

[tl3] Who knows, maybe it’s just me being more conscious and mindful about the problem, and the whole three-part process is unwarranted. Maybe the only reason I became more conscious and mindful is due to that three-part process. [/tl3]

[tl3] It doesn’t matter. What matters is I’m on a good way to reduce my reading debt problem. If you have a better solution, I would love to hear about it! [/tl3]