Paul Simon thought we lived in “days of miracle and wonder” back in 1986. We can only imagine what he thinks now.
Yet even amidst contemporary marvels — my iPad, my featherweight mifi hub, an HD video camera that’s incidental to my phone — I’m finding a rather low-tech marriage of two distinctly Gutenbergish web services are among the info-systems I use most.
Probably most folks who reads this blog are already established Instapaper devotees; if you by chance are not, stop now and go sign up. You’ll start using it almost immediately, and soon find you can’t live without it. What started as a simple web bookmarking service (the main command —“Read Later” — is also its raison d’etre) has evolved into an information tool so sophisticated that it still seems simple and transparent.
In its initial iteration, Instapaper served to organize links to web articles you wanted to read later (typically, for me, because they were long and I needed to keep moving at the time). After free registration, you’ll have a spot online to save the reminders and links you used to email to yourself or write down on scratch paper to lose later. Now it’s all available on a personalized, elegant page of headlines and links.
Instapaper reaches its apex these days as an iPad app. Many apps for Twitter and other services now include “Send to Instapaper” as an option alongside “copy,” “email” or what-have-you and the original bookmarklet is also useable. Once saved to Instapaper, the reading interface on iPad is the best there is right now for reading long articles found online.
Which brings us to the aptly named longform.org, a curation service that both selects suggested articles and makes it trivially easy to add them to your Instapaper que. It’s only as good as the quality of the recommendations, of course, but for me the signal to noise ratio is high — I’m interested enough to try perhaps a quarter of what they recommend. I assume other recommendation engines will soon provide similar service from different points of view.
As a result, I’m reading more from the web now than ever: all the sites and stories I would have flagged for myself before n addition to an eclectic, serendipitous selection drawn from longform.
There’s nothing very flashy about either service (thank goodness) but the combination is potent. You owe it to yourself to give this a try.