Weekly Musings 111

Welcome to this edition of Weekly Musings, where each week I share some thoughts about what's caught my interest in the last seven days.

This week, a letter that was inspired by an online chat that I recently had with a friend. She found herself overwhelmed by the type of application that's meant to make her life easier and keep her informed at the same time. That wasn't what happened.

With that out of the way, let's get to this week's musing.

On the Problem of Reading It Later

So much to read on the web — articles, blog posts, essays, and more — and so little time. To try to keep up, or at least keep all that in the front of your memory, you wind up with piles bookmarks and items in your RSS feed reader. None of which helps you read, though.

In this situation, a good read-it-later application can be boon.

In case you haven't already guessed, I'm talking about web-based services like Instapaper and Pocket. If you've never heard of Instapaper or Pocket (or tools like them), they're applications that let you save interesting articles or blog posts that you run into on the web and read them later. One nifty feature of those tools is that they get rid of the cruft on a web page — distractions like navigation, ads, images, and comments. They turn what you've saved into something resembling the printed page. You get text that's easier to focus on, which makes reading easier and maybe a bit more enjoyable.

Add to that apps that can you can use on a phone or tablet and you have the perfect solution to help you plow through all that online reading that you need or want to do.

Or do you?

As with anything else, the situation isn't as cut and dry as it seems. And as with anything else, the tool doesn't do the work for you. Instapaper and Pocket and their cousins don't read the articles for you. On their own, they don't really solve the problem of stemming the flow of information so many people seem to feel they need to absorb. In fact, services like that can quickly wind up exacerbating the problem.

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