The Liked List

I’m trying out a new thing this year. It’s called the Liked List, and it’s a bunch of links to stuff I liked in Instapaper from the last year.

Back in 2011, I wrote a piece saying that I do most of my reading in Instapaper. Not that I don’t do any reading on my computer — I read stuff there all the time — but as a rule of thumb, anything that needs more than a couple of minutes to read goes to Instapaper. Putting longer reads into Instapaper means I can get through it in a distraction-free interface in as many bite-sized chunks of my day as I want, or read all the way through something before I turn in for the night. Sometimes, when I can’t sleep, I open up something I’ve been putting off reading. Sometimes I get all the way through something, and other times, I get tired and fall asleep pretty quickly after that.

A few years ago, Instapaper introduced a feature where you could follow other Instapaper users to see articles they liked within the app. That’s pretty much the only way to see what someone else is liking within Instapaper, unless they’ve specifically set up their Instapaper likes to go to some other service via Instapaper’s built-in sharing options, or via something like IFTTT.

Instapaper also has public profiles of someone’s liked items (here’s mine), but it’s a feature pretty much no one knows about. Sharing likes between users seems like one of those features that never really took off. Which is a shame, given that it would probably be one of the best ways to discover great reads, whether they be your garden variety hot takes, internet think-pieces, or stuff you would’ve missed otherwise, either because you’re not subscribed to that particular RSS feed, or didn’t see it retweeted on Twitter1.

That leads me to the other thing I don’t like about just following people on Instapaper to see what they like; there’s no context. Why was this particular article interesting to you, and why am I going to find it interesting? I mean, time is precious. If something is going to talk half an hour to read, I’m not going to read half a dozen things on the off chance I’ll like them too2.

Anyway, enough about niche features, you’re here for the list. The Liked List for 2017. In somewhat reverse chronological order of when I liked it, and excluding extremely popular stuff you’ve probably seen elsewhere, or stuff that I don’t think is noteworthy enough to write about…

  • The Breakthrough Internet Communications Device Turns X
    This is a good one about the ten year anniversary of the iPhone, about the iPhone X in the context of the original iPhone.

  • You are what you read
    Like other adages that claim you are what you verb, this one from Quartz says what you read forms a big part in what you write, or speak.

  • The Real Value of Money
    Every now and again I like to read something that reminds me about what’s truly important in life. Not because I’ve forgotten, necessarily, but because it can be so easy to get caught up in the here and now that you can easily lose sight of the bigger picture. Like everyone else, I place a lot of importance on money, and pieces like this add the perspective that I need.

  • You fired your top talent. I hope you’re happy.
    In between one of the Silicon Valley, startup-like stories of the year, there was this one that sprung up about a company who fired their top talent and did extremely well afterwards. But like every good story on the internet, there’s two sides to every coin, and that particular story ignores everything that led to the turning point. This story points out those mistakes, and adds perspective. (Read the original, too.)

  • What’s been wrought using the Piece Table?
    This is a piece pulled from the Wayback Machine about how Word’s copy and paste was faster than anything else that existed in the early 1980s. It’s interesting, but only if you’re into that kind of technical software engineering minutiae.

  • 24-core CPU and I can’t move my mouse
    Another extremely nerdy post on having lockup issues on fast, modern hardware that shouldn’t have anything of the sort. The answer was, as it almost always is, software, but how they got to that conclusion is just as interesting.

  • Apple gets too much and too little credit for the iPhone
    The tenth anniversary of the iPhone gave us some great reads about how Apple pulled it off, and this is one of them.

  • Scrum makes you dumb
    I’ve been starting to read a few of the kinds of pieces that discuss software development methodologies in the context of “corporate IT”, because I’m interested in the decision making process behind business. This one discussing scrum as the “least-worst methodology you can adopt in a dysfunctional enterprise” is fascinating.

  • Sufficiently Great
    This is mostly a rebuttal to the original piece about the claimed myth of Apple having the best design in the industry. There’s been a lot of questions about Apple’s design over the past year, but there’s just as much evidence that Apple has some of the best designs in the industry. Apple may not always produce perfect products, but they get it right often enough in recent history that we should absolutely be saying Apple has great design.

  • The Billable Hour
    A bunch of time at work is spent on time tracking. As it turns out, interesting things happen when that’s introduced (and monitored), because the focus of the time-tracked department can shift from “what needs doing or fixing” to “what can I track time against”, sometimes subtly, other times, less so. This one has a bunch of parallels to my own workplace, and might have a few with yours, too.

  • One Thing
    Rands In Repose has to one of my hands-down favourite blogs, and this piece from him about working on one thing really stood out to me. In business, everyone’s always busy, and there’s always things that need to be done. How you come up with your priorities and execute them will make all the difference in the world.

  • Steve Jobs saved Apple—and Nike—with the same piece of advice
    Another good one about focusing in and doing one thing well at a time.

  • Phil Schiller On iPhone’s Launch, How It Changed Apple, and Why It Will Keep Going for 50 Years
    It’s interesting to read these kinds of pieces and look back on how much the original iPhone changed the world.

  • A billion dollar gift for Twitter
    Like pretty much everyone else, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Twitter these days. There’s plenty of stuff I wish they were doing that they aren’t, and plenty of stuff they’re doing now that I don’t think is all that important. It takes someone smarter than me to gaze into the crystal ball and tell me about what they should and shouldn’t be doing.

  • Fuck Everything, We’re Doing Five Blades
    This is from 2004, but at least one of these items has to be funny, which is why I’m including it here.

If you’re interested, my public Instapaper profile is where you can see all of my Instapaper Liked items, including everything I’ve ever liked in the past. It’s sans commentary, but you might find the odd headline or excerpt that grabs your attention. Hopefully there’s nothing too incriminating.

  1. I just subscribed to the Instapaper most popular stories of the week email, which I’m hoping turns out to be like Google Reader’s most-shared RSS feed (RIP), or the Pinboard Popular page for some of the best curated content around. 
  2. Unless a whole bunch of other people have also found it interesting, in which case I’ll probably have seen it already by virtue of all the other sources I have. 

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