Tag Archives: read

The Liked List, 2018

A few years ago, Instapaper introduced the concept of personal profiles of everything that you liked via the read-it-later service. Which is great, seeing as it’s a public list of reads that I, well, “liked”, but less good is that there’s no context around why I like a particular piece.

Last year, I started a thing where I posted a dozen or so of my favourites out of all the stuff I liked in Instapaper from last year. At the time, I thought it was a good idea to tell you about Instapaper’s profiles — a feature you basically never hear about elsewhere — but this time around, I think it’s a good idea to occasionally share links to thoughtful, insightful pieces that you might not necessarily get from other places. So without too much more preamble, I present to you: The Liked List for 2018. 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…

  • Away Childish Things
    In late 2018, one of my sources for some of the internet’s more popular content linked to a Harry Potter fanfic. I started reading, and before you know it, I was caught up in a (mostly) post-canon story that seemed believable enough, which is exactly the kind of fanfic I’m into. Not only that, but the story itself was so engrossing that by the time it finished up, I was satisfied, but disappointed, and went looking for more…

  • Time Turned Back
    Which led me to Time Turned Back, the other Harry Potter fanfic I found after a bunch of filtering and sorting of Archive of our Own works. I’m not sure I can stomach some of the more explicit fanfics, or stories from alternate universes that don’t line up with the canon, but this one about time travel is believable enough, and is a pretty good story to boot. If it wasn’t for its slight deviations from the canon at the end, it would slot nicely somewhere in-between the fifth and sixth books.

  • Thongs
    Sometimes I read things that inspire me to be a better writer, and this one on the etiquette of the work bathroom is one of those pieces. It’s very well written, even if I’m slightly too daft to understand the implication at the end.

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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…

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I didn’t even want to talk about cable management anyway…

I did, however, want to talk about the importance of taking a break. Yours truly, at MacTalk:

We all laughed at Qualcomm at CES earlier this month when they opened their keynote with three individuals who, for want of a better phrase, proudly proclaimed they were “born mobile”. And while they came across as completely bizarre, their message was sound, even though their delivery wasn’t: we’re now in a generation where people have screens in their faces all the time. If we’re not looking at our iPhone on the street, we’re looking at our iPad, on the bus. If not the iPad, then the MacBook Pro at work. Or the iMac at home. The LCD TV connected to the Apple TV and/or Mac Mini in the lounge. And even when we’re in bed, the screens don’t stop: maybe we have a Kindle. Or maybe we have the new-fangled iPad mini, and look at that before going to bed. And when we wake up, the first thing people do is check their iPhone on their bedside clock radio.

It’s scary how much time we spend connected. We invented things like push email to get our email delivered directly to all our devices, all at the same time. We invented push notifications so we could always know when people mentioned us on Twitter. There’s no denying that we live in a fast-paced world these days, and maybe you love that. But I want to stress the importance of taking a break every now and again — not just for your sake, but the people around you, too. Maybe it’s why everyone is ditching their iPhones and going back to dumb-phones. Or maybe why The Verge’s Paul Miller is currently spending a year away from the internet.

So you see, maybe it’s not about cable management or the importance of cleaning your Mac at all. Whilst those things are both important in and of themselves, it’s the underlying premise of both that’s the real message here, the need to turn off. Think. Read a book — an actual book, not one that you’ve just purchased and downloaded with Amazon’s wonderful one-click purchase system, which instantly pushes the book to your eReader of choice. See what I mean?

It’s actually something I’ve talked about before:

Think about it: when was the last time you went without staring at some array of pixels for some amount of time? If you’re not looking at your computer, you’re looking at your phone. Or playing with your iPad. Using a digital camera. And so on, and so forth.

The question then becomes: where and when do we draw that line in the sand and say: “hey, I just need a moment to myself.” A little alone time, time away from Twitter, time away from Facebook, time to just sit, think, and contemplate the meaning of life, the universe, and everything?

Not even thinking about anything in particular. Just the chance to have a little down time every now and again. The chance to get offline.

Paul Miller is doing without the internet for an entire year. Strange, for a technology writer, but he’s writing about it at The Verge, where his Offline series of posts are always bring up an interesting point from the disconnected world.

And he’s not the only one. In this ever-connected society we live in, people are leaving their iPhones behind. It’s not that they don’t find 24-7 access to the internet inconvenient or anything, it’s just that, well, it can be a burden as much as it can be a blessing. Using your smartphone to find any information on anything is great and all, but you know what’s even better? Having time to yourself where you’re not staring at some pixels, no matter how pretty they may be.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m usually very appreciative of being able to look something up quickly, fix something wrong with a server in a different state, or whatever else. It’s great to be able to have that constantly connected access in the fast-paced life of today. We may not have flying jetpacks or hoverboards like sci-fi movies predicted, but we do have these pocket-sized devices that mean we’re a moment away from the collective knowledge of humankind, devices that can connect us instantaneously to someone on the other side of the world. But sometimes, just sometimes, that can be as exhausting as it is exhilarating. Being constantly switched-on, being constantly connected is a chore when all you want to do is do the exact opposite.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Maybe you know someone that goes on hikes for days at a time. Someone that spends a lot of time, not necessarily alone, but away from technology, away from those pretty pixels. Maybe they take a day away from technology every week. Maybe they have a policy of doing as much exercise as they do sitting down and playing computer games. These are all good things, to be sure, but what if they’re not for me?

Maybe then, the answer to this business of switching off, of taking a break, is not to do less interaction with technology, but to do more of the other stuff. In my opinion, a big part of the problem is how much time we spend doing technology-related things — leaving precious little time for the other things, the non-technology stuff. Somewhere along the way, we lost our balance — if you seem to be spending your entire life in front of the screen, maybe that’s because you are. The solution then, is simple: do other stuff. Get the balance back.

I don’t make many New Year’s Resolutions. But if I were to make a resolution, right now, it would be to simply read more books. I mean, I have a Kindle for a reason, right? (And I’m talking about the book-reading reason, not the “I’m an avid technology enthusiast” reason.) I didn’t read many books in 2012; one book on Kindle, maybe a handful of paperbacks. I want that to change in 2013.

Read more books. I can do that.