Tagged: pocket

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Here’s why I love Pocket, plus why I’m intrigued by its new features

Pocket iconfavicon Pocket is my favorite save-online-stuff-for-later service. I use it all the time, plus I’ve written about it a bit. (One of my claims to fame is that Pocket interviewed me for their blog last year.)

I like Pocket for many reasons. Here are some: (1) It lets me save articles (and other content) to read later, (2) It makes reading beautiful, (3) It works offline, (4) It works across all platforms, (5) The app is simple and beautiful.

Because I’m a big online reader (traditional news sources + Feedly + Facebook + Twitter + friends’ recommendations + Digg + Medium + TinyLetter and Revue newsletters + This. + other sources), there’s just no way I could read everything I want to read and organize everything I’m reading if Pocket weren’t around.

(In fact, it makes me a little crazy when I find out that there are tons of people who still don’t use Pocket. These people tell me one of two things: (1) They read things as they discover them, (2) They keep tabs open. Both options are not ideal!)

Over the past several months, Pocket has worked on several new developments that push the service into new territory. They’re intriguing.

The first development is about discovery. Pocket is promoting a new “recommended” feature, which offers articles that may catch our interest. Here’s what it looks like on the computer:

Pocket Recommendations

The skeptic says, “I already have too much to read on Pocket. Why do I need more?” The answer is that Pocket — at least so far — is doing a good job of recommending excellent articles, and not too many of them. Though I won’t use Pocket as my primary way to discover new articles to read, I am liking what I’m seeing so far.

The second development is about curation. Each Pocket user has a profile (here’s mine), and now you can add your favorite articles to your page. It’s like your personal best-of list. Articles you add stay there unless you delete them. There’s a stickiness. In this way, what Pocket is offering is a sort of opposite to Facebook or Twitter, where what you post is ephemeral. If it’s true that “we are what we read,” then this feature also allows others to learn more about what we care about. (My gut says this curate-yourself trend will get big. Example: This. is similar but takes a different approach.) It’s brilliant.

Pocket Profile Page

The third development is about building a social reading community. If you like, similar to Twitter, you can follow other Pocket users and their public recommendations. I’m a bit more leery about this feature. It sounds great at first — after all, why not know what your friends are reading? Maybe I would like it more if more of my friends used Pocket. My worry is that there’s something personal and private about Pocket. If I want to recommend an article to a friend, I’d like to do so privately — via email, usually — and yes, I know I can still do that. Maybe I’m just worried that Pocket’s primary feature — to be my reading hub, my reading headquarters — will somehow be compromised if it becomes too much of a social network. Like a sort of dilution in a way.

Overall, I’m really happy with where Pocket is going. Online reading services (like Instapaper and Readability and Pocket and Reading List) are all trying to figure out the best overall experience (not too many features, and not too few), and I’m excited to see Pocket’s next steps. favicon


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What’s in my Pocket? Thanks, Pocket!

favicon I’ve written quite a bit about Pocket, my favorite read-later service. Examples: using Pocket in the classroom to promote nonfiction, using Pocket with Evernote for better article printing, and reading tons and tons on Pocket. (Here are all my Pocket posts.)

The kind folks over at Pocket apparently noticed my crazy enthusiasm for their wonderful service and contacted me for an interview for their “What’s in My Pocket” series! And of course I obliged.

Sim, the interviewer, asked excellent questions, listened carefully, and seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say! She also did a wonderful job capturing my thoughts and paraphrasing them in a way that makes me sound (somewhat) articulate. Thank you, Sim!

Please check out the final product over at the Pocket blog! (For bonus points: Pocket the post!)

For those of you who need a teaser in order to head on over to read the interview, here’s a quick screenshot. Yes, it features my face.

Screenshot 2014-07-09 14.05.14

Really, let’s be serious for a second. I’m not really sure what people do if they don’t use a read later service like Pocket. Do people bookmark articles that they want to read later? Email them to themselves? Remember? Clearly I’m missing something.

This post isn’t meant to be an advertisement, but I’m going to continue for a little bit longer. Ever since I found Pocket (which lets you save anything with a URL), not only has my reading flow been more flowy, but I’ve also witnessed my students’ interest in reading nonfiction grow markedly.

Please check out the interview and let me know what you think! favicon

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Pocket + Evernote: Easy way for teachers to format news articles and nonfiction

favicon If you’re a teacher, you know this story.

It’s Sunday night, and you have a pit in your stomach because you still haven’t found a good article for your students to read tomorrow.

And then, after perhaps too long, you find it! And then you’re happy. That is, until you realize, again, that you have to spend 10-20 minutes formatting it to make it ready for student consumption.

Despite recent trends that favor readability (including Readability!), the Internet is still a mucky place for typography and design. There are ads, weird spacing, and random things that happen.

A quick example. Take a look at this New York Times article on climate change. It’s pretty nifty: It includes a photo essay, a video, and a colorful map. There’s nothing that can replicate the online version. But most teachers want to convert as much of the online experience into print, without taking with them all of the article’s sidebars, comments, and advertisements.

If you press Print on this article (whether from the webpage or your computer), you lose all the visuals. All you get is text. Now, I’m not an enemy of text. Text is my friend. But if I’m a teacher, I’d like at least one photograph to accompany the text. If I’m lucky, I’d also like the body font to be big enough for my students to read. And if possible, it would be great if I could shorten or modify the text (like Newsela does!) for English Learners and students with special needs.

Before going on, an important pause: I understand that some people may find that last sentence controversial. It’s an infringement of copyright (and maybe fair use even?), many say, to cut or modify an article. That might be true. On the other side, there may be people who ask, “Mark, why don’t you just copy and paste to a Word document? That seems easy, right?” Yes, it seems easy, but with many websites, it isn’t. I’ve found that it’s hard to strip away all the distractions, and it takes too much time. That time would be better spent thinking about my lesson.

The past several months, I’ve found a really easy way to render news articles beautifully and to make them easy to modify, if necessary. What’s great is that the process does not require any additional tools. I already use them. You may already use them, too!

My “hack” is Pocket + Evernote. Here’s what happens:

1. If I find an article I like, I save it to my Pocket. It looks like this. (Notice how nice and big and clean the text is.)

Screenshot 2014-05-07 16.47.04

2. On Pocket, I then clip it to Evernote. It looks like this. (Notice that Evernote makes things look similar to Pocket. What’s extra cool is that Evernote prompts you to “view original” in case you want to.)

Screenshot 2014-05-07 16.47.26

Also, you might not get the video on Evernote, but you still keep the photos. An example:

Screenshot 2014-05-07 16.47.41

3. On Evernote, I can also modify the text, as if we’re in a Word document. Because all the craziness has already been stripped away, it’s a much faster process than copying and pasting and cutting.

4. After I’m happy with my changes, I press Print, and that’s that. Seriously, one of the best things is keeping the body font large. Maybe it doesn’t need to be 22-point,  but your students will be so happy if you cranked up the normal 12-point to maybe 14- or 16.

And that’s that! If you’re a teacher out there who already includes a lot of news and nonfiction in your classroom, this Pocket + Evernote tip might be extremely helpful. Even if you don’t yet use Pocket and Evernote, I still think that you should consider it. It’ll save you time and anxiety.

Please let me know your thoughts by leaving a brilliant insight. favicon

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ReadingPack: A great way to find, organize, and share articles on the web. Or: Pocket + Snip.it + (Twitter – Zite)

favicon I read a lot of nonfiction on the web. And I like to find good articles, read them, share them, and save them.

You’d think there would be a good service out there that helps me do all those things. Actually, as I’ve written about before, things are a bit clunky. Usually it takes several apps to achieve a good reading flow.

That’s why I’m happy to try out ReadingPack, a service that organizes what you’re reading online and helps you discover new articles you may enjoy. In short, ReadingPack is a social reading list.

Here’s how it works: If you find an article that you want to read later, you can share it to your “pack.” For those of you who use Pocket, that’s the Pocket part of ReadingPack.

Then, if you really like the article and want to save it, you can designate it a “must read.” This moves the article to your “shared list,” which others can see if they’re following you. For the very few of you who use Scoop.it (or used to use Snip.it, my all-time favorite), that’s the Scoop.it part of ReadingPack.

Which gets me to the best part of ReadingPack. You can follow people whose articles you like. And then those articles arrive in your “feed.” This is news discovery part of ReadingPack, and it’s a bit like Zite (which is going out of business soon) and a bit like Twitter (with a keener focus on articles).

So far I’m liking ReadingPack, and I’m excited to try it out with my students. I’m pretty sure they’ll like that ReadingPack offers saving and sharing and following all in one place.

Because ReadingPack is new, not everything is perfect yet. For example, I don’t like that long headlines are cut off (this was also a problem with Bundlr and Annotary). And I’d like to put my articles into collections (the founder said this feature is coming) and have the option to follow people’s collections (rather than the people themselves). (Yes, I loved Snip.it.) And the phone app (at least the Android version) doesn’t always work. But those are small things, and there are improvements coming out every day. I’m excited to see what founder Yuval Shoshan does with ReadingPack.

If you’re tired of the articles you find on Facebook, or you’re finding that your Twitter feed is a bit crowded, or if you’d like to save your articles in an organized way where others can read them, you should try out ReadingPack. If you do, let me know what you think! favicon

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I guess I read a lot of non-fiction, too

favicon Some years I read between 70 and 80 books. Other years, like this one, I read much less — more like 30 to 40. There’s always some guilt when I have an “off” year. After all, there’s tons of great stuff to read, and especially now that I’m not a classroom teacher, there really isn’t a great excuse.

There’s a pattern, though, to my off years: I tend to read more nonfiction, especially online. It’s not the same, of course. No matter how much I read articles from Longform, my favorite curator of long-form articles, there’s nothing that replaces a book. But most of it is still good reading.

The other day, I received this email from Pocket, my favorite phone app of all time.

Screenshot 2013-12-15 16.20.10

You see? I get an A!

Apparently, I read nearly 3 million words this year on Pocket. How does it know? Is this number based on the articles I opened? Or is it based on the articles that I’ve saved? Or does Pocket actually scan my eyes as I read or determine whether my brain comprehends what I’ve read? It’s a mystery.

At least I’m reading, though, and many of the articles I’ve read have made their way to Iserotope Extras or been saved to my Evernote.

That’s good, but what I really want is a way to talk about these articles — in the same way that I like talking to people about books. Pocket doesn’t do this (yet), and comments on the bottom of articles are never very good. Maybe someone in 2014 will be the year that social reading takes off. favicon

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Using Pocket in the classroom to promote nonfiction reading

pocketfavicon I read tons of nonfiction (see Iserotope Extras), and as a teacher, I want to encourage my students to read tons of nonfiction.

The new Common Core State Standards agree with my approach.

But up until yesterday, I couldn’t quite find the best and easiest way to incorporate nonfiction into my classroom with my students.

Diigo is a great service, but it hasn’t been updated for a long time, plus it takes a lot of investment to set it up with students. Snip.it was great until Yahoo bought it. And Google Reader is shuttering soon as well. What is an English (or social studies, or science, or any) teacher to do?

Yesterday, Pocket, which lets you save content to read later, announced a major new feature: Send to Friend. Before yesterday, if you wanted to share an article with another person, you could email the article, but your friend would have to read it directly from his or her inbox or forward it, somewhat clumsily, into their Pocket.

No more! Now you can send an article directly from your Pocket to your friend’s Pocket, plus you can add a personal note. No more middle step of going through your friend’s email inbox.

So what does this all have to do with building a community of nonfiction readers in your classroom? Sure, there are other ways for students to share articles, but Pocket works easily and intuitively on phones, which students love. That’s crucial.

Here are a couple ways teachers can try Pocket out:

1. Share a class Pocket account.
You create an account and share the login and password information with students. When students find a particularly interesting article, they Pocket it to the account. In class, you read one of the articles as a whole group, or you give students the option of reading any of the articles in the queue.

I would recommend this as a first step so your students can become familiar with finding good articles, Pocketing them, and building an enthusiasm for reading. Once that happens, you can choose to move to Step 2.

2. Create and build individual student accounts.
When students have their own Pocket accounts, they have more ownership about what they’re reading. They’re more likely to Pocket articles they care about. Pocket even allows you to favorite articles, so students can keep ones they find particularly interesting.

Also, with individual accounts, students can use the Send to Friend feature. They can send an article to a peer or to the class account. Groups of students with similar interests can trade articles. Once recommended articles get shared around, you’ll likely see a nonfiction reading buzz gain traction.

I haven’t yet heard of teachers who are using Pocket with their students to promote nonfiction reading. Are there any of you out there? If so, let me know. Even if you’re not currently using Pocket, it would be great to know if you think Pocket could work in your classroom. favicon

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On the go? Save Iserotope articles to your Pocket

pocketfavicon If you’re a loyal Iserotope reader, you’re serious. You don’t want to miss any articles.

You likely follow Iserotope via Facebook or Twitter or Google+ or RSS feed or Instagram or email.

That’s great. But what if you find yourself in the middle of an article and don’t have time to finish? Or what if you want to save an article for later?

Most people email articles to themselves, and that’s OK. Perfectly great, good work.

But I have something better: Pocket.

Pocket is my favorite save-it-for-later service (even more than my previous favorite, Readability). You can save articles, videos, and images and read them later on your computer, tablet, or computer.

New to Iserotope: At the end of every post, you’ll see that there is a Pocket button. Try it out. You won’t be disappointed. And while you’re there, you might as well share the post with your friends, right?

Is there anyone out there who already uses Pocket? If so, let me know! favicon

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The best tools to keep track of everything on the Internet

favicon What do you do with everything you find on the web?

Like, how do you remember the good stuff you’ve read? And how do you organize it and access it later? What if you want to share it with someone, or a group of people, in a few weeks?

Please tell me! — because these questions have taken over my brain over the past month.

(I’m not alone. Over the past year, content curation — the practice of seeking, sifting through, making sense of, and sharing the best of what’s on the Web — has gotten huge. To me, this new phenomenon is the evolution of social bookmarking.)

I’m happy to report that I’m making some progress, but I still find myself doing the same research more than once, clipping an interesting quotation while fending off feelings of déjà vu, convincing myself that the Internet has reshaped my brain into some Silly Putty of distractability.

This post won’t unveil My Epic Online Reading Flow (still in draft form), but I will share some tools that have saved me from online overload.

Aggregating Content: Google Reader and Twitter
Instead of visiting tons of websites to find good articles, I rely on Google Reader to do the discovery for me. To be sure, this practice prevents me from stumbling upon random good stuff, but most of the time, I don’t have the time. My colleagues on Twitter also share high-quality articles, especially about teaching and reading.

Saving content to read later: Pocket
One problem with excellent content is that I don’t always have time to read it. That’s why a read-later service is crucial. There are many excellent ones, including Instapaper and Readability. But my (recent) favorite is Pocket. It’s beautiful, has excellent phone apps, and saves video as well as text.

Pocket is sort of my information headquarters. Most everything goes there for quality inspection and processing. Most articles get deleted, but the lucky few make the cut.

Annotating content: Annotary
“You take notes?” people ask me, “of stuff on the web?” Yes. I do. (Not all the time.)

It all started several years ago when Diigo came out. Diigo took the social bookmarking trend Delicious began and added an annotation feature to the mix. I became a little obsessed. After all, if they’re called web pages, doesn’t it make sense to take notes? I thought so.

Unfortunately, over the past two years, Diigo has become bloated, not very pretty, and not maintained particularly well. But a new annotation tool, Annotary, has filled the gap. Its bookmarking and annotation toolbar incorporates sharing options, too, which is a plus.

Publishing content: Bundlr
After spending time seeking, sifting through, and making sense of tons of information, it’s time to share it. Most items go to individuals through email. Then there are the select few that get shared on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus. My favorite articles, though, deserve to be preserved and published to a wider audience.

As many of you know, I’m pretty excited about Bundlr and Iserotope Extras. There are at least 40 other tools that do the same thing (including Annotary), but Bundlr, in my opinion, does it best. I’m finding that people appreciate reading articles recommended by someone who has read them already and written a blurb to offer some context. That’s why I like Dave Pell‘s NextDraft, an excellent daily newsletter, and that’s why (at least some) people like Iserotope Extras.

Update, December 2012: I now prefer Snip.it over Bundlr!

Archiving and saving content: Evernote
The last step is making sure that I don’t lose anything. Too often, parts of our online lives find themselves in different places. My photos, for example, are backed up on Dropbox, while my important work documents stay on Google Drive.

But for online content, I’ve decided, after years of trying my best to stay away, that Evernote is the best way to go. Click a button from Pocket, and the clipper strips away formatting and saves articles in plain text, all in one step. No, Evernote is not going to display my articles beautifully like other tools, but it’s robust enough to keep everything all in one place.

* * *

Wow, that was a lot — and that’s just the beginning! I’m really interested in hearing how you manage your online lives, find high-quality information, and make sure it’s organized. (It’ll help me stay sane.) Please let me know! favicon