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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

7 comments

  1. Anjum

    Thank you so much for this post! I have always felt overwhelmed by the amount of information I have to keep tabs on for my work (grantwriting for non-profits) and I just know that some of your recommendations will help me become (and hopefully stay) more organized.

  2. Mark Isero

    Anjum, thank you for your kind words. This is a work in progress. For example, I think I might like Snip.it better than Bundlr. And I’m still trying to figure out how Annotary can do more. One of the biggest things I’m learning is that there’s a difference between organizing content for yourself vs. wanting to share it with others. Different tools do different things, of course.

  3. Kevin Eagan

    Thanks for this list. Right now, I use instapaper for collecting reading materials, evernote for clipping and collecting stuff and taking notes, and findings/default kindle settings for highlighting and annotating what I read. However, Annotary sounds great. I hope to check it out soon.

    • Mark

      Hi Kevin, Instapaper seems to be the most popular service among many people, especially early adopters of read-it-later services.

      ‘I’m interested in how the new Evernote Clearly highlighting function will change the way I save my bookmarks and clips. Annotation has always been an interest of mine (with Diigo — and because, like you, I like marking up texts), and I’m hoping that Annotary works for me.

      In other news, are you using the new Amazon “Send to Kindle” extension on Chrome? If not, how do you send articles to your Kindle (if you do)? I’d also like to know more about how you use Findings, especially with non-book highlighting.

      Thank you again for your comments, and good luck with the new semester.

    • Mark Isero

      Hi Jacob,
      Your site looks really good! I always thought Moodle was difficult, but you’ve made it look really clean and elegant. Even though your product is already really strong, I like your point that it’s “a work in progress.”

      Too often teachers think that tech/hybrid environments are supposed to be perfect the first time around. My experience has taught me differently — that it takes a lot of time and effort. Thank you for inspiring me to take another look at iseroma.com (even though my thoughts are that the LHS grads don’t really want to do anything with it). Hope you’re doing well!

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