Because yesterday I indulged in bit of complaining, I decided to follow my own advice today: “If you have time to complain about something, you have time to do something to solve it.” Or at least to take a few steps in the right direction.
So I decided to pick up the reading service with the most robust note system, Instapaper, and look for solutions to improve that functionality.
The service itself has an integration with Evernote that supposedly copies highlights and notes directly to the application, but there are problems:
- Evernote is very inconsistent between platforms. The web application, for example, is slow and does not allow for smooth note management.
- It does not always work. After activating the integration, I made several notes and highlights that never showed up in my Evernote account.
I ended up with the following solution: I used IFTTT (a free online service that acts as a bridge between several applications) to establish the following rule: whenever I make a note or highlight something in an article in Instapaper, IFTTT sends me an email with the highlight and the note.
From there, it’s a simple matter to copy the content directly to my favorite notes app.
Is this a somewhat contrived system? Yes. Would it be better if Instapaper – or a competing application – let me copy the notes directly? Yes. But doesn’t. It’s better to find a solution, however imperfect, rather than keep complaining.
Painting: “The Wounded Philoctetes” by Nicolai Abildgaard
Incredible as it may sound in a medium that remains heavily textual, reading on the internet is still a third-world experience.
Yes, there are tools to save us from eyestrain. Tools like Instapaper or Pocket or Safari’s reading mode help us organize content, remove the (usually terrible) stylistic choices of websites, and present the articles in a way that’s far more readable.
But that’s just a part of reading, it’s most basic form. To read seriously – to read in order to understand, to assimilate, to learn – we must highlight, note, and cross information. The previous tools only do well the first of these three things; those who grant the ability to make notes do so in an impractical and limited way.
When I read an eBook – whether on Kindle or Apple Books – it’s the simplest thing in the world to email myself a collection of my highlights and notes, to easily browse or copy to a notebook.
Why is it so difficult to do the same for articles on the internet?
Photo Credit: wuestenigel Flickr via Compfight cc
A lot of people don’t want to show off their work. They say that it’s not good enough to be seen by others. This is false humility – what they have is not respect for the spectator’s time. It’s fear.
Fear of being criticized (and rightly so). Fear of exposing their imperfections. Fear of being seen as the apprentices they are, and not as the masters that they long to be.
The point is that failure in public gives us good training. Because the work will never be perfect. Because even the work with which we are satisfied will have critics. Because the world will take care of showing us flaws that we didn’t ever imagine.
And because… When we see that showing imperfect work didn’t end the world and didn’t destroy our reputation, perhaps then we can relax a little more and be a little less afraid when it is time to bring “the one” into the world.
By the way, you won’t. Bring “the one” into the world.
A body of work is not “the one.”
It’s the accumulation of years of public failures; each one slightly less flawed than the last.