Table of Contents
When I started browsing the internet, I remember saving a few select webpages I found interesting into my browser. As time went on though, no only has the web expanded significantly, but the type of content which can be found on the internet has increased. There are recipes, news articles, academia, how to guides, podcasts, videos, newsletters, long-form journalism, tools, RSS feeds, tips and tricks, Reddit threads, and websites which are just plain interesting. Trying to organise all that interesting stuff in ways to not just access it, but be able to save/store it for later use, as well as being able to extract the most important aspects from it, so as to not forget it, has become, for me at least, difficult.
In this post, I’m going to walkthrough where I started on this journey, where I went, and where I am now.
As I said, I began with bookmarks in my browser, but this approach never served me well. I’d spend ages every few years reorganising the bookmarks into neat nested folders, and then completely forget about them. Or I’d hit ‘save’, and never organise it at all. I ended up with systems where half was immaculately organised, and the other half an absolute mess, with neither serving their purpose. They weren’t accessible in a way which suited me, being tucked away and out of sight. Granted, there are probably plugins and add-ons now for browsers which sort bookmarks out in a much better way, but at the time, these options simply didn’t exist yet.
As such, I became reliant on just my memory and web searching. For example, I’d do something along the lines of “What was that website which helps you with PC parts? Logical something?” And I’d do a search for “PC building + logical”, and I would get my result - Logical Increments.
It’s not a good system at all as I have a poor memory even at the best of times. Still, I found it more useful than the bad system of bookmarking.
ReadItLater / Pocket
I spoke briefly about using ReadItLater/Pocket here. In short, I lacked WiFi in my bedroom, and so saved web articles in ReadItLater to then read at night in bed. It then became Pocket, and I kept using it to save articles even when internet access reached all parts of my home.
However, I started to use it badly. I would find interesting articles across the web, read them, and still save them into Pocket, for them to never be reopened again. Why? Well, it was interesting, and I wanted to keep it in case I wanted to refer back to it. Or, if I did re-read these articles, I still didn’t archive or delete them. Because again, it was interesting, and I didn’t want to forget where that interesting thing was. I might need it again in the future.
So I just kept saving and saving and saving and saving. I’m not sure how many articles are now saved in my Pocket, but I hate to think. We’re pretty much at a decade’s use now, and I’ve been saving multiple articles a day. I knew it was wrong, but I didn’t know what to do about it.
I have also spoken briefly about Evernote before, mostly being used for university studying. I liked using Evernote a lot for academia, and remember how amazing Evernote felt when I first used it, but when I tried using it for personal use, aside from recipes, which I’ll get to later, nothing really clicked for me. Furthermore, when Evernote’s pricing model changed in 2016, I needed to find a free alternative, and I decided to stop using Evernote completely once I had found that alternative.
OneNote was a natural option, and free too. I was able to easily migrate my academic studies over, as well as the recipes, and then reconsidered if it could be used for more. For starters, I was excited about IFTTT, a service which links services together, connecting them via automation. I found I was able to tie things together in ways so that if I saved an interesting post on Reddit, a page would be created for me in OneNote. I began linking as many services as I could, so I would be able to save interesting things all over the internet, and they all land up in OneNote.
However, I found OneNote to be sluggish, and difficult to find things. Searching was never too successful, and with the mountains of pages which had grown via all the automation, I found myself spending ages scrolling through and clicking on the pages one-by-one trying to find what I was looking for. It was a frustrating experience, and I wanted to find somewhere new, away from my academic studies as I suspected this may be why there was so much slowness, to store my links to interesting stuff.
I remember first coming across Notion via someone building a website from it about mechanical keyboards, and was fascinated by the simple and clean, but powerful modular interface. It seemed to be a programme where you can assemble anything onto it, and make it be anything you wanted. I was really excited about this, and began researching Notion and assessing templates.
I decided to create a wiki-type system, where I would store all my interesting stuff into sections for easy access and with links between them. I would build pages according to the needs I required, some would need tables, others would be in the style of kanban boards, and there would be pages simply displaying images I liked - mostly comprising of affirmations and positive quotes from mediation apps I used.
I spent ages organising it, and found a decent workflow I was satisfied with, whereby I could not only easily save interesting stuff from the internet by using Notion’s Web Clipper, but I could easily send the data into a database page, where it would be automatically organised and easy to find. Storing interesting stuff became a dream. But accessing it was a different matter.
It was sometimes difficult to just simply click on a link and have it load up in my web browser, sometimes these links I had saved demanded to be treated as pages and a near blank page would load up instead with a small URL at the top to click on. Plus, a wrong click somewhere sent Notion on a sluggish train in motion, taking ages for those blank pages to load, and then ages to go back to where I was if I wanted to click on another.
Frustrated, and realising a database for pages was not going to really work for just storing links, I decided a new home was needed.
A simple web search uncovered Raindrop.io, and I was surprised to be told I already had an account when I went to create one. I opened my password manager, and sure enough, there was a password there for Raindrop.io. It turns out I created an account in 2017, and had only saved a few links in there to some Christmas jumpers. Vaguely remembering this, I then began to wonder why I didn’t stick with it.
Unable to remember, I poked around the applications (on both Mac and Android), and found them to be exactly what I was looking for, and for free. While Raindrop.io has a paid subscription plan, I found I could do all I wanted on the free tier. Well, almost everything. The only exception was the lack of nested folders, which I would want to use to organise my bookmarks. Not too much of an issue though, I could create as many Groups as I wanted, and simply slotted Collections under these Groups. It involves quite a bit of scrolling up and down to get to where I want, but a significant improvement from Notion.
However, I didn’t put all my bookmarks in Raindrop.io. I had hundreds of recipe bookmarks I wanted to access in a better way than simply pointing links to them. Recipe websites have become gargantuan beasts on the internet, full of bloat containing adverts, newsletter pop-ups, auto-starting videos, huge fully loaded comment sections, and of course, life stories at the start. Now, I don’t blame the authors of these websites for doing this. I understand they are merely having to play a SEO game that the web search engines demand them to play. I highly doubt most would want to do this and make their websites behave in such a way.
Nonetheless, I hate it, and it makes for a terrible user experience.
I had long been aware of programmes such as Paprika which strip the recipe out of the website, providing you with just the recipe’s ingredients and instructions. Of course, this isn’t new, and I had used both Evernote and OneNote to scrape recipes for me. However, I wanted something just focused on recipes like Paprika does, but found its prices a bit concerning considering I’d need to purchase both a Mac and an Android version, coming to around $35, and I’d need to purchase more if I later end up with on iOS or predominantly using Windows.
Instead, I searched on the /r/selfhosted subreddit, and came across Mealie, a free alternative which could be accessed by any one if they had the link. Not only would it scrape recipes removing all the baggage, but I could also then edit them if I made any adjustments, as well as tag, organise, rate and favourite them.
Shiori / Shaarli
Still looking for a home for my bookmarks, I encountered both Shiori and Shaarli over the past year, having successfully installed them both on my Synology DiskStation. Not remembering why I didn’t keep them at the time, I gave them both another go on YunoHost running on my Raspberry Pi, hoping these would be self-hosted solutions to Raindrop.io. However, I was deeply unsatisfied with its predominant use of tagging as a means of organisation, much preferring a folder-based structure system - or even a faux one akin to my setup in Raindrop.io with Groups and Collections.
Still, I really liked the idea of self-hosting my bookmarks, and wanted to pursue this further.
It was when browsing through YunoHost that I saw Bookstack, and it caught my eye. I did a quick web search to see what people were saying about it, and found this post of someone asking for a simple wiki for family use. The idea of a wiki made me think back to my time with Notion, but I wondered if a self-hosted solution would be better as it would be on my own server this time, hoping for increased speed and suffering less downtime.
I would create a shelf with an overarching topic (e.g. Technology), a book with the more specific topic (e.g. GoHugo), and then pages organised on smaller subjects (e.g. Themes), with those pages containing the associated bookmarks.
It seemed like a good idea initially, but after a while of adding a few bookmarks in to give it a go, I found issues trying to create backups, and I realised a lot of data could be lost if something should happen to the wiki. It made me rethink back to how if I had direct access to my data, rather than some sort of database, I would feel happier with backups.
My current setup involving Raindrop.io didn’t fulfil this either though, even more ’locked in’ as it wasn’t even self-hosted. However, I decided that if I struggled to backup my data on both platforms, I ought to at least use the one easiest to use, which was still Raindrop.io
Dead or Alive
As I previously mentioned in my post about digital gardens, I then came to a decision where I would view my interesting stuff as either:
- Dead (Interesting stuff where no ideas can come from them. They are guides, tools, software links and so on. Stuff I can’t take notes from)
- Alive (Interesting stuff which can spark ideas off. They are the news articles, long-form journalism and think-pieces of the world. Stuff I can take notes from)
It was when I was investigating somewhere to store my ‘Alive’ interesting stuff, I realised I would need to back it up to the cloud and have it available for syncing to use on different devices. People talked about using FolderSync on an Android to use for individual folder syncing, which was required for applications like Obsidian and Logseq, so I would need to use a cloud which was compatible. Granted, I already had a Dropbox and a OneDrive account, but the former was for website hosting backups, and the latter provided by my university for academia. I had a spare Dropbox account used for syncing my Joplin journal entries as I wanted it completely separate from my other accounts, and considered using that, but was aware of the limited storage. My personal stuff uses Synology Drive as a cloud platform, but I couldn’t see this as an option to use with FolderSync (though, looking back now, I wonder if I could have used WebDAV). As such, I began to browse FolderSync and check out the cloud providers it supported.
I was very aware of Nextcloud, but never paid it too much attention. It seemed a bit like an operating system you would install on a server to enhance it and provide added options. I didn’t think I needed that as I had a Synology DiskStation as my server. Sure, Nextcloud looked nice, but I didn’t need it.
However, after trying a few cloud options out, with little success, I decided to give Nextcloud on my YunoHost solely to provide cloud storage for syncing. Not just for my digital garden, but I also recalled Joplin having an option to use Nextcloud as well, and I would feel happier having my private journal entries in my own cloud.
The process was incredibly simple, and I love the modern and clean interface Nextcloud has, as well as how fast and responsive it feels. Syncing it with my Android phone was a breeze too, as was the actual syncing process with Obsidian via Foldersync, and directly with Joplin via WebDAV.
In all likelihood, I probably would have been able to achieve this through Synology DiskStation, but I had grown to liking the idea of my more personal written data being separated from my computer backups, music collections and other types of file based backups, which I had there. Instead, the Nextcloud would hold more personal information and be used to sync it between devices. I could then migrate some of my stuff away from Synology Drive and into my Nextcloud account, but I’ll need some time to reconsider this at a later date.
Anyway, I told myself Nextcloud would only be used for cloud storage of written files, but it suggested a bunch of apps to try out, and I saw it had a bookmark manager, a folder based bookmark manager at that! With an Android app!
I tried it out by exporting the content of my Raindrop.io account, which arrived in a single .html file via email, and just thought I’d give it a go by importing that into Nextcloud Bookmarks. To my surprise, it worked straight away. Granted, all the Groups vanished, as these were merely organisational features within Raindrop.io, as have all the icons for the Collections, but all the links and folders were there, as were the tags. I would just have to nest the folders accordingly to recreate what I had in Raindrop.io
Well, nearly recreate. There is a Mac client, but it’s stuck in dark mode for some reason, and after I had spent the time nesting my folders, only the Android app recognised these changes. The Mac app flattened the folders to one level only, making it unusable.
This makes using Nextcloud Bookmarks overall difficult as I want an interface where I can easily view the folders in the sidebar, but Nextcloud Bookmarks on the web is currently just listing the tags there. Unsatisfied, but not sure where else to go, I stayed with it while I tried out some other Nextcloud applications.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why would I even consider looking at another recipe manager considering how long it took for me to get Mealie setup and hold all those recipes? Well, my nagging issue with databases arose again. Yes, I can create and restore backups in Mealie, but what if I forgot to make them or download them to preserve them? In Nextcloud Cookbook, the recipes can be viewed individually inside your Nextcloud folders - no database required.
Granted, this wouldn’t actually be a great idea for the hundreds of collected recipes in Mealie, as it would generate so many files and folders, but what about storing just my favourite recipes? The ones I have tried and tested, and decided were good enough to keep to use again? I had already marked these out within Mealie, and so would only need to move over a dozen or so recipes into Nextcloud Cookbook. I now had a new handy place to store the ones I liked the most without having to go through the mass of ones I like the look of, but have yet to actually try. There are even Android apps for easy access to the recipes while I’m cooking.
Concurrently through all of this, I was also dealing with my adventures through digital gardens, and had at this point concluded to use Obsidian over Logseq for that purpose, despite the fact I actually preferred using Logseq. It was when I was weighing up my options for bookmarks did I contemplate if what I needed wasn’t a bookmark manager after all, but a wiki of sorts? I began opening the bookmarks in my web browser, and with this neat Tampermonkey script, I was able to create a bookmarklet where, when pressed, I am provided with the current page as a Markdown link. I can then copy and paste this link into a Logseq page I have organised, as well as linked how I want and ’nested’ accordingly too. And by hitting ⌘ + K, a search window appears on any page so I can quickly find what I am looking for. Something to do with TiddlyWiki? ⌘ + K and typing “TiddlyWiki” gets me to a page with everything I have all about TiddlyWiki immediately - links to themes and plugins as well as links to written guides and articles. Furthermore, due to the interlinking system of Logseq, I am able to cross-reference how I like. For example, I have a page of software links neatly organised into sections, but are tagged to their platforms, so I also have a Mac page which now also shows the software alongside my guides and interesting articles about Macs, which updates in real time across Logseq when I make edits.
Rather than use bookmarks or something like Wallabag as a means to store links, a wiki makes significantly more sense due to the flexibility regarding organisation and cross-linking.
As such, I use Logseq to store the ‘dead’ interesting stuff I find. I will have a link copied via my Tampermonkey bookmarklet on the toolbar, which I will then paste into its corresponding section within Logseq. However, if that piece of content has some ’life’ in it, I will decide if it goes into Pocket or Wallabag. Recipes will go into Mealie, with tried-and-tested favourites being later moved into Nextcloud Cookbook as a more curated resource.
Pocket will be used more as intended, saving articles I wish to later read, but try to keep them to only time sensitive articles, relevant to me only in the ’now’. I will try to be better at either deleting read articled, or if they might be useful in the future, send them towards Wallabag.
Any articles which may be relevant to me in the longer-term will go into Wallabag, and be tagged correctly, so I can easily find the article later on. I may later go back to dig an article out if I wish to build on it, possibly developing into a blog article or a piece of academia. In that case, I would move it into my digital garden.
But What About…?
eBooks and eMagazines
I’m currently saving bookmarks and highlights of these in their native applications, then opening them on my Mac and using TRex to grab the text via OCR. From there, recipes will follow their previously described route (though I would have to copy-and-paste the data in more manually), and everything else ought to be interesting stuff to keep in Logseq as part of the wider wiki aspect of my new system, interconnecting to other relevant pieces of information.
There are other applications/services which may be more suitable, Readwise is often mentioned but I don’t believe it would work with my eMagazines, and it’s a subscription I’d have to pay monthly to use.
I have had Moon+ Reader for many years, and just installed Calibre-Web on my server, connecting the two. I am hoping to find a way to export highlights from Moon+ Reader, and am currently looking into moonreader2html.
Tweets and Toots
At the moment, I am not getting the tweets and toots I like out of Twitter and Mastodon. I bookmark them in their respective platforms, and they just sit in there. For Twitter, I believed I could probably link some sort of system together using IFTTT, whereby a bookmarked tweet may be saved in OneNote, for example. However, the trigger options only feature liking a tweet to be saved, and I don’t want to save those. I could be more manual and instead push the tweet to somewhere to be saved, but then I encountered the issue with tweets being scary privacy-wise. I looked into something like Embetty, which renders tweets in a more privacy-friendly way. However, it’s not quite what I’m after, but now I want something which does render tweets in such a way for storage reasons, rather than to display publicly.
Toots from Mastodon don’t have this issue, but again, I would rather have these appear rendered within a programme rather than having simple links. I recall Notion having such a feature regarding tweets, but again, I would want it to be a re-rendering, not directly from Twitter.
However, there are alternative front-ends to Twitter, such as Nitter, which now support embedding tweets. As such, all I need to do now is figure out a place for these tweets and toots to live. Toots are pretty simple, I can paste the embed code (an iFrame) straight into Logseq to appear, but tweets, from either Twitter or Nitter, only shows a tweet’s text, no images or video. This may not be a huge issue though, as there is a link to read the full tweet so I can view the image or photo associated if need be.
As such, for tweets and toots, I will be embedding them into Logseq into their appropriate sections, though would prefer a solutions which scrapes them as something static, rather than a live link. Not only in case it ever gets removed, but to reduce bandwidth and for use offline.
I actually don’t have a good system for saving these at the moment. If the original post is interesting, these are being treated like web articles. If a comment or the whole thread was interesting… it’s being saved in Reddit, but currently stuck there. Reddit has the option to embed posts, but I again wondered if I ought to be using an alternative front-end like libreddit, and if so, should also be embedding through this more privacy-friendly platform. However, I could not find a way to do so via libreddit, but maybe I just need to poke around a bit more?
It won’t be a long one, but I am planning to write about my “Adventures Into… RSS” in a future post.
I’ve had some interesting “Adventures Into… Newsletters” lately, and will want to write these up as well in the coming future.
I currently do not have a good system for extracting interesting stuff out of podcasts, though am looking into trying out platforms such as Snipd. No idea how it will go yet, as I haven’t even installed it as of time of writing. I like my current podcasting app Pocket Casts, and would be reluctant to change due to being grandfathered in to its premium features.
I don’t actually store or save videos I find interesting, though I probably should. Almost everything I watch is online comes from YouTube, and I could very easily just make playlists with titles covering certain topics, and just save videos I find interesting in there to keep.
As for extracting interesting information out of potential ‘Alive’ content, this relies on simply passing the video, grabbing and pen and paper, and writing the note down along with the timestamp, later typing these notes up into originally UpNote, but now straight into my digital garden. But I find this process annoying for a few reasons.
First, I know, why not type? I don’t know what it is about me, but I realised a while ago I simply absorb information better if I handwrite rather than type, and find it easier to pause and play a video if I stay in one window, rather than hopping back and forth between a note taking app and the video playing. Second, paper is wasteful and it costs money to buy new paper notepads and pens. I do have a drawing tablet that I use for annotating my university coursework, but again, I’d be switching between the app for handwriting and another for the video.
Ideally, I would like to have something like an iPad where I could place that on my table and use it as if it were me writing into a paper notepad. However, even the cheapest iPad is over £300 and the Apple Pencil another £80+ on top of that. I’d be dropping around £400 to save money on buying paper and pens. It doesn’t make much sense. I could purchase secondhand, but as someone using a secondhand Mac who can no longer receive any new updates as Apple simply decided it was too old, I am cautious about longevity and not wanting to buy an iPad that will stop getting updates and may become useless in just a couple of years.
Another issue I have with my current setup is that it just doesn’t seem very efficient. I feel like I’m missing out on something…
I could, of course, save pretty much everything via ArchiveBox. I have looked into it, but find am not finding it to be very user-friendly, and again am concerned about my ability to do sufficient backups. However, I think if someone is more technical than I am, it is probably the most useful solution to these issues.
Regardless, this has become a very long post, and I do apologise for that. However, much like a digital garden, my thoughts became so interconnected, I did not want to break some of these sections off into their own posts, even if I had planned for that - there was going to be an “Adventures Into… Recipe Management” post which isn’t required any more.
Furthermore, I was developing some of the ideas and using some of the applications in this post whilst I was writing it, so some aspects of my workflow are in early stages. I hope to elaborate more on what I end up finally doing in a more fleshed out way in future posts. For now at least, this is how things are at the moment!