How I consume content

Although last ~10 years I'm very bad about reading books, I go through tons of content every day. It's all sorts of articles and videos from the internet, recommended to me through Twitter, Facebook, or other means. How do I do this?

Reading
Photo by Patrick Tomasso

My best friend is Pocket. I used to send all the articles to my Kindle, but since I started using a smartphone, I switched to Pocket with articles and I keep Kindle as a device dedicated to books. (Which means Kindle is dusted now as I'm… you guessed it, bad about reading books for the last ~10 years.) Pocket is great because it allows me to track and display everything, not just texts.

It is also integrated into my favorite browser, Firefox, so conveniently I don't need an extension to make it work on my laptop. On my phone, I use their app.

Offline, without garbage#

Prague's metro doesn't have a good cell phone signal coverage, and the same is true for some train routes in the Czech Republic, so it helps that Pocket can download articles for offline reading. Useful also on long flights.

With today's state of the web, it also helps Pocket strips off all the garbage surrounding the text I want to read. It gives me purely the content of the article. No ads. No pop-ups. No tracking. No bullshit.

Interestingly, sometimes it fails to process the web page, but I can still successfully extract the main content using the Reader view in Firefox. Not sure why one doesn't work and the other does, when both Pocket and Firefox are made by Mozilla.

RSS to Pocket#

Sometimes I stumble upon a source of wisdom which I want to closely follow. I don't want to miss a single article or video. I'm old enough to remember RSS and I'm not afraid to use it for its original purpose, even though the calendar says it's 2020. Pocket doesn't allow me to track RSS feeds (and such feature would probably make me pay for Pocket!), but luckily, there's IFTTT. It's like Zapier, but free. Every time I want to subscribe to a feed, I set up an applet there. When there is a new item published by the source, it automatically appears in my Pocket.

IFTTT as a RSS reader

The cool thing is this way I can even subscribe to YouTube channels. E.g. channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdR-hKRaYAZUn2FAHb-xMcQ has a feed URL in the following format:

https://www.youtube.com/feeds/videos.xml?channel_id=UCdR-hKRaYAZUn2FAHb-xMcQ

I can subscribe to channels, but I don't need a YouTube account. Substack newsletters? The same story. I have one inbox where everything lands, lives, and which I can search.

Videos#

By default, I want to read. But if I feel like dedicating some time to videos, e.g. when I'm sick and attached to my bed, a separate tab to filter out saved links with videos makes it easier to go through just them.

Pocket videos

One note. Despite I appreciate Pocket can contain all sorts of media, to me, both audio and video feel like a terrible waste of time. I'm efficient in reading, I can skip, scan, share, quote. I can easily resume in two days on any device in any situation. I can read at places where silence is expected. I don't need to press any pause buttons when I'm interrupted, I just put my phone away. For me, reading is the most convenient way to consume content.

Of course, some videos are great, such as the ones which teach you proper English pronunciation or how to play the guitar or something. However, often the video on my list isn't educational, it's folks talking. When I decide to watch longer videos, such as conference talks or interviews, I do it with playback speed set to 1.5x at least. I'd pay for a service that automatically turns these into a text I can just read. Which brings me to podcasts.

Playback speed

Podcasts#

As you might have guessed already, I'm not into podcasts. Perhaps because I don't spend my day commuting, but even when I'm stuck in a train for a few hours, I just don't feel like listening. Why listen to voices when the same information could be written down? Of course, unless it's a comedy show where pitch and tone are important. Otherwise, I don't get it. It's like if the creators were pushing all externalities of content editing to me. Instead of giving me a polished text I can read with all the comfort, they record whatever comes out of their mouths and send it to me in the form of a 2 hours long recording.

Starting a podcast in 2019
Starting a podcast in 2019 (source)

I think people like podcasts because they can listen to them while they do other stuff, like driving or walking. Doesn't work for me. I don't drive. I don't commute. I don't usually wear headphones while walking. I tried listening to a spoken word while I was washing dishes, but often I misheard something or my brain strode away and I needed to "rewind", which is annoying.

I do read while walking. Perhaps if I switched to podcasts, I'd be less anti-social pedestrian, bumping into fewer people and ignoring less of my friends' greetings. Hmm. No. I think if I'm to wear headphones while walking, I'd rather pay for something which reads out loud polished texts. Listening to slowly-paced random chatters (with occasional coughing), which is what podcasts are, is just inefficient.

I'm not saying podcasts, podcast creators, podcast visitors, or podcast listeners are stupid. It's just not my thing. Because it's other people's thing, I suffer through listening to some podcasts, and occasionally I even happen to be a podcast guest.

Recommending#

When I like something I've read, I want to share it with the world. The problem is, I read so much that I don't want my Facebook or Twitter to be flooded with the recommendations. To fulfill the mental need to share, I use the Pocket's Recommend feature.

Pocket's Recommend

All my recommendations then display on my profile at getpocket.com/@honzajavorek. I have 9 followers as of now, and I doubt they really follow me because I follow 23 people and I can't remember a single occasion I'd pick up an article from someone's shared items.

Honestly, I don't know why I do this. I'm probably the only person in the world using the Pocket recommendations. I thought about being more thorough with sharing the articles to social media, or about displaying the feed of shared articles somewhere on my homepage, but who's the audience? Some of the stuff is in English, some of it is in Czech, and it's a mess of political, technical, and other topics. Is it useful to anyone? I doubt it. If I feel like recommending something, perhaps I should rather use a targeted recommendation, the Send to Friend feature. I rarely do.

Anyway, if you feel like stalking my readings, follow me on Pocket.

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