Somehow, despite the fact that I spend more time online than I spend sleeping, and certainly spend socializing with friends, I don’t actually use bookmarks. That’s not to say I don’t have any, I actually have quite a few, but every bookmark application I’ve ever used becomes a black hole. Firefox’s native bookmarks. Delicious. Google Bookmarks, all of them are one way trips. Sites go in, but rarely do I ever take them out.
The one exception for this is Google Reader, since RSS feeds are kind of like bookmarks, but the comparison is a stretch since what I’m returning to every day is new content, not something I’ve marked for review later. And the few sites that I visit frequently but aren’t part of my daily dose of RSS, I’ve either memorized the URLs or they’re typed so frequently that firefox remembers them for me.
Of course that means there’s a huge gaping hole in my web browsing habits. I’ve got no real way of saving something for later. I could try and blame this on bookmarking applications, in fact that’s the route I was going at the start of this post. But I think the problem is more deep seated. I think the problem is that ultimately I don’t know how to deal with information I can’t immediately act on. Now immediately doesn’t mean in the next two minutes immediately, but it does mean in the next few days. Ultimately though, it’s not a matter of time, it’s a matter of clarity. For example, if I come across a page describe a new linux app for tracking your overdue library books, it’s pretty clear what my next step is. I’ll try the app at some point. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not this week, but I’ll remember to get to it. Then once I’ve given it a whirl, that web link that pointed me towards it isn’t important anymore.
However, if I come across an interesting article that explains raises some interesting points about human psychology and it’s interaction with science. I know this is a potentially valuable piece of information, it fits right in with the topic of a book that my father and I have been talking about co-writing. But just what steps I should take with it aren’t so clear. In the past I just filed it away into my bookmarking black hole, but the problem was that I generally forgot about it. When the occasion arrived that I could have made use of whatever I’d saved, I had no memory of it’s existence.
I guess you could blame this on bookmarks apps themselves, after all you could theoretically have an application that served up pages from your bookmarks based on what you were browsing or doing at the moment. But even disregarding the creep factor there, the problem is that no app like that currently exists.
So instead, I’m trying to figure out how to train myself to deal with information that I don’t know how to act on. I can see this skill being a huge boon at my job too. My boss often sends me links of interesting articles or products. Generally there’s no action he wants me to take right away, it’s just a matter of reviewing and seeing how we could improve what we’re doing. Usually there’s nothing right off the bat that I see, but maybe if I had a better way to remind myself of this information I could really get something out of it.
That being said, I’ve put some thought into it and I think I’ve got a strategy for tackling the problem. I’ll keep a relatively short list of all the items I’ve mostly recently marked as interesting but not actionable. Any time I add a new item, I’ll drop the oldest and stick it in an archive. Then on a regular basis I’ll do two things. First I’ll review all the items on my active list, and then I’ll review something like 5 to 10 random items from the archive. It’s not the most efficient strategy, but if I keep my lists small it shouldn’t take up too much time, and will definitely help me get the most out of all the information I encounter, giving me a better long term memory for this sort of thing.
Now the challenge is finding an application that can help with this. The random part especially, I’m not sure how to approach. Any suggestions for how to try this strategy, or something different I should look into?