I’m an avid user of social networking, picking up stories from Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus. These services all have certain ways to mark some sort of favorite status, liking, favorite’ing a tweet, +1′ing a G+ entry, that sort of thing. On its own it’s effective for those services however I’ve found that it just really isn’t enough for me.
To bridge the gap, between seeing something that piques my interest and remembering it for later used to be served by browser bookmarks, but these are inconvenient because they languish on only one machine and can’t be accessible on every device that I own. I was for a time a user of Delicious, but since it was bought out by Yahoo and then imperiled by Yahoo in a mystery state somewhere between being alive and dead I’ve given up on that as well. Another bookmarking service that I use is Marco Arment’s Instapaper which satisfies a lot of the needs that I have – it works on every device I use and it’s ubiquitous enough to become the tool of choice for me when it comes to a bookmarking service.
There is a problem with Instapaper however. It comes down to context. When I’m on Twitter I see a link from @gadgetfreaks, for example, and I send the link to Instapaper so I can read it later. I prefer the information flow from Twitter to be regular and smooth, dancing from item to item I never really stop to actually browse any of the links presented to me on Twitter unless they are in my “core” group of people who I follow on Twitter. On Twitter it’s really a quick browse with small dwells to retweet, send links to Instapaper, or very rarely browse right from Twitter off a link shared by someone I follow. So, after a while of browsing the stream from Twitter my Instapaper queue becomes weighty and I then use the Instapaper site, the Instapaper app, or “ReadNow” app on my MacBook to go back to the links that I’ve sent to Instapaper to read later, or, read now.
While I’m browsing my Instapaper queue I then run into a crisis, sometimes, and this crisis is one of context. I have an entry in my Instapaper but I have no idea what it is in reference to and there isn’t any convenient way that I can think of to chew backwards through the Twitter stream to rescue the flavor text that was near the link to rescue some semblance of a context. So these links in my Instapaper, without context, are on at least some small way at least browsable, but without the surrounding context the links are more chaff than wheat. So I browse the links, I don’t get why I saved it, and then just dump the link out of Instapaper.
Is it a problem? No, not in any appreciable way. But it would be an interesting expansion on the Instapaper design to have the functionality that sends the link to Instapaper also grab the nearby text from Twitter and have a foldaway area where you can unpack the context and regain it, so the article you saved in Instapaper makes sense.