✚ Tech Rounds - Pinboard

[This is the first post in a new series I am launching about the digital tools I use and how I use them. I am always fascinated to read others’ posts about the tools they are using, especially ‘tech people’ who always seem to have the coolest toys. Through this series, I hope to introduce people to tools they may have never seen or novel workflows…at least that’s the idea. Please contact me with any feedback or suggestions for new things to include in Tech Rounds.]

I chose Pinboard as the first subject for Tech Rounds because in less than a couple weeks, it became an indispensable tool for me. Give it a shot and I think you will find it indispensable too.

What is Pinboard—Pinboard is a web-based bookmarking service. Instead of bookmarking a site in your browser, you send it to Pinboard. At the most basic level, it saves a website URL, a title for that URL, a short description, and tags. Though that is the bulk of what Pinboard does, its simplicity belies its power.

Web-based means universal access—The biggest appeal of any web-based service is that so long as you have an internet-connected device with a web browser (a low bar these days), you can access the service. Creating bookmarks in your browser is convenient, but it confines those bookmarks to not just that computer but the specific browser on that computer where the bookmark was created [1]. Also, there isn’t much you can do with browser bookmarks; you can’t save bookmarks from other devices or apps and those bookmarks can’t be sent elsewhere. With Pinboard, you can access your bookmarks from anywhere and do lots of things with your bookmarks.

A universal inbox—I spend many spare moments browsing through content on the internet, usually on my iPhone. Often, I don’t have time at that particular moment to read a 5,000 word New Yorker article, or even a 300 word blog post. Or I come across an interesting service or uniquely designed website that I’d like to take a look at later. I need a single place to stash those things. Previously, I’ve tried using regular bookmarks, Evernote, Instapaper, even a plain text file; each has their own drawbacks [2]. Pinboard’s universal accessibility, simple design, great search, and integration with other apps make it a perfect place to not only stash things temporarily but permanently.

Saving to Pinboard—The simplest way to save a link to Pinboard is to go to the website and add it manually. This also happens to be the most inefficient method. Pinboard supplies a bookmarklet which you can install in any browser’s bookmark bar. Clicking this bookmarklet on any webpage brings up a pop-up that allows you to save the page to Pinboard. This is probably the most common way to save links. I use it often, though I use a slightly different bookmarklet [3]. Many apps have integration with Pinboard, which represents the other way I add bookmarks. My Twitter clients have mechanisms for me to send tweets and links directly to Pinboard. You can also do things like connect your Instapaper account so that when you favorite an article in Instapaper, it automatically send it to Pinboard. IFTTT also supports Pinboard, which increases the uses of Pinboard exponentially.

Using bookmarks—While I use various methods to get bookmarks into Pinboard, I really only use the basic website to access those bookmarks later on. The minimalist design of the website make easy to use and the search functionality with tag cloud make finding anything a breeze. The only other places I access Pinboard is through ReadKit (a Mac app I will cover in a future post) and my iPhone [4]. Pinboard is also my default ‘read later’ service.

Never delete—With regular bookmarks, Instapaper, and Evernote, I feel compelled to keep things neat and organized. I give Pinboard no such regard. I have a low threshold for saving something to Pinboard and almost never delete anything. Pinboard’s search makes such a cavalier attitude acceptable. Search is quick and comprehensive; I have yet to have a problem finding something [5].

Hopefully this has given some insight into how I’m using Pinboard to make my life a little easier. This is only a primer; there are many, many more features and uses for Pinboard (I didn’t even mention the social features…probably because I don’t use them). For a little bit more on Pinboard and some other tips on how to use it, check out ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Pinboard’ on Shawn Blanc’s blog. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

[I have no relationship with Pinboard, financial or otherwise. I would not promote something on mediio if I had such a relationship.]

  1. Yes, it is very much true that synchronization in Chrome and Safari has changed this to a degree but those services have not made the bookmarks universally accessible.  ↩

  2. Regular bookmarks aren’t easily or universally accessible and aren’t searchable. Evernote will work as a universal inbox, it just seems ill-suited to the task. Instapaper was my go-to universal inbox before I switched to Pinboard. But, like Evernote, it really isn’t designed for bookmarking stuff temporarily. Plain text files for bookmarking…I don’t think I even need to discuss why that is a horrible idea.  ↩

  3. Per Shawn Blanc’s suggestion, I’m using Joel Carranza’s “Particular Pinboard” bookmarklet. Installing this bookmarklet is a little tricky because it’s only hosted on github. Here is the easiest way to do it for most people: Install the default Pinboard bookmarklet following their instructions. Once you have done this, go to this website and copy all the jumbled text on it (don’t worry, this is just the raw javascript from Joel’s bookmarklet). Now go to the original Pinboard bookmarklet in your bookmarks bar and right-click to edit. Paste the copied code into the ‘address’ or ‘URL’ field (which should already contain some jumble that starts with ‘javascript’). Then save this.  ↩

  4. Several Pinboard apps exist for smartphones and tablets. I’m currently using Pinner on my iPhone, but am still open to suggestions.  ↩

  5. Recently, I wanted to reference all the 23andMe stuff that went down a few weeks ago for a post. Instead of searching Google or my own blog, all I had to do was search ‘23andMe’ in Pinboard to find virtually everything I had read myself on the subject.  ↩