Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Happy Birthday, Pinboard!

Maciej Ceglowski tells us that Pinboard turns seven today. I started using Pinboard on July 14, 2009, so I've been there since it was about a week old. (Didn't realize that until just now.)

I think Pinboard is just the greatest thing, and I can't even really explain why. I suppose because it primarily does one thing — enable you to bookmark things you read online — and does it with simple elegance. It's the closest thing to an organizational system I have. Here's my Pinboard page, or my Pinboard, as the kids say.

You can also sort of hack Pinboard to stretch its capabilities. I knew for some time that the notes you create in Pinboard used Markdown syntax before I realized that that meant you could embed images, as I've done here, or even videos. (These are loaded from the original URL, not stored by Pinboard, so it wouldn't be a means of long-term preservation.)

I have used Pinboard to note blog-post ideas — and indeed one of the most densely-populated tags in my Pinboard is called bloggable — but I have often fantasized, as my friend Matt Thomas knows, about turning Pinboard into a blogging platform, and basically moving my whole online life there. The problem is that this runs counter to my oft-professed devotion to the Own Your Turf ideal. I suppose if I were truly devoted to that ideal I wouldn't use Pinboard at all, but when a service performs its chosen task so well, and that task is so important for my work, I'm not inclined to sacrifice quality to principle. Not yet anyway. Anyhow, Pinboard makes it easy to download your whole archive, which I do from time to time by way of backup.

Two more notes, while we're in a note-making mood:

Note the first: The true master of Pinboard is Roberto Greco, whom Robin Sloan has called the internet's "idea sommelier."

Note the second: In the birthday greeting that's my first link above, Ceglowski makes a point of noting the outside funding he has received in creating and maintaining Pinboard: zero. Not a penny. He also provides the revenue Pinboard brings in, so that you can see something important: he makes a pretty good living. Almost as long as he's been running Pinboard he's been advocating for this way of doing things: instead of seeking venture capital in hopes of getting filthy rich, and therefore inevitably becoming a slave to your investors, why not choose to be a small business owner? Didn't this used to be the American dream, or one of them, to be your own person, work for no one except yourself, determine your own hours, live your own life?

Ceglowski has not only advocated for this way of life in tweets and talks, he even created The Pinboard Co-Prosperity Cloud, a competition for young entrepreneurs the winner of which would get plenty of advice from him and $37. It's hard to imagine a more countercultural figure in Silicon Valley, which I guess is why Ceglowski gets invited to give so many talks. For the money-obsessed tech-startup world, it's like having one of the zoo animals come to you.

7 comments:

  • Hmmm. I've been at a loss since the untimely death of Google Reader. Have had Pinboard recommended to me but might actually commit to it.

  • Well, Pinboard is a bookmarking service — for remembering what you read, rather than finding it in the first place. Google Reader was fine, but really no different than other RSS services: I'm a fan of Newsblur, but Feedly is good as well. RSS remains a much-underused technology!

  • I picked up a Pinboard account after seeing you praise it, and it's changed how I read online. I'm more apt to remember what I've read and it seems much easier to draw connections between articles--probably because I find myself scrolling back through snippets and reflecting on them. There's also been a lot more sharing links to articles after/during face-to-face conversations because of it. Whether that last is a boon or not is probably best judged by my wife and friends, though...

  • The two things I loved most about Reader
    (1) The community function of it--that is, I could see what people were reading and get a sense of their thoughts on it. Twitter somewhat duplicates that, but with a massive amount of other stuff thrown in.
    (2) I used it to keep track of what I had read by sharing things I found significant.

  • How does one find Pinboards worth following? I'm not really interested in using it for myself but I would be interested in what other people share.

  • An excellent question, Freddie — and there's not an easy answer. But, if you go to any given user's page, for Instance Rob Greco's:

    https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/

    You'll see at the upper right of the page, just above the tags, "See this user's network." Click on the word "network" and you'll see all the people Rob follows. If you find interesting people there, then you can do the same with them.

  • Ah thanks!

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