I wanted a simple self-hosted read-it-later service, something akin to Instapaper and Pocket, but without the overheads involved in running something like Wallabag.
Failing to find one, I wrote my own, and have just released it to the wilds.
It is very very simple, and uses Andres Rey’s php port of Mozilla’s Readability.js to grab pages for reading. There’s no interface to speak of, just a lightweight api with POST and a DELETE calls exposed. All files are saved as flat html, with a json index. No databases.
While writing it I’ve been prototyping it on my own site, and have been loving the experience. Its like the web, but the way it should be. If anyone else finds it useful, that’s a bonus.
See how much I read in Pocket this year!
According to Pocket’s account I read 766,000 words or the equivalent of about 10 books. My most saved topics were current events, science, technology, health, and education.
The most popular things I apparently saved this year:
The 100 best nonfiction books of all time: the full list by Robert McCrum • theguardian.com
Is Your Child Lying to You? That’s Good by Alex Stone • nytimes.com
How Actual Smart People Talk About Themselves by JAMES FALLOWS • theatlantic.com
The Fall of Travis Kalanick Was a Lot Weirder and Darker Than You Thought by Eric Newcomer, Brad Stone • bloomberg.com
The female price of male pleasure by Lili Loofbourow • theweek.com
I’ll have to work at getting better to create my own end-of-year statistics since my own website has a better accounting of what I’ve actually read (it isn’t all public) and bookmarked. I do like that their service does some aggregate comparison of my data versus all the other user data (anonymized from my perspective).
Pocket also does a relatively good job of doing discovery of good things to read based on aggregate user data in terms of categories like “Best of” and “Popular”. They also give me weekly email updates of things I’ve bookmarked there as reminders to go back and read them, which I find a useful functionality which they haven’t over-gamified. Presently my own closest functionality to this is to be subscribed to the RSS feed of my own public bookmarks in a feed reader (which I find generally useful) as well as regularly checking on my private bookmarks on my websites’s back end (something as easy as clicking on a browser bookmark) and even looking at my “on this day” functionality to review over things from years past.
I’ll note that I currently rely more on Nuzzle for real-time discovery on a daily basis however.
As an aside while I’m thinking of it, it might be a cool thing if the IndieWeb wiki received webmentions, so that self-documentation I do on my own website automatically appeared on the appropriate linked pages either in a webmention section or perhaps the “See Also” section. If wikis did this generally, it would be a cool means of potentially building communities and fuelling discovery on the broader web. Imagine if adding to a wiki via Webmention were as easy as syndicating content to a site like IndieNews or IndieWeb.XYZ? It could also function as a useful method of archiving web content from original pages to places like the Internet Archive in a simple way, much like how I currently auto-archive my individual pages automatically on the day they’re published.
Pocket CEO Nate Weiner on how local data processing is the future of personalized recommendations.
Nice to see people and companies iterating on new feed reader functionality–particularly ethical ones.
Intent on Twitter is often so muddled, this is the last thing some might worry about. (Yet it’s still a tremendous tool.) Pocket has browser extensions, and I know the one for Chrome has settings one can toggle an icon to appear on Twitter to allow bookmarking things to read for later directly within your Pocket account, which is generally a reasonable experience.
I think the much stronger and better solution for one’s personal commonplace book is to simply add these intents to one’s own website and either favorite, bookmark, mark as read, repost, reply to, annotate, highlight, or just about “anything else” them there and syndicate the appropriate response to Twitter separately. (Examples: bookmarks and reads.) This makes it much more difficult to muddle the intent. It’ll also give you a much more highly searchable set of data that you can own on your own website.
Why wait around for Twitter or another social service to build the tools you want/need when it’s relatively easy to cobble them together for yourself on a variety of opensource platforms? While you’re at it, remove some of the other limitations like 280 characters as well…
According to Pocket, I’m still in their top 5% of their readers/users despite the fact that I cut way back on using it this past year in strong deference to using other feed readers including one built into my website.
Apparently I read 678, 617 words in their app this year which according to them is the equivalent of reading 14 books. To ballpark things I think I read 5 times as much in other apps. Now I don’t feel quite as bad about my poor Goodreads numbers.
Whether it is how we write or stay organised, technology is always adapting and evolving. Here are a few of the recent changes to my digital workflows.
An interesting philosophy of regularly changing workflows. I’ve done this for a long time, but never really given it a name.
There’s a nice tip about the Listen functionality in Pocket which I hadn’t yet heard about. I’m also curious how they’ve implemented highlighting and what I might do with it.
I suspect that if Aaron hasn’t come across Huffduffer as a tool yet (with a bookmarklet), he’ll appreciate it for both discovery as well as having his own audio feed to push to his mobile player.
We are excited to announce that the Mozilla Corporation has completed the acquisition of Read It Later, Inc. the developers of Pocket.
I’ve recently been attempting to own all of my online bookmarks and online articles I’d like to read to replace services like Pocket and Instapaper. While I feel like I’m almost there using PressForward, there are still one or two rough edges.
One of them is creating a simple mobile workflow to take headlines from Twitter and get them into my reading queue. Previously I had used an IFTTT.com recipe to take things I “liked” in my Twitter stream to strip off URLs and put them into Pocket for reading later. In fact, very few of my thousands of likes in Twitter are traditional “likes” because I’m really using that functionality to indicate “I’d like to read the article linked to in this Tweet at a later date”. Somewhere in the past couple of months I’ve mused to at least one person on the PressForward team that it would be nice to have a simple indicator to send articles from Twitter to PressForward like this, but even if I were building it all by hand, this would be a bit further down the list of priorities. What to do in the erstwhile?
RSS has long been going out of fashion, particularly among the major social silos who want to keep you in their clutches, but it dawned on me to check to see if Pocket or Instapaper provide RSS feeds. Sure and gloriously enough, they do! In fact, Pocket has an unread feed, an archive feed, an all items feed (that includes both of the other two), and as a lovely additional touch, they’ve even got the ability to make feeds private. Instapaper has RSS feeds too, though they were a bit more hidden and took a right click/view source along with a manual completion of their base URL. The nice part is that one can take these RSS feeds and plug them straight into one’s PressForward RSS feed et voilà there they are on my own site! (From the viewpoint of PressForward, this is also very close to being able to nominate items directly from Twitter.) While this is more of a PESOS feed, the result is a no-brainer and provides a near real-time experience that’s more than adequate for my needs (at least until yet another silo goes down).
And as added bonuses, if I feel like using Pocket or Instapaper from time to time, I can do so without loss of data along the stream and the small handful of people with whom I interact on Pocket won’t notice the fact that I’ve disappeared.
For the millionth time, G-d bless RSS, a wonderful tool I use every single day.
As many know, for the past 6 months or so, I’ve been slowly improving some of the IndieWeb tools and workflow I use to own what I’m reading both online and in physical print as well as status updates indicating those things. 
Since just before IndieWebCamp LA, I’ve been working on better ways to own the articles I’ve been reading and syndicate/share them out to other social platforms. The concept initially started out as a simple linkblog idea and has continually been growing, particularly with influence from my attendance of the Dodging the Memory Hole 2016: Saving Online News conference at UCLA in October. Around that same time, it was announced that Pinterest was purchasing Instapaper and they were shutting down some of Instapaper’s development and functionality. I’ve been primarily using Pocket for several years now and have desperately wanted to bring that functionality into my own site. I had also been looking at the self-hostable Wallabag alternative which is under heavy active development, but since most of my site is built on WordPress, I really preferred having a solution that integrated better into that as a workflow.
I’ve been looking closely at PressForward for the past week and change as a self-contained replacement for third party services like Pocket and Instapaper. I’ve been looking around for this type of self-hosted functionality for a while.
PressForward was originally intended for journalists and news organizations to aggregate new content, add it to their newsroom workflow, and then use it to publish new content. From what I can see it’s also got a nice following in academia as a tool for aggregating content for researchers focused on a particular area.
It only took a minute or two of looking at PressForward to realize that it had another off-label use case: as a spectacular replacement for read-later type apps!
In an IndieWeb fashion, this fantastic WordPress plugin allows me to easily own private bookmarks of things I’d like to read (PressForward calles these “Nominations” in keeping with its original use case). I can then later read them on my own website (with Mercury f.k.a Readability functionality built in), add commentary, and publish them as a read post. [Note: To my knowledge the creators of PressForward are unaware of the IndieWeb concept or philosophies.]
After some playing around for a bit and contemplating several variations, configurations, and options, I thought I’d share some thoughts about it for others considering using it in such an off-label manner. Hopefully these may also spur the developers to open up their initial concept to a broader audience as it seems very well designed and logically laid out.
The developers obviously know the value of dogfooding as at least two of them are using it in a Pocket-like fashion (as they many not have other direct use-cases).
PressForward includes a beautiful, full built-in RSS Feed Reader!
This feature alone is enough to recommend using it even without any other feature. I’ve tried Orbit Reader and WhisperFollow (among others) which are both interesting in their own rights but are somewhat limited and have relatively clunky interfaces. The best part of WhisperFollow’s premise is that it has webactions built in, but I suspect these could easily be added onto PressForward.
In fact, not just hours before I’d discovered PressFoward, I’d made this comment on the WordPress Reader Refresh post announcing the refresh of WordPress.com’s own (separate) reader:
Some nice visual changes in this iteration. Makes it one of the most visually pretty feed readers out there now while still maintaining a relatively light weight.
I still wish there were more functionality pieces built into it like the indie-reader Woodwind.xyz or even Feedly. While WordPress in some sense is more creator oriented than consumption oriented, I still think that not having a more closely integrated reader built into it is still a drawback to the overall WordPress platform.
- It’s IndieWeb and POSSE friendly
- It does automatic link forwarding in a flexible/responsible manner with canonical URLs
- Allows for proper attributions for the original author and content source/news outlet
- Keeps lots of metadata for analyzing reading behavior
- Taggable and categorizable
- Allows for comments/commenting
- Could be used for creating a linkblog on steroids
- Archives the original article on the day it was read.
- Is searchable
- Could be used for collaboration and curation
- Has Mercury (formerly known as Readability) integrated for a cleaner reading interface
- Has a pre-configured browser bookmarklet
- Is open source and incredibly well documented
- One can count clicks to ones’ own site as the referer while still pushing the reader to the original
- Along with other plugins like JetPack’s Publicize or Social Networks Auto-Poster, one can automatically share their reads to Twitter, Facebook, or other social media silos. In this case, you own the link, but the original publisher also gets the traffic.
No clear path for nominating articles on mobile.
This can be a dealbreaker for some, so I’ve outlined a pretty quick and simple solution below.
No direct statistics
Statistics for gauging ones’ reading aren’t built in directly (yet?), but some scripts are available. 
No larger data aggregation
Services like Pocket are able to aggregate the data of thousands of users to recommend and reveal articles I might also like. Sadly this self-hosted concept makes it difficult (or impossible) do have this type of functionality. However, I usually have far too much good stuff to read anyway, so maybe this isn’t such a loss.
Adding the ability to do webactions directly from the “Nominated” screen would be fantastic, particularly for the RSS reader portion.
Default to an unread view of the current “All Content” page. I find that I have to filter the view every time I visit the page to make it usable. I suspect this would be a better default for most newsrooms too.
It would be nice to have a pre-configured archive template page in a simple linkblog format that filters posts that were nominated/drafted/published via the Plugin. This will prevent users from needing to create one that’s compatible with their current theme. Something with a date read, Title linked to the original, Author, and Source attribution could be useful for many users.
A PressForward Nomination “Bookmarklet” for Mobile
One of the big issues I came up against immediately with PressForward is ease of use on mobile. A lot of the content I read is on mobile, so being able to bookmark (nominate) articles via mobile or apps like Nuzzel or Twitter is very important. I suspect this may also be the case for many of their current user base.
Earlier this year I came across a great little Android mobile app called URL Forwarder which can be used to share things with the ubiquitous mobile sharing icons. Essentially one can use it to share the URL of the mobile page one is on to a mobile Nomination form within PressForward.
I’d suspect that there’s also a similar app for iOS, but I haven’t checked. If not available, URL Forwarder is open source on Github and could potentially be ported. There’s also a similar Android app called Bookmarklet Free which could be used instead of URL Forwarder.
PressForward’s built in bookmarklet kindly has a pre-configured URL for creating nominations, so it’s a simple case of configuring it. These details follow below for those interested.
Configuring URL Forwarder for PressForward
- Open URL Forwarder
- Click the “+” icon to create a filter.
- Give the filter a name, “Nominate This” is a reasonable suggestion. (See photo below.)
- Use the following entry for the “Filter URL” replacing
example.comwith your site’s domain name:
- Leave the “Replaceable text” as “@url”
- Finish by clicking on the checkmark in the top right corner.
Nominating a post via mobile
With the configuration above set up, do the following:
- On the mobile page one wants to nominate, click the ubiquitous “share this” mobile icon (or share via a pull down menu, depending on your mobile browser or other app.)
- Choose to share through URL Forwarder
- Click on the “Nominate” option just created above.
- Change/modify any data within your website administrative interface and either nominate or post as a draft. (This part is the same as one would experience using the desktop bookmarklet.)
Given the data intensity of both the feed reader and what portends to be years of article data, I’m left with the question of hosting it within my primary site or putting it on a subdomain?
I’ve also run across an issue with the automatic redirect which needs some troubleshooting as well. Hopefully this will be cleared up quickly and we’ll be off to the races.
In the interests of cool data, I’ve collected information about every single piece of content I read on the internet (and some of the…