Sometimes we just get away from ourselves. I wrote up the post below, built the web site discussed, actually got the whole thing up and functioning nicely. That was before I saw that InstaPaper already had an excellent clipping function built in, out of the box, already there and waiting for me, and that it would do the exact same thing as the system I designed.
So let the attached be a memorial to all those poorly thought out development projects, the ones best deliberated more deeply before begun, the one’s best killed when they are young, at the initiation stage, before we do the palm-to-the-forehead-slap of realization, the cruel knowledge arriving of just how much time we just wasted…
Making a Reading Notebook From a Private Web Site
I’ve been keeping notes on my reading for years. Pre-PC I jotted notes on 3 x 5 cards. Post-PC I typed notes in various electronic formats. Pre-web I cut out and filed articles. Post-web I saved them with a few clicks. For a manic and frustrating period I began scanning all my old paper articles until I abandoned that Sisyphean task. These notes, in all their formats, go back a decade or more, and their maintenance was a significant factor in the creation of my File System Information Manager.
Over the past three years managing my fiction writing has taken greater emphasis in the FSIM, but I still capture a lot of random notes and text from my non-book reading. (For my book reading I have a separate process called “Readers Notes,” that works directly in the FSIM.) But I’m reading on the iPad now so my old system doesn’t work any longer.
For a long time I PDF’ed most articles. I’d read the PDF and not the web page, highlighting and annotating as I went along. These files make up the bulk of the “Topics” category in my FSIM. The benefits of the PDF format is the retention of the graphical layout of the page, which can have subtle information in it, highlighting is easy, and so is notation. The downsides: The files are big and there’s a multi-step PDF generation process. An addition benefit is, as others have commented, that the PDF format, along with ASCI text, is about as future proof an archiving format as we will find.
For a while I grabbed articles as WebArchives, which I found unsatisfactory, or as HTML, which was better, but was not functional for annotations.