How to Clear Your Pocket Backlog and Start Fresh

I expect that many users of Pocket and similar read-it-later apps have difficulty staying on top of the ever-growing list of content waiting to be consumed.  Either the queue fills faster than you can keep up with, or you miss clearing it out one day and before you know it, you’ve got 14,000 articles waiting to be read. (If Pocket users on Android want to find out how many articles are waiting to be read, you can download the DashClock Extension for Pocket app, add the widget to your home screen, and then sign-in in the app’s settings.  If you didn’t feel overwhelmed by your Pocket backlog before, perhaps you do now.)

 

​If you want to ​start fresh, you can clear out all of your old articles and tags, leaving you with the same account and a blank slate.  Before deleting everything though. you may want to save a list of all the articles in your account in case you want to begin re-adding these articles to your account later, or just want a record of their existence.  To do that, follow my Pocket Export guide.

 

When you’re satisfied with your Exported list, and are positive you want to delete all of your data (Maybe take a few hours to make sure this is a step you really want to take), go back to Options, and select the Privacy option above Export.
Export
Within the Privacy options, click Clear My Online Data.  This page will warn you that what you’re doing cannot be undone, and ask you to check the box ensuring that you want to do this.  This will delete all of your articles and tags.  If you’re sure you want to do this, check the box, and click Delete My Data.
Clear Online Data
Now your Pocket account is a blank slate, and this time, I’m sure you’ll manage to stay on top of the articles flooding in.  Or you’ll be back in a few months to try this process again.  I’ll be here for you.

How to Back Up Your Data in Pocket

Pocket2While the odds of losing the data you have stored in Pocket or similar web services is relatively low, it never hurts to have a backup just in case something bad happens.  Someone could get into your account and delete it all, and without a backup, all your years of read and unread content could be unrecoverable.

Pocket doesn’t have a true back up function, but there is a way to at least keep track of the article names, links, and read or unread status through the Export feature.  Here’s how:

From your Pocket List, click your name in the upper right-hand corner, and click Options.  From there, go to the bottom and click Export.

Export Export HTML

This will export an HTML file listing all of the articles in your account, sorted into My List and Archive.  Your tags will not be included, and articles you’ve Favorited will be within My List or Archive, without any indication that they were Favorited.

Put this file in Dropbox or Google Drive or Crashplan or an external hard drive.  Anywhere this file will stay safe if you ever need it.  Don’t forget the 3-2-1 Backup Rule.

It’s not a perfect solution, and there’s no way to import this file back into Pocket, other than manually re-saving each article, but given the choice between this and losing years of reading, this is a start.

Big Eyes (2014) Review

*Spoilers*

 

 

Big Eyes was a fine movie, nothing amazing. It was an entertaining story, but I knew most of the story going in.  That’s not the movie’s fault, but I think the movie would be much more enjoyable if you had no idea what would happen going in. The tone of the movie felt wrong because of the 50’s style and the score. It felt too upbeat and Danny Elfman-y for the content of the film. The acting was pretty good, although Amy Adams often sounded flat. I also didn’t really like Amy Adams’ character, which took away from the end of the film.  I was glad it ended the way it did, but I wasn’t standing up and cheering because I wasn’t a huge fan of her character.

My Article Reading Process

*This post is outdated*

Pocket Article ReadingReading articles online is a great way to learn new information, learn new skills, and keep on top of current events.  Unfortunately, many services that attempt to make reading articles online easier often lack important features or cause as many problems as they solve.

My Article Reading Process

Last week, I decided to update my article reading process.  Previously, I used Feedly (and before that, Google Reader) and Pocket for my article reading.  Over the past several years, I had built up a good number of articles, but rarely got around to reading through them.

At the start of this project, I had gotten up to about 7000 unread articles (which I found using this Android Widget), but couldn’t find an easy way to see how many articles were in my Read and Favorites sections (about halfway through this renovation, I figured out how, which I’ll explain below).  These issues, combined with a few features that Pocket was lacking (number of Articles Read each day, Mass Tagging) led me to seek a new home for my articles.  After reading some guides online, I decided that Evernote would be a good place to store my articles. It already contained much of my life, so it seemed natural to give Evernote my articles, too.  I signed up for Evernote Premium to increase my data upload capacity, and started clipping my Favorite and Read articles from Pocket.  Because these were the two groups of articles that I couldn’t track, I decided to get them out of the way first.

Using the Evernote Web Clipper (which unfortunately doesn’t let you remove ugly aspects of the article before clipping it), clipping the articles, tagging them, and finding a notebook for them (I’ll share my Tag and Notebook list at the end of this post) was easy, but time consuming.  I was able to clip between 50 and 1000 articles per day, depending on how much work I put into it, and after 8 days, had gotten through 2454 articles, ~800 of which were from my Favorites. Once my Favorites were finished, I didn’t have a strong desire to keep the articles that I read, but didn’t Favorite.  I also figured out that by going to Pocket Settings, and Export, I was able to export an HTML file listing all of my articles, divided between Unread and Read (It looks like Favorites are not marked, and are included in whichever list they’re in in Pocket).  By pasting this list into Excel, I was able to use the cell counts to determine how many articles I had.

At this point, I decided that the remaining Read articles were not worth my time, and I began deleting them.  The number of Read articles was all I really cared about when I started this project, and as long as my Favorites were already saved, I was fine deleting the articles.  I still have the full list from the Export, if I need to reference it in the future. So at this point, I knew how many articles I’d read, how many I have unread, and had all of my favorites saved so I can refer to them later.  I briefly changed Feedly to automatically send my unread articles to Evernote instead of Pocket and decided Pocket was just going to be used to clear out my unread articles, but soon realized that Evernote was unruly for dealing with unread articles.  This has been my process for about a week, and now I’m about to slightly change it up again.  Because of the way IFTTT (I’ll include the recipes I use at the end of the post) processes articles into Evernote, only an excerpt of the article gets clipped.  This is fine, because I don’t need full articles in Evernote, but it does make it slightly annoying to read through my unread articles.  I have to click the link, go to the website, read the article, and then go back to Evernote, tag it, and move it into the Read folders.

Today, I decided that Pocket is going to remain the home of my unread articles.  It’s a much easier process to read articles in Pocket, at which point I will tag them and mark them as Read in Pocket.  Then IFTTT will send the read article (with Tags) into Evernote.  I also have articles I mark as Favorites sent to a separate Favorite folder in Evernote. This updated process accomplishes all the goals I set out to achieve and is almost as easy (the increased difficulty is worth it, because it allows me to see the article counts). I have noticed some slowing down of Evernote, I’m not sure if it’s due to the increased number of notes (I went from ~1000 to 4028 in two weeks), because I’ve also noticed some slowness in my computer as a whole.  Here are my Article Tags and Article Notebooks that help me sort all of these articles.  I also have a file called Article Stats, which includes my Tag List, how many articles I deleted without clipping, and my original Pocket Account Exports.

Article TagsArticle NotebooksTools I Use

Evernote
Pocket
Feedly
IFTTT
Feedly to Pocket
Email for New Articles
Email New Favorited Articles
Save Read Articles to Evernote
Save Favorited Articles to Evernote

My Recommendations

  • Choose a process that works for you, and that you can stay committed to.  My process is pretty intensive due to how much information I want to track.  If you only care about saving and reading articles, only using Pocket or a similar service may work better.
  • Plan for the future.  If you think you might want to track your article reading later, it’s better to formulate a process that allows you to do so now, even if you don’t take advantage of it until later.  Switching 10,000+ articles between multiple services is not a fun endeavor.
  • Automate as much as possible.  It’s a lot easier to keep this process going if you can automate several steps.  The steps I can’t automate (like manually writing down daily article counts), I complete as part of my daily routine.  Completing it at the same time each day is as close to automating as I can get for now.

Closing Thoughts

I’ll update this post to let you know if I experience more slowness, or if I change my process any more.  Let me know your article process or if you have any questions.

My Reaction to the How I Met Your Mother Finale

I should get this out my head while it’s fresh, so warning: How I Met Your Mother Finale spoilers below the picture.

How I Met Your Mother

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was a great show, and theoretically, it is a really great ending.  There have been a lot of subtle hints that this was how it ended throughout the years.  The problem is that we picked up on a lot of the hints.  There have been people claiming that the mother was going to die, and claims that Ted would end up with Robin for years.  And the show started with Ted going after Robin.  The ending became incredibly predictable.  And that isn’t the worst part.  The worst part is, after so many years (and after meeting the mother, who is awesome and perfect for Ted), we wanted it to finally be okay.  We wanted Ted to be happy.  This isn’t Game of Thrones, it’s okay to have a happy ending once in awhile.  I think if, at the end of the episode, the mother had walked in, and said something to the effect of “You guys have been in here for hours, what are you talking about?”, and the kids said “Dad was just boring us with the story of how you met,” and they kiss, and then end it, I’d be happier.  But there’s no shock value in that (not that that should matter, but for some reason it does these days), so instead the mother needs to die.  I’m fine with that.  A bittersweet ending.  Things don’t always go perfectly, and sometimes life sucks.  “And that is how I met your mother.”  That would have been a great ending, too, and would probably have left me in tears.  But the show had to continue beyond that point.  He had to go back for Robin.  After an entire season of “Are Ted and Robin going to end up together?” and then finally “No, Ted is finally giving her up.”  It feels like a stab in the back for Ted to go back to Robin.  If most of Season 9 hadn’t existed, and Ted would have ended up with Robin after the mother’s death, it would have been okay.  But all of that time building up to Ted finally giving up Robin, only to turn around and go after her again is not a satisfying ending.

I think that’s all I have to say about it.  Here are some of my favorite Reddit posts on the subject.
http://www.reddit.com/r/HIMYM/comments/21wocw/the_scene_missing_from_the_finale_hi_tracy_its_me/
http://i.imgur.com/vrdWePy.jpg
http://www.reddit.com/r/HIMYM/comments/21xsar/the_real_biggest_takeaway_from_the_last_couple/
http://www.reddit.com/r/HIMYM/comments/21xbp4/himym_how_it_should_have_ended/
http://www.reddit.com/r/HIMYM/comments/21w6nx/the_exact_moment_the_episode_should_have_ended/
http://www.reddit.com/r/HIMYM/comments/21vr9r/spoilers_season_finale_written_and_directed_by/

Did you like the ending?  Do you agree or disagree with any of my opinions?  Let me know.

 

How I Work

Here’s my version of How I Work from the Lifehacker Series.

How I Work

Location: Twin Cities Area, MinnesotaHow I Work - My Computer

Current Gig: Results Processing Coordinator, Lifelong Learner

Current Mobile Device: *Update!* T-Mobile Moto X

T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S2 running CM 10.1.3, Nexus 7 running CM 10.2.  Waiting for dat glorious KitKat ROM.  (And considering purchasing a Galaxy Note 3.)

Current Computer: Custom-built mid-range computer and a 17” HP Pavilion dv6 laptop that desperately needs to be replaced by an Ultrabook.

*Update* Replaced the laptop with a Chromebook.  It has its pros and cons, but it works much better than the old HP.

One word that best describes how you work: Prioritizing.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
Evernote is my main productivity tool.  I have a to-do list for every day that I move to a to-done list when the day is over.  I’m also starting to re-work Microsoft OneNote into my tool-list, since TiddlyWiki wasn’t working out for me.  I’ve always got at least 3 Chrome tabs open (Fantasy Football, Facebook, Gmail, MyFitnessPal, Fitbit, Google Music, Reddit, Pinterest, Amazon…  3 is low for me).  Dropbox and Airdroid are great for transferring files across devices.  Using the Microsoft Office Student Edition has been one of the best choices I’ve made in the past few years, after using LibreOffice for half of my college career.  VLC for video watching, Handbrake for video converting, Steam for friend-talking.  As far as tools, mostly my PC, phone, and tablet.

What’s your workspace like?
Pretending to be clean, but actually really cluttered.  I like having things I’m using, or will be using in the future at the ready, so it’s all just sitting on my desk.  I clean it once or twice a day, but there are always things that it’s just easier to leave on the desk.  It’s a nice workspace though, a decent-sized desk, with my PC and laptop, speakers, headphones, external hard drive, wireless keyboard and mouse, wall-mounted TV with DirecTV service, and Xbox 360 (9 days until Xbox One).  Good for multi-tasking and ingesting excessive amounts of media.

What’s your best time-saving trick?
I serve as tech guru to my friends and family, and as such, spend a lot of time trying to figure out what’s wrong with their devices, and how to solve the problem.  To answer all of their questions, I have an advanced degree in Google-Fu.  Not a doctorate yet, but I am able to solve a majority of their problems, and save myself tons of time by being fluent in Googlish.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?
I’ve tried Astrid, Wunderlist, and a handful of others, but the only one to stick has been Evernote.  I’m going to work on having a Bullet Journal along with Evernote (starting tomorrow, I’ll let you know how it goes), but one of the best parts of Evernote is how centralized it is to use one service.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?
I think my tablet has been one of the best investments.  I used to have a 10″ tablet that was really clunky and unresponsive.  Then I got a Nexus 7 for Christmas, and it’s a completely different experience.  It’s great for reading, games, and not clogging up my phone with apps.  I’m also a fan of my Fitbit (although will happily replace it when a better generation of tracking devices comes out).

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?
Oooh, this is a tough one.  I’d say I’m one of the best media trackers on the block.  Using Trakt.tv to track which movies and TV shows I’ve seen, own, and want to see, Goodreads to track books, an Excel spreadsheet to track music (I haven’t been able to find a service that allows the monumental level of music tracking that I’d like, so I have to use my own low-tech solution for the time being.  I’m a fan of other types of tracking (hence the Fitbit), but I’m not an expert at any of that yet.

What are you currently reading?
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, and A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin.  I’m a pretty slow reader, but also want to read all of the things in the world, so I read multiple things at the same time.  I also have a backlog of hundreds (possibly thousands) of articles on Pocket and Saved Links on Reddit to read.

What do you listen to while you work?
I have a large collection of music that I’ve uploaded to Google Music, and every couple weeks I make a new playlist of work music.  It’s usually pop or alternative or rap, and it’s the same music I listen to whether I’m working or not.  The top listens are the likes of Lupe Fiasco, Yellowcard, Relient K, Death Cab for Cutie.  I also have to remain faithful to the musicians and popular songs that I discovered (A Great Big World, Secrets by OneRepublic, and several others).

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
Definitely an introvert.  I love hosting parties and get-togethers, and when I get talking with interesting people, I have a great time, but I definitely recharge when I’m alone.

What’s your sleep routine like?
Pretty regular, 7-9 hours.  Fall asleep between 12 and 2 AM, wake up between 8 AM and 10 AM.  I’m sure that will change when I get a job, but I’m enjoying what I’ve got (and utilizing those night time hours as personal recharge time).

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see ______ answer these same questions.
Elon Musk, Marissa Mayer, Laszlo Bock, Albert Panello, George R. R. Martin.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Another tough question.  I dunno if anyone ever actually told me this, but my family and general upbringing taught me patience and adaptability, which are traits that I recommend everyone try to cultivate.  I think the world would be a very different place if we weren’t always rushing, and if we could all roll with the punches a little more.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Breathe.  Just breathe. :)

Fitbit Flex Review

On August 23rd, to reward myself for a job well done on a work presentation at my internship, I bought myself a Fitbit Flex.   Almost two months later, here’s my review of the product so far.

My Fitbit Flex
My Fitbit Flex

Originally, I was planning on purchasing a Jawbone UP which, in my opinion, has a better look, and a handful of superior features (ideal nap alarm and syncing by headphone jack).  My brother persuaded me to get the Fitbit instead, and upon unboxing it, I was happy with my purchase.  After charging the tracker, and inserting the dongle into my Desktop PC, I was met with a message indicating the device driver was not installed correctly.  I tried the dongle on my laptop, and the driver installed fine, which had me confused.  I later contacted Fitbit support who responded (on a Friday evening, and through the weekend), and sent me a new dongle in under a week (which didn’t work at first either, but spontaneously started working the following night).  They suggested I recycle the defective dongle, but since it works just fine on my laptop, I am fortunate enough to have a dongle for each now.  After the month I spent hardly using my Fitbit due to the dongle mishap, I’ve been using it daily.  The step counter seems to be pretty accurate, the online dashboard is incredibly informative, and it has been really helpful in changing my habits.  The device also plays really well with other online services.  I have the Fitbit service connected to MyFitnessPal, and MyFitnessPal connected to RunKeeper, so I track my daily food intake through MyFitnessPal, and any cardio exercise I do through RunKeeper, which all gets synced to my Fitbit (although through a decentralized series of programs).

Happy Face! - Today was my best day.
My Fitbit Dashboard

I do have a handful of problems with the Fitbit Flex, however.  First, the clasp is both hard to connect with one hand (it is two plastic ridges that snap into the other end of the rubber bracelet) and occasionally gets painfully caught on arm hair.  The dashboard, while informative, is occasionally hard to navigate (it took me nearly twenty minutes of hunting and Googling to figure out how to change my steps goal, because the goal number and goal method are in different locations on the website), and the desktop software isn’t very helpful (it has three options – set up a new Fitbit device, sync Fitbit device, or go to the Fitbit website).  I think I would be much happier with the product if I had a Bluetooth 4 enabled phone (phones without Bluetooth 4 cannot sync with the device; they have a list of supported devices on their website).  And finally, sleeping and setting alarms on the Fitbit are clunky.  To set alarms, you have to use the online dashboard, so you can’t do it right before bed like you would with a cell phone or alarm clock, and to put the device into sleep tracking mode, you have to tap the device, which is also how you show your progress toward your daily goal.  So it occasionally takes several minutes of tapping the device to finally get it to go to sleep.  The device will also go into sleep mode while I’m biking or clapping which is a definite letdown.

Just this week, Fitbit announced the Fitbit Force, which includes a superior screen (the Flex’s screen consists of 5 dots, which light up in a couple of patterns to display information) that displays time, and your progress.  It also appears to have one button, which lets you cycle through displays.  Here is a brief review of some of the new features from Gizmodo.  The Force does not seem to a fix a number of concerns I had about the Flex, however, which is unfortunate.

If I were to purchase a new device today, it would either be the Jawbone UP or the Fitbit Force.  Although fitness devices are going through rapid changes at the moment, and I believe unless you really want one this minute, you’ll be better of waiting a year or two for drastically superior models.  Fortunately, if you do want a device now, they only cost between $100-$150, which is worth the utility and the amount of time you’ll be using the device.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below and I’d be happy to answer or discuss.

As a side-note, another thing that would really make this purchase better would be a Fitbit Aria Smart Scale (or a Withings Wireless Scale), which would add a really useful dimension to fitness tracking and automating the whole process.