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.

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.