I have noticed a slow change, over many months, to how I read content on the web. Instapaper was the only thing I’d use for saving articles that I wanted to read later and I never gave it a second thought. I needed a place to store links that weren’t long form reading though and rather than keep a local bookmark repository (before the days of iCloud), I turned towards Pinboard as a way to do that.
As luck would have it, over the last couple of years, as my uses for Pinboard increased, so have the iOS clients that support it. My current favorite is Pincase. It has a nice parser and some sweet discovery features. It smartly walks you through the creation of a shortcut in Safari that will load sites into Pincase almost instantly. I’ve been really happy with it as my iOS Pinboard client of choice.1
Still, reading things on iOS isn’t always what I want to do. I often safe longform links and want to read them on my Mac. I could read them right through Pinboard but I want to cut down on the visual clutter when reading longer articles. Safari’s “Reader” mode is quite nice but I found a way that I like better: Nick Wynja’s Paperback.
Paperback is a Pinboard reader which strips all of the visual clutter and formats the article in a nice font on a clean white background. There are some minimal Pinboard controls (like the ability to read the full article, read the original article and mark the article as read in Pinboard) but the site is largely set up to get out of your way.
As these tools and apps continued to proliferate and get better, Pinboard just gradually took over all of my “read it later” duties and Instapaper has fallen to the wayside. I currently save articles to Pinboard on my Mac using an Alfred shortcut. On my iOS devices, I’ll use the native “add to” controls in Tweetbot and Riposte. In Safari, I’ll use the Pincase shortcut described above. For apps that don’t support Pinboard natively, they will generally allow me to bounce out to Safari so I can use the Pincase shortcut anyway.
Pinboard is a pay service but it has been worth every penny. I can’t think of a more integral and important tool for how I personally use the internet. If you try it and just don’t “get” it, do yourself a favor and keep using it for a while longer. For me, it went from a intermittently-used, semi-convenient repository to something I use all day long.
An interesting post made its way into my newsreader today by way of Shawn Blanc 1. In it, Jeffrey Abbott goes into detail about a great way to archive your photos if you are an Adobe Lightroom user.
From an overview stance, the basic process is pretty simple.
- Import the photos
- Pick out the ones you want to keep
- Make edits — I usually adjust levels and play with white balance at the very least
- Export to .jpg format (save on computer, upload online)
There is some great belt-and-suspenders stuff in here about backups, catalog management and editing, which I can appreciate. I’ll be putting a method very similar to this into service as soon as I’m able. I have all of the pieces and parts (Lightroom, USB backup drive, Crashplan…all I’m missing is the NAS) so it shouldn’t be too hard to get set up.
I have gotten some feedback about my Taming My Inbox post and thought I’d clarify a few points. The questions were understandable because I glossed over a few items that can cause some head-scratching when you start digging into the details.
First off, Sanebox is awesome and you should sign up. Their staff and tech support is really great and recently helped me solve a problem that was a thoroughly boneheaded move on my part. I don’t have it fully integrated with Boxer but it’s still working really well for me. The Boxer team was responsive and they’re helping resolve my questions and @andreweye, the Founder and CEO of Boxer, responded on Twitter that they’d be putting together some video demos to explain how to best utilize the features down the road. That’s great news.
Spam collection seems to be doing a lot better on Fastmail over the last couple of days. I think the Bayes training just needed some more time1. I have been feeding it emails and it has gotten better and better. While Sanebox does a great job of wrangling email, there’s no harm in running your spam filtering as well.
I took a few steps to get spam filtering optimized on Fastmail from my iPhone (or anywhere other than my web browser). First, I set up two IMAP folders called “TrainSpam” and “TrainGood”. In the Fastmail settings, you set them up as training folders by going into the Advanced settings for Folders. Click on “edit” for those folders and set them up like this:
When a piece of spam makes its way into your inbox (which is rare with Sanebox), you can move it to the “TrainSpam” folder. The same goes for something that got inadvertently spam-filtered – move it to “TrainGood”. Every 24 hours, Fastmail will scan these folders and train your personal Bayes database.
If I had started using Sanebox prior to starting this process, I’m not so sure that I’d be putting in this effort since Sanebox has a folder called +SaneBlackhole. This folder is the place that is used to banish email which works in a more intelligent way than a straight-up spam filter.
I am actually preferring the +SaneBlackhole method these days for a very specific reason. When you sign up for things, it is a tacit agreement that you actually want them. If you get tired of receiving those emails, your choice is to unsubscribe, keep deleting them or mark them as spam so they get filtered out for you. The last option is suboptimal because people (and companies) put work and time those newsletters and, in some cases, rely on them for revenue. By marking them as spam, it may affect their livelihood as email servers start blacklisting their domains. That’s why I like +SaneBlackhole as a solution for that. From the Sanebox website:
When you place an email into @SaneBlackHole, all current and future emails from that sender will be sent directly into your Trash mailbox. This is a great feature if you don’t want to bother unsubscribing from a newsletter or no longer wish to see emails from a particular person.
@SaneBlackHole is not for SPAM or Junk Mail. It is meant to be used for legitimate email from people or services that you don’t want to see anymore. Please put any SPAM that you find in your Sane folders into your SPAM or Junk folder folder.
It seems like a great solution that should work for everyone - the lazy and the fastidious alike.
Keep the feedback coming and I’ll answer questions as I’m able. We have a crazy month ahead and I’m going to be crushed for time over the next few weeks but I’ll do what I can. The best place to reach me is ADN or Twitter but…um… I guess email works too.
I’m closing in on 400 spam emails in my Bayes database. ↩
I’ve been on a big push lately to eliminate the time I waste on email. David Sparks’s book Email - A Macsparky Field Guide was an incredible overview but focused a lot of attention on some tool solutions that I wasn’t necessarily interested in1. I feel like I’ve hit a sense of equilibrium with managing the deluge of emails across many different accounts and figured it was time to share.
For quite a while, my tools of choice were Mail.app and SpamSieve running on a Mac Mini. I would access email on my iPhone with Dispatch and, since SpamSieve was doing such an admirable job keeping my Inbox free of garbage, I rarely was bothered by unwanted emails while working remotely. The messages that hit my Inbox were the truly important emails.
Recently, a major downside to this method started to develop. The incoming emails would hit the Inbox of the Mac Mini but would still trigger an inbox notification on my iPhone before they could get moved to the Spam folder. The last thing I want interrupting me is spam. I’m not sure what changed with the timing between the two servers but it was starting to really bother me – my phone would buzz, I’d check it and not only was the message spam, but it was also not there anymore. That sucked (times two).
Around that time, Mailmate entered my life and it was innovative and flexible enough that I’d be able to build a decent workflow around it. My first task was to solve the spam issue and to do that I had to remove the Mac Mini/Mail.app/SpamSieve parts of the equation.
First, I turned off Mail.app on the Mac Mini. As expected, I was bombarded by spam no longer being trapped by the intelligent Bayes database of SpamSieve so I looked to Fastmail’s spam filtering to save me. In order for Fastmail’s user-driven Bayes database algorithms to work well, it needs a reasonable sample of “good” and “spam” emails for analysis so it took a few days of training to get to the thresholds required2.
Problem remained and they were three-fold:
The first step to solving this issue was to start using an iOS client that my friend Scott told me about – Boxer. Boxer is pretty good. It lacks some polish and feels a little too shoulder-to-shoulder with partners like Salesforce.com for my liking but it does have some nice features that put it in the same league as Dispatch.
There is one big downside – it doesn’t report message counts in folders anywhere that I can see. This makes using Sanebox difficult since you never know if there are emails that require your attention in the many folders it sets up for specific purposes. It is a good app though; probably the best iOS email client I’ve used so far. It isn’t exactly ugly, but it focuses on form over function and there’s a lot of room for improvement. I can live with that. I wish Sanebox integration actually did something helpful. More on that in a second.
The gist of Sanebox, for those of you unfamiliar, is that it looks at your email and siphons it into a set of helpful IMAP folders, leaving the truly important email in your Inbox. +SaneLater is the default folder into which it siphons things that are less of a priority. Given the somewhat subjective nature of what it is accomplishing (and with very little training), it is doing an amazing job knowing what I will find important. My Inbox and my iOS client have become unobtrusive and useful again.
With the right kind of account (I subscribed to the middle “Lunch” tier which gives you Dropbox attachment handling, five special-function folders and other features), you can send messages into more useful places. There are folders like +SaneBulk which saves things like receipts and order entries, +SaneNews which collects things like mailing lists or news emails and +SaneBlackhole which does things to your email which are as bad as it sounds5.
Once your emails are sorted into these trainable buckets, you can deal with them as you wish and at your leisure. You can delete them, train them as spam, “blackhole” them, tell Sanebox they are actually important and other handy things.
On really busy days, when you don’t have time to even peek at email beyond your Inbox, Sanebox will email you a digest of its folder activity. You can process the emails from the digest or at least skim it to know you’re not missing anything. I thought Sanebox was going to be a lot of hype but I am loving the service so far and I’m more than happy to pay for something that works this well.
As I mentioned above, Boxer supports Sanebox but I have no idea what that means. I ticked the feature in Boxer’s settings but nothing really changed in the app that I can see. There are some options that read “Setting up…” in my action palette so maybe they will become something useful soon? Who knows but here’s to hoping.
Overall, my email flow looks like this these days:
I do occassional triage on my iPhone using Boxer. I get two Sanebox digests a day - one at 6AM and one at 6PM - to let me know what got moved to my +SaneLater folder etc. When I have time, I sit down at my Mac and use Mailmate to process email quickly. It has hotkeys to shoot email to different folders and the Mailmate’s SmartFolders keep me aware of the big picture. I love writing email in Markdown using Mailmate so that’s another plus. It also has the ability to send email “to-dos” straight to OmniFocus which is a feature I find I’m using with increasing frequency.
Due to Sanebox, I only really see the important email in my Inbox and that makes it easy to keep my Inbox count at zero (like a gentleman). I’m happy with my current setup. Even though the parts that comprise it are disparate, they avoid Google entirely and are paid services and apps which hopefully means I’m helping build a sustainable service that won’t go away or get sold (to Google). Each part of the workflow serves a specific and useful function and they all work together to keep the email tidal wave looking more like a calm night at sea.
I pressed my SpamSieve “TrainGood” and “TrainSpam” server folders into use for this purpose and they worked fine. ↩
Affiliate links, ahoy. ↩
It unsubscribes from email lists for you or forever banishes emails from a given sender. It is the nuclear option and it is awesome. ↩