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Applications Semantic Web

Instapaper sold to Pinterest – at first I was afraid

The news that Instapaper sold to Pinterest shocked me from my early evening domestic routine. At first, it seemed like a mistake. It didn’t even seem like something that could happen but, sure enough, there was a tweet to confirm it:

As I read the blog post, I forced myself to slow down so I wouldn’t miss some vital detail about the fate of my favourite “read it later” app. It was all a bit of a blur, I just couldn’t believe it was happening.

The key paragraph was this one, the rest of the post was mostly filed for later analysis:

For you, the Instapaper end user and customer, nothing changes. The Instapaper team will be moving from betaworks in New York City to Pinterest’s headquarters in San Francisco, and we’ll continue to make Instapaper a great place to save and read articles.

Of course, Pinboard’s Maciej Ceglowski was in typical form with a series of sarcastic tweets about the sale that included a hefty dose of “I told you so” (as you would expect). He made a few good points that concerned me more than a little and prompted me to think more about my investment in Instapaper:

So far, more “I told you so”. And then he raised an issue I hadn’t thought much about:

This next one worried me …

… until someone replied with this:

Abandon ship?

The way the conversation was going, you’d think the Instapaper service was being shut down.

I’ll admit, I jumped to that horrible conclusion. I’ve seen many services that I loved and used just shut down out of the blue or languish after a bad acquisition.

Still, I wasn’t ready to give up just yet.

Instapaper’s CEO, Brian Donohue challenged Ceglowski’s suggestion that Instapaper was in financial dire straits and inspired enough hope to move beyond the panic and start assessing the news more rationally.

Straight and true

Marketing Land published an article that pointed out how this acquisition could actually make a lot of sense. In his article titled “How buying Instapaper could help Pinterest become a media portal like Facebook”, Tim Peterson highlighted the synergies between the two services:

People use Pinterest and Instapaper for similar reasons. The similarity is almost too close for the deal to make sense. Pinterest started out as a way for people to collect content from around the web for themselves and others to check out later. At first, people were mainly saving images, but they’ve also started saving articles, to the point that Pinterest considers that “a core use case.” But saving articles is the same reason people use Instapaper — its “core use case,” if you will. So why would Pinterest buy a company whose product largely duplicates its own?

It’s a fair question and, as Peterson suggests, this could be more about putting two similar services together and using the Instapaper team’s know-how to improve Pinterest. For now, at least, Instapaper doesn’t seem to be at risk of vanishing. According to Peterson:

Instapaper’s service will remain available post-acquisition, and Pinterest has no plans to put ads in Instapaper, according to a Pinterest spokesperson.

Still, so soon after the news I panicked and downloaded Pocket to my iPad. I have an IFTTT recipe running that adds stories I save to Instapaper to my Pocket queue so I wouldn’t lose much if Instapaper inexplicably vanished.

I also created a series of IFTTT recipes that captured my Instapaper notes and highlights into MultiMarkdown-formatted notes after the Great Pinboard Shock of 2016 so I wouldn’t lose too much of that data either.

The big loss, to me, would be the loss of an app that I use daily and really enjoy using. Pocket could be an acceptable replacement (I used Pocket regularly for a while before I decided to switch back to Instapaper). While I’d lose some functionality if I had to switch, switching would be more a matter of installing the various Pocket extensions and apps.

Will Pinterest be a good steward for Instapaper and give the team the tools it needs to keep making Instapaper better? I hope so. Ultimately, if it all goes badly, there are other options. If Pocket doesn’t capture my affection, I could always switch to Evernote even though the reading experience isn’t even close. I’m getting ahead of myself.

For the time being, I don’t need to (or want to) change anything. I pay for my Instapaper subscription for a year at a time and, assuming the service will continue operating as promised, I can keep doing what I’ve been doing (after a quick backup of my links).

Categories
Useful stuff

Is Pocket Premium worth it?

I noticed this update to Pocket this morning.

Pocket, the service that lets users save articles, videos and other types of content to consume later on mobile devices and the web, is adding a paid tier. On Wednesday, the company launched Pocket Premium, which adds permanent archiving (rather than just link caching), tagging and search capabilities on top of its basic free capabilities. Pocket Premium is $4.99 a month or $44.99 a year.

(Via GigaOM)

My first thought was that my Instapaper subscription already gives me access to my archives with full text search but then, again, Instapaper doesn’t capture copies of all my articles as far as I am aware.

On the other hand, I can capture copies of the stuff I want to retain with Evernote (I am about to renew my Evernote subscription for another year). There is probably a way to configure a recipe in IFTTT to automatically capture items saved in Pocket (or Instapaper for that matter) into Evernote. You can already save full articles in Evernote from Pocket and Instapaper manually.

Another option is to use an app like Reeder to save articles to Evernote too (also a manual process).

I like Pocket. I’ve switched back to Instapaper because of the highlighting feature (which prompted me to renew my subscription – $3 for 3 months) and it works pretty well for me. The Instapaper parser could use some work so I still have Pocket as a backup.

Still, for people who are not Evernote users, just want to save stuff and keep it for later reference and like Pocket (there is a lot to like) then the Premium subscription isn’t a bad deal at all.

(Update 2014-06-08): I just realised there is another option that works pretty much the same way as the Pocket archival option. Pinboard, the awesome bookmarking service, offers this as a $25 a year premium upgrade:

For a small annual fee, Pinboard can download and store a copy of every page you bookmark, for your own private use.

Enabling archiving will also enable full-text search for your bookmarks.

Categories
Mindsets

Make a decision and don't be an ass about it

I’m warning you now, this is going to seem like a pretty petty post but here I go anyway.

I was sitting with my iPad last night catching up on some reading. I have developed a habit of saving stuff I want to read to both Instapaper and Pocket. Both are terrific apps and each does a couple things better than the other. At the moment I am leaning more towards Instapaper but I’ll probably swing back to Pocket at some point for a while. That is sort of how I use app alternatives, I switch between them from time to time.

I noticed that my Instapaper subscription was marked as “inactive” and when I investigated I discovered that I had just paid for 3 months, although I had paid using a PayPal subscription I’ve been using since 2010 and it occurred to me that I hadn’t updated the payment references since Betaworks bought Instapaper from its creator, Marco Arment.

Instapaper subscriptions are a way to support app development and includes features like archive searches. It is a terrific app so I am happy to pay my $3 for 3 months at a time. When I saw that I had paid and that my subscription wasn’t active I became a bit annoyed and my first thought was to do what so many Twitterati members do when faced with something that displeases them: declare hatred for the service that didn’t live up to my absurd expectations as publicly as I could before moving completely to the competition. Because that is the mature way to really show them!!

That moment really caught my attention and I realised that so many of us have developed this self-righteous attitude and rather than being a real grown-up and resolving a situation, going public on Twitter with our few hundred or thousand followers seems like the way to throw our perceived weight around. I’m still including myself in this because although I have made a point of not being such a drama jerk online for a while now, my first thought was to be just that. Clearly I still have some way to go to reach a more balanced perspective on life and what it doesn’t owe me.

I sent an email to Instapaper querying this and I received a pretty quick response apologising and confirming that my subscription was loaded. What occurred to me is that it is usually better to try and resolve an issue maturely before exploding in 140 characters. The second thing I realised is that, sometimes, we should just make a decision instead of constantly switching between multiple options. This last lesson is still a little hypothetical because I still like Pocket and Instapaper and still save stuff to both but, really, I should just pick one and be happy with my choice.

We seem to have a knack for complicating our lives far more than we should, if we should.

Also, try not to be such an ass. You are probably not as important on Twitter as you think you are so develop some perspective.