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Ask HN: How to manage my bookmarking habit?
87 points by agrocrag 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 67 comments
Hey there! Long time reader (and bookmarker) of HN. I wondering how others deal with an obsession to bookmark things. I constantly scan HN all day and few other sites and bookmark things I fear I'll miss or could be useful in the future.

This nasty habit has accrued 10k+ of bookmarks/pocketed articles/saved threads. I'll never get around to reading them all but I have a ton of anxiety of removing them. I feel like a digital hoarder.

Any advice on how to set me down a path to change this habit?

Don't worry about the bookmark collection you already have. There's no pressure to read through it and no pressure to throw it away. That's the great thing about a digital hoarding habit -- it doesn't fill up your house and disrupt your life like physical junk would.

If you're concerned about the time you spend scanning through HN and creating the bookmarks in the first place, what you should do is replace that activity with something else. Concrete example: I decided to eat less junk food, and the way I did it was by filling the fridge with healthy foods which I could eat whenever I got the urge for a snack. It's much easier to replace than abstain.

Yes, I do think that often cold turkey with some alternative is the only way to change.

FWIW, I struggle with the same thing and this thread has prompted me to try and do something about it.

Considering that it seems that quite a few other people have the same problem, perhaps it's an idea for those of us who feel troubled about our 'digital hoarding' to collectively try and detox (at least for a while to see how it feels)? Perhaps a 'Junkless July' and a follow-up Ask HN at the end of that?

Sounds like a good idea, I'll put a reminder for myself to ask on 1st Aug.

I'm in!

Hi my name's Ian and I'm a digital hoarder.

I totally agree on the digital hoarding. Just so happens that my mum is a physical hoarder - and that is much worse than a digital one.

I have 10872 links inside pinboard.

I think there is a big connection between my timewasting and wanting to hoard links.

I've managed to trim down any other bookmarking applications so that I just have pinboard. I'd highly recommend this, pinboard is beautifully simple and keeps very focussed on doing nothing but bookmarking. So that at least you don't waste any more time than just bookmarking.

Most people here seem to advise about ways of making it easier to bookmark things.

I however have tried to make it harder for myself to bookmark things. I've deleted all the shortcuts / browser plugins that I had to quickly save and tag things. So the only way to add URLs is to do it by going to pinboard itself and manually typing in the URL and title plus tags.

It's a small hurdle but it does slow the flow.

Edit: this got my bookmarking down from 5-20 a day to 2-3 a day.

Now I just need to find my local bookmarking anonymous meeting.

Have you ever taken a hiatus from new content and focused on reading what you've bookmarked? Has the bookmarked material ever served a use?

No never, I could never read all that I've bookmarked.

It's purely there so that if I have a problem and I vaguely remember that I came across a solution that there's half a chance I can search for it in my bookmarks and find it.

It does serve a use on occasion - I typically star a bookmark that I came back to.

I've starred 74 out of the 10000 bookmarks that I've got. But I've been bookmarking for 10 years and only 'starring' things for about a year.

So ~7% (74 / 1000) I come back to.

You are confirming that you don't use the bookmarked material as resources to solve your problems and recognize how challenging it would be if you were to do so. :)

I gave up relying on starred repos as resources and just give them for recognition. I find repos just fine when I actually need them.

I wrote a github star purge script that would blow your mind if you were to use it -- no more stars!

I'd say I'm confirming that I use the resource about 7% of the time.

I use github stars in a similar fashion to you - just recognition. It's also kind of like Hansel and Gretel's breadcrumbs - it's just a note to say 'I was here' to myself on the github repo.

I'm using pinboard stars differently though - it actively means that I've come back to that resource, it would be as if you could give a gold star to a github repo if you actually downloaded the code. I guess you could fork it, but I only fork something if I want to make changes rather than just use it.

You may find this very abstract but from my experience I think it also boils down to what your life priorities are. Having clear understanding of your horizons of focus, as referred in GTD [1] will help in sorting out what is important to you and what is not.

I find it also important to maintain a wont-do list of things that are not important to me (and I thought they were).

Ex: I thought running marathon was important to me. Turns of semi-regular to gym is what is important to me. So any link/article related to marathon, extreme workouts/fitness that I come across is glanced and closed peacefully.

I think this will help you let go bulk of links without causing anxiety. HTH.

[1] http://gettingthingsdone.com/2011/01/the-6-horizons-of-focus

Figure out what you really want to learn and accomplish. I've found that as I understand the fundamentals better and have a comfortable workflow, checking out cool new stuff doesn't seem so necessary.

I keep a lot of personal information organized. I go thru bookmarks about once a week and move them to text notes. Something I want to learn? It goes into an anki flash card. General reference? Goes into my markdown notes, or I might edit the appropriate Wikipedia aricle instead. Helpful for a side project? Toss it the project readme for later.

I also use something like Trello (zenkit) to keep a long list of "maybe never" projects where I can toss cool stuff I'll probably never get into. These may be organized as well, so if I see something cool about say, game programming in C, I can toss it into the existing maybe never game coding project note.

Also, if I have unread bookmarks that can be understood/used without coding, I read them on the go with my phone as much as possible.

Here's something that has worked for me - before bookmarking, decide if the article is something you need in the immediate future (within the next couple of days) or is it something that you might need to refer to at some later date.

If it is something you need now, email yourself that article [1], send it to your kindle [2] or save it to a separate board on Trello. Delete it once you are done with it.

For the second case, use an app like Pocket or Instapaper [3].

[1] https://www.emailthis.me

[2] https://www.amazon.com/gp/sendtokindle

[3] https://www.instapaper.com

I made a lot mind maps and then a search engine to solve this. It has been working pretty well so far. :)

Here is the search engine : https://learn-anything.xyz/

Wow, that's a great pearltrees.com replacement!

Can I use it personally/privately already?

Can I selfhost it?

Can you make it available on GitHub?

Can you make the CTA-Button (call-to-action) more visible? I haven't edited links, but would you consider making editing/moderation similar/better than wikipedia?

What about import/export, that would be a killer feature and allow you to keep your site closed-source, but make FOSS clients that asynchronously add/receive benefit.

Try marketing at more visibly at http://alternativeto.net/software/pearltrees/

Thanks, now I have to bookmark this.

I hear you. I am almost up to 18k bookmarks. Not bragging either. Classification becomes increasingly difficult. However, I can rcmd a couple/few helpful plug-ins...


[Use Chrome Extensions (or similar add-ons/apps in alternative browsers)]

0.) Search Bookmarks (Enables searching your bookmarks from Omnibox; type b-m-space in your omni and then term(s)/keyword(s) for the bookmark(s) you are searching for... they will appear in the suggestion drop-down... or, press return to search bookmarks using Chrome Bookmark Search, which will match the term(s) you've entered): https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/search-bookmarks/m...

Two other worthwhile mentionables:

1.) Bookmark My Tabs: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/bookmark-my-tabs/d...

2.) OneTab: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/onetab/chphlpgkkbo...

Think of it as stocking a library. You're not supposed to read an entire library.

I use Firefox and the "PlainOldFavorites" add-on. This means each bookmark is created as an individual .url file in the Favorites folder. Once a week or so I go through it and delete or move each .url file to the most appropriate folder in my personal library of topics. i.e. If I bookmark something about a new kind of map projection it goes in the ref/cartography folder. This folder can contain any kind of file from any source (i.e. saved html, epubs, software, csv files etc etc). If I want to know something about cartography, I look in my own library first as it's typically focused on resources I value most. I also have folders called "must read today/this week/this month/this year"

I easily have 10,000's of urls filed away like this. This also has the bonus of being private, backup-able, offline and with no external dependencies.

I posit that any sizeable (personal scale) media storage system that separates media by type is obsolete with digital media. A separate system for bookmarks, file-typeA, file-typeB, etc means you have to search multiple isolated db's for each search.


Post XP, Windows handling of the .url file association is a dumpster fire. Just drag n drop the .url file directly onto a Firefox window to open it.

You can easily change the location of the default Favorites folder if desired.

If it's just a static document at the url, save it as html before link rot finally gets it.

> If it's just a static document at the url, save it as html before link rot finally gets it.

Don't do it (as it saves a lot of files - js, css, images, besides some of those could have malicious code...). Just pdf-print it in Chromium and bookmark that pdf in FF with the same tags.

I set up Firefox so that the url bar autocompletes only from my bookmarks. And since years I've been constantly and linearly bookmarking. When something has an outstanding feature, I add a/some tag/s. I maintain areading list in Org mode but I plan to move it to Firefox as bookmarks tagging them as "unread". Maybe I can make a little extension that will add a button to tag them so automatically, and list them in a popup. For retrieval I haven't ever needed anything else than just searching from the url bar.

It's okay that you won't ever return to them. Because one day you'll want to retrieve a specific one and then you're better off with an excess of bookmarks among which what you were looking for, than having an organised list but without what you're searching.

If you are spending toi much time chasing new links on reddit, what works for me is to limit my sources (hn and reddit only for me) and sometimes to have an offline week, proving myself that I can live without being on the top of everything.

While I don't have anywhere near 10,000, I have accumulated 800 bookmarks over the years.

If you're anything like me, then your problem isn't so much that you're a hoarder. It's that your input / output is extremely imbalanced.

You have this feeling of "man, but that article is probably really good...I don't want to miss out", but then you never read it in the end because you put it on the back burner.

Lately (for the past couple of months) I give myself about a day to read the content I bookmark. If I "can't make the time" for it, then it must not be important enough so it gets deleted.

This input / output imbalance is probably due to not taking enough action. If you're working on XYZ project, and you find a blog post that relates to it, then it's a no brainer to read the blog post as soon as possible so you can apply what you learn.

If you have nothing to output, then you have little reason to read the things you bookmark. Tech moves too fast to bookmark everything. The only time I would really bookmark a tech post for later is when the content tackles a really hard problem, or it's timeless advice.

Btw I use Google Keep to organize bookmarks and it helps a lot because you can tag and archive them. It's very helpful for making sense out of a large number of bookmarks, and lets you archive them after reading them, so you don't lose the URL in the end.

Also, in your case I wouldn't spend time organizing your bookmarks. That is just busy work preventing you from getting real stuff done.

So, the habit change is to ask yourself why you're bookmarking so much. Once you can identify the problem, then the solution is usually pretty easy. Hey, what do you know, life is almost like programming!

Organize them into folders. All of them, with no exceptions. Having to take an action on each one will lead to removing many. Hoarding is a symptom of procrastination.

This. In my experience I've found plain bookmarks arranged in a sensible hierarchy of folders to be the most portable and incurring the least unnecessary cognitive load on me. Unfortunately once you allowed them to build up uncategorised, the effort to shelve them away properly will appear arduous. But better late than never.

You are a digital hoarder.

My advice: Delete it all. If you need it bad enough, you'll find it again. It's digital.

With 10K+ bookmarks you'll never organise it.

An alternative (but imo too hard with 10K+) use some kind of hoarding 'zen' approach - look at the link - if it brings you an emotional response - keep, else delete.

I'm conflicted now on whether to bookmark this conversation or not. :) But in seriousness, I go through this cycle every few months but nothing really sticks. I've given up trying to change my habit. Edge cases always come up that justify the need for bookmarking.

Instead, I'm looking to leverage these bookmarks as a custom knowledge base. My current thinking is to just build a search app with a database from my bookmarks (i use pocket and its search is decent but not great), which lets me retrieve articles based on context and lets me take notes against articles.

Think of it as a cross-indexed commonplace book, but not tied down to folder hierarchies.

Evernote doesn't work for me cause I obsess over folder hierarchies to the point where its OCD. Search is what works for me.

Tag and release.

I use Pinboard and have 6.5k links saved. I bookmark things not to come back to them, but so I can get them out of my browser and off my mind. I tag things as they go in (the auto-suggested tags make this fast), and I don't stress about whether I'll ever look at them again. Then if later I find I do want them, they're just a quick search away. And indeed, I do come back and dig things out with some frequency.

(This is a piece of the GTD mindset, but since it's digital it's effectively free--no file cabinet full of folders you have to sort through.)

I did try to apply this somewhat - I would by default list all my bookmarks as 'to read'. Then I didn't feel the need to read them, just dump them and get on with my life.

Then if I ever came back to them, then I would mark them as read and star them.

However I found this doesn't really cure the addiction (I still would endlessly go searching and bookmarking articles.), but it did help and got me less precious about dumping an article.

So I think you do have to go through this stage.

Hoever now, I'm simply trying to make it harder for myself to bookmark (only manually via the 'add URL' link in pinboard), so I now end up only bookmarking about 1 in 3 of the articles I open. I'm less concerned about just closing the tab.

I declare bookmark bankruptcy every several weeks by doing a hard reset after exporting all my bookmarks from Chrome and deleting all the bookmarks except the ones in the toolbar (the ones I really use). Next, I email that bookmark file as an attachment to myself in Gmail and a filter puts it in a bookmarks folder. Usually, if I am searching for something and can find a couple keywords in the title, the bookmarks attachment is found in the Gmail search and then the actual bookmark can be found by viewing the entire bookmark file.

For things that might be useful in the future, I'll just rely on Chrome's history and my own memory (and ability to search for it in Google) to find it if/when needed. That's worked pretty well. Sometimes the search takes a little longer than expected because I'll have to recall the context of where I originally read about it. Remembering that context will often help me find a way to locate the site again.

Alternatively, for articles and content that looks interesting and I want to read, I'm using Pocket on my browser, phone and tablet. Everything I want to read gets saved to Pocket. When I find myself with 15 minutes and looking for something to do, I pull out Pocket, read an article or two and delete them. I do fear that I'll never get through the entire Pocket list though. Maybe I need to take some more long flights to get through this backlog. Pocket is just a different method of digital hoarding though.

I'm not a fan of saving 1000s of bookmarks because that's not really building a collection that I'll consume. I see some people constantly opening new browser tabs with the intent of coming back to read it, which is really just a more ephemeral version of the bookmarking solution.

TLDR: a few bookmarking management tricks and accepting some basic truths about my bookmarking habits has really helped me.

I used to spend a lot of time organizing and metadataing my bookmarks - this was back in the day when I used Opera, which had better bookmarking capabilities than Chrome - but stopped once I realized I never clicked on most bookmarks and that I was just wasting time and causing myself anxiety because I had hundreds of links that I was supposed to explore in my todo folder.

Today I just use Chrome's built-in bookmark manager to handle 50-100 bookmark across three folders:

* "tools", "articles": these are references that I use frequently enough that I want to be able to find them through the address bar. I almost never bookmark articles because I know that I can always find stuff thru google (I have maybe only 20 articles bookmarked). Also, Chrome's internal search engine is so mediocre that it often fails to find bookmarked articles so why bother in the first place. It really helps me to remember that content curation on the web is so fine grained and available for the most specialized topics that I know I can get high quality links collections on any topic imaginable because even my very specific problems, questions and curiosities are shared by millions of people.

* "todo": this is just a collection of articles, clips, movies and music that I couldn't fully explore in a minute or two when I first stumbled upon the link. If a bookmark has been in this folder for more than a few weeks, I just delete it. Truly good content tends to be shared and re-shared by millions of people so nothing worthwhile disappears on the web.

I use https://getpocket.com as a "bookmarks manager", which offers some additional features over your standard browser bookmarks menu. Basically, you store articles in a personal queue and can archive them when you're done, and everything is searchable.

One way to think of this is that being a "digital hoarder" is way less destructive than being a physical one. Digital storage is cheap these days. You don't need to remove any bookmarks (or "saved articles" as Pocket calls them), since they'll just be "old articles at the back of the queue, which may be interesting to browse sometime in the future, but if I'm not interested I'll just ignore them and look at the front of the queue instead, since the stuff I've saved recently more likely lines up with my current interests."

Pocket also suggests recommended articles for you to read (which I suppose could just add more stress to your system) but I've often found their recommendation algorithm to be pretty good.

I used to have the same problem(, I still have).

I had accumulated over a thousand bookmarks and was having trouble deleting them. "I want to learn {subject} some day, so cannot lose this article". Related was the issue of not able to close my browser because I easily can have 30+ tabs open at the same time. Again the same fear, don't want to lose track of that new article on ML.

Something that helped me relieve the pain a lot was to start using OneTab extension for Chrome. OneTab allows me to close tabs without feeling guilty. OneTab keeps track of the links so that I have a way of getting them back if required, and at the same time - it removed the necessity for me to bookmark them individually and organising them and obsessing over them.

So in the end, I still keep the links around in OneTab, but I have found that it is much better for my stress levels that having to hoard the links in my main (chrome) bookmarks.

TEN THOUSAND? And I thought I was bad, I have a couple hundred.

You have to set aside a block of time to go through them and categorize them and be honest: I have one lifetime. Will I ever really use this?

There is a threshhold on diversification of your focus, beyond which you will ruin any chance you ever had of accomplishing anything.

I'm at 11,688 bookmarks now ಠ_ಠ. I'm certain that many of them could be deleted, and periodically I'll scan through a section of the list and delete the ones that are obviously no longer of interest to me.

I started using a CLI bookmark manager called "buku" [0], storing the bookmarks database in a Dropbox folder to get multi-system sharing.

One nice feature is after running a search you get dropped into an interactive buku prompt where you can do further searches, open results in a browser, and edit entries.

My motivation for the switch was that I kept encountering issues (mostly performance) when using a high number of bookmarks maintained by the browser. And then there's the hassle of moving all of those bookmarks if I switch browsers again. It has been a positive experience overall.

[0] https://github.com/jarun/Buku

I have 13k over 10 years.

Edit: not proud of it.

I hear ya

Personally I'm just glad I'm not alone. 10872 on pinboard.

On HN, you can bookmark articles and comments simply by upvoting or favoriting them. To find them later, use the links at the bottom of your user page:


I have the same problem. have 163,836 bookmarks as of today thinking i will get to them one day, Would be better to use some kind of machine learning , nlp to organize and make it publicly accessible someday or When a better summarizer comes along will use it to skim through.

I have them too - usually technical stuff but occasionally interesting articles I don't have time to read immediately/ever. I do housekeeping every so often. I have archives from stumbleupon and del.ico.us. I have them in regular topic folders but also in 'Now', 'Just now', 'Later' and 'Sometime' as well as saving tabs for projects I am working on, one of which would be to devise some way of prioritising bookmarked sites in internet searches over stuff I've not seen before.

Or we could just stop. Let's just stop. Shall we stop? I don't think I can stop.

Try to read and take notes (I do it on paper) as you find new things. Shelving things for the future is futile and I have stopped. The really good stuff gets sent to instapaper and starred with an appropriate tag.

I use Pocket on Mac and iOS. In Chrome on Mac, it has HN integration (via an extension IIRC).

    80 points by agrocrag 19 hours ago | flag | hide | past | web | 62 comments | favorite | save to pocket

And, here's some alternatives: https://alternativeto.net/software/pocket/

Other alternatives are:

- use browser-specific cloud sync across devices

- using OS tricks to move the bookmarks file to a cloud file service like iCloud, OneDrive, Google Drive, Box, Dropbox, SpiderOak, etc.

Why do you feel you need to change this habit? The only thing I think needs changing is the bookmark management system. I also have a ton of bookmarks. They serve as a sort of personal search engine. I just wish the bookmark manager would actually index the pages so that I can search through content as well. (I also want it to be FLOSS and self-hosted. None of this proprietary Cloud SaaS stuff that can go away at any moment)

And as someone else said, link rot is a real issue. mostly alleviated for me by Archive.org + an extension. But actually saving the pages would be better.

Re Index and Search

You can save the whole article in Evernote. That makes it searchable.

Maybe you should try only bookmarking things that you can successfully write a paragraph about.

Why is it significant? What did it make you think about or feel? How would you like to use it?

Bookmarks manager is't useful for me. I have a lot of bookmarks too and use https://bubblehunt.com for this.

It is search platform, where you can get free full-text search engine for your resources.

You can upload resources without any limits and get access to your information with search. Now it's beta, in this month coming massive updates (migrate to React, autocomplete and so on...)

Personally, I don't bookmark anything anymore. I have zero bookmarks.

Chrome history and autocomplete are great, and as said before, links rots over time. My memory and Ctrl+H do the work.

I don't have a huge memory, but if I forgot something it is probably not very interesting.

Of course, sometimes, I forget some URL and I spend a little time searching in the history. But it is worth nothing compared to managing thousands of bookmarks.

Chrome looks so nice without the bookmark bar :-)

The habit of bookmarking is due to information overload we have nowadays. One thing we tend to forget is even if we were to read every blog on say python it wouldn't make us better programmers because of the amount of conflicting information.

My suggestion will be to loosen up. Find some people you like to follow and read those articles only. Nothing is gained by worrying about "not knowing".

If you take a book and highlight everything, it's the same as highlighting nothing. Same with bookmarks. You need to keep them meaningful.

I use Evernote rather than bookmark, which you get organized with nothing but folder structuring. It's totally hard to manage, validate, and find when you want to.

Evernote, on the other hand, provides a creative means: taking a note on your own way. By creating a Notebook and a Note, you can give a brief statement of the linked articles, which could come in useful for later full-text search.

I understand you. I have ~30.000 bookmarks. That's because I centralize everything there. I don't like videos or music or pictures or... on YouTube, Facebook, SoundCloud,... I bookmark them. That's less privacy issues to worry about. I organized all my bookmarks because I am reblogging them on my different websites, so I organize them by websites.

Here's how I managed to sort out my bookmarks

-Bookmark only those sites which I regularly visit -Use the reading format for the articles I like to reread -Save them as PDF in the specific folder related to work -Delete those files which don't make sense anymore -Print the folder and read it when the need arises

Links rot over time.

That's why I stopped bookmarking and started notebooking. Evernote as a personal knowledgebase.

Xmarks is a great app to save them.

I also have thousands of bookmarks I rarely look into or use. BUT when I do go through them, I'm happy and find interesting stuff I'm glad I did go back through...so I'd say save away the great stuff, just like you save great photos.

I find https://www.reread.io/ really helpful for this - it'll e-mail you an article a day from your pocket list.

It's a shame that browser bookmarks couldn't serve as likes..

I use buffer to queue up my bookmarks across different services. It looks like I'm posting stuff on social networks, but really I'm just backing up links I find interesting.

I use safaris reading list and bookmarks. 95% of stuff goes into the reading list where it's easy to purge. It's nice because it syncs across phone and laptop.

If you want to research something in the future, what makes you think your collection of bookmarks will be better than a reading list you find / create on the spot?

Just wanted to say thanks to everyone. Tons of advice and encouragement. I'll be going all July without a bookmark and then go from there.

Avereage link life on web is half a year or so. People forget even faster. Bookmark only things that you are going to use in one month.

In this age of cheap storage and intelligent search, digital hoarding shouldn't be a liability. I use the Evernote Web Clipper.

I accumulate more than I should:

image -> Pinterest

link -> TXT file (YAML notation) with lists of links according subject.

Periodically I delete some, however lists keep growing..

well I have 10k bookmarked domains alone, who knows how many booksmarks for each domain... Tell me how many MB is your bookmark file - if you use firefox - and I'll tell you mine, last time it was over 50MB.

Actually my Firefox became super heavy and I didnt investigate yet why. The problem is not bokmarking but to have a browser that can handle it.


I put all my bookmarks into my shaarli instance, so it doesn't slow and clog chrome.

Only bookmarks I regularly need go into the chrome bookmarks.

you might have "todo anxiety", that your unread list is some kind of depth that just keep growing. its easy to get rid of though, just delete it all.

use pocket[1]


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