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Nowadays, the internet is full of interesting blogs, podcasts, videos, newsletters, tweets, ebooks, and documents. Managing all of this content can feel overwhelming, and often we find ourselves opening news tabs for all the content we want to go through. However, having many open tabs clutter our mental space, making it difficult to focus, thus decreasing our productivity. To solve this problem, we explore applications that enable us to create workflows around processing online content streams efficiently, save valuable items for later, and highlight important passages.
I recommend Feedly for managing feeds. By using Feedly, we can follow content on websites with feeds (RSS, Atom, etc) such as blogs and YouTube channels. With the pro version, users can additionally follow newsletters, Twitter, and Reddit. To help to organize all the sources, Feedly allows sorting them into categories. Furthermore, it supports content filtering, which helps to cut through the noise.
We can avoid opening new tabs or creating bookmarks for online content by using a service to save content for later. I recommend Pocket, a cross-platform application for saving articles and videos for later. Pocket aggregates full articles from websites, makes them into a reader-friendly layout, allowing page flipping and text highlighting. Compared to reading an article on its website, aggregation avoids embedded annoyances, like pop-ups. Feedly has similar features as Pocket, but Pocket aggregation is useful because some RSS feeds only provide the article summary, not the full article. You can save content directly from Feedly to Pocket. Pocket also integrates with Kobo E-readers.
I recommend using YouTube via the Mozilla Firefox web browser and installing the Unhook: Remove YouTube Recommended Videos Comments addon, which enables toggling on and off distracting elements such as recommended videos or comments on YouTube. The Content Blocker addon on Firefox removes advertisements from videos. Also, Firefox can play videos in the background on mobile, even if we turn the screen off.
We can use a podcast player to manage and play podcasts. Some features we should be looking for are a well-designed user interface, the ability to change the playback speed, and data synchronization to the cloud in case we switch devices. I am using Castbox, a podcast player with a nice user interface and cloud synchronization.
Unlike dynamic documents such as webpages, static documents do not change between the times you visit them. For example, electronic publishing produces static documents, such as electronic books and research papers, typically EPUB and PDF file formats. Ideally, publishers would publish documents in a dynamic layout (EPUB) because they adapt to the device’s display. However, many devices lack support for special formattings, such as equations, in dynamic layout. Hence, many publishers opt for fixed-layout (PDF), especially in scientific publishing. Because devices can adapt fixed-layout documents to device displays, they should create separate print and device-friendly versions of the document and publish the source documents.
In an ideal workflow, we would use a cloud-based application for managing documents and add documents directly from the web or computer to the application, which would handle the metadata. The application should synchronize the documents, passage highlights, notes, and bookmarks across desktop, mobile devices, and the web application. We should also be able to review highlights and notes, cite, and share documents. Currently, we have to use a combination of applications to achieve these features. I recommend using Calibre for managing electronic books and documents on a desktop. Calibre can also export books and documents to an E-reader. We can use Okular as a desktop document viewer that supports highlighting and other useful features. We can use Mendeley for managing research papers, articles, and citations. It can automatically fetch metadata for research papers and works on desktop, mobile, and web browsers.
We recommend using the Firefox browser for browsing social media instead of social media applications. As described in the Web Browser section, the browser improves your control over privacy and productivity by removing advertisements, distractions, and limiting tracking.
People should understand that social media platforms are marketing platforms where the users are the product, and the advertisers are the customers. Their business model revolves around keeping users engaged on the platform as long as possible to extract behavioral data and attention and sell it to advertisers. Therefore, unless you are using social media for marketing purposes, it is best to minimize social media usage.
Related to the rise of social media and its adverse effects on society, I recommend watching The Social Dilemma documentary film. To understand how different entities use technology to control our attention and its effects on society, we recommend the Your Undivided Attention, a podcast by Tristan Harris and Asa Raskin.