Pocket: Stay on Top of Info-Overload

Tuesday, August 27, 2019
Michael Zunenshine
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“A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

— Herbert Simon, economist
 

As consumers of the internet, we don't necessarily want to lessen the information overload—there's a lot of great stuff out there. Popular reader app, Pocket exists to help you organize your attention.

Operating on desktop and mobile, Pocket lets you save, sort and search through your curation of digital content, online or off. It's a fast and lightweight app that lets you grab anything media online and pop it all into a tidy view, to be revisited in optimized viewing modes any time or place. 

Digging into Pocket

Grabbing content

You can use Pocket right away through a Google account or easily register an account. It works directly in Firefox, or as an extension button in other browsers. Then, it's just a matter of “pocketing” texts, images, videos, pages or apps.

With the mobile version, the app functions right on the phone's OS. This means you can save pages without even using a browser.

The content list you create is stored on Pocket's servers. However, you can also download your list as an HTML. 

Your list

The list that displays your selections uses the publication date as the default order, starting from the most recent. There are other sorting options, like by media type: text, video, image. If list-view isn't your thing, you can also lay it all out in a tile-view. 

To each item, you can add tags, star your favorites, see your read status, trash, and archive items, individually and in batches. You can also search based on these categories.

Revisiting

Pocket offers an Article View format where it displays your media in a distraction-free window optimized for the texts and images. You can change the text size and the backgrounds to choose from are white, black and sepia.

Or, if you prefer, you can view your content as it originally appears on the device's browser in Web View.

Highlighting

Highlighting is what changes a passive reading experience into an active learning one, so it's extremely useful for work or studies. 

When you highlight text in Pocket, you're given the option to post the article to social media with a comment or sync it to other apps like Google Keep. There's also a highlight filter in your main list, which shows you all your markings from every item.

Social Pocketing

Reading is often considered a solitary act. But sharing interesting content is absolutely social. Pocket has some great utility as a collaboration tool. 

Firstly, you can post directly to social media like Facebook and Twitter. What's more, if your social contacts also use Pocket, then you can easily share your Pocket content with them, or follow the content they pocket. 

For a small work team, study group, or community of organizers, this can really boost efficiency through same-page cohesion. 

Better text-to-speech

In October 2018, Pocket announced a new text-to-speech feature. They previously offered the feature, but its “robotic” voice needed some tinkering. 

The new text-to-speech software uses Amazon Polly, a machine learning technology that lets the computer-speaker understand the context of each word.

For example: “Did her opponent read the same report that she read?” The old speech tool might have mangled those verbs; for the new one, it's no problem.

Worth the upgrade

There's no reason to not download Pocket, as their 30 million users know. The free version just feels like a natural extension of the way one browses and saves content to be consumed later.

However, there are some significant reasons to go premium, especially at only $5 a month, or even better $45 a year.

With premium, you get unlimited highlights per article, a permanent library of all your saved content, and a much more robust search full-text feature. They also suggest “smart tags” every time you pocket a new piece.

When reading you'll get many more font options, including Ideal Sans—which Pocket claims to be the most popular. With premium, you can change the margins and line-height too.

Finally, there are no ads in premium. Since Pocket aims to help attention grapple with all this information, the less annoying distractions the better.

Born from necessity

Many of us know the feeling: We keep rows upon rows of open tabs, we email and text links to ourselves, we have drives and clouds and notes and docs strewn about our digital living spaces. Yet we build up these lists exponentially-faster than we can ever get back to each item.

Pocket's CEO and founder, Nate Weiner, is no exception:

I was always emailing links to [myself] about things I wanted to learn or articles I wanted to read,” Weiner said. “I never found myself coming back to [read] them. They'd just get lost in my inbox.”

So Pocket was born in 2007 to fix this modern pickle. 

First, it was just an extension for Firefox. Mozilla took notice of the little button's popularity and utility and decided to buy Weiner's company in 2017. It was then that Pocket became a fully-built-in tool, accessible right in Firefox's context menu (aka, the right-click).

Today, for Firefox users, Pocket even suggests new content based on your previous engagement patterns.

Attention > Information

The amount of content on the internet swells exponentially every single day. Some reports believe that by 2020, “1.7MB of data will be created every second for every person on earth.” 

If we follow the logic of economist Herbert Simon, who believes that information “consumes the attention of its recipients,” it’s going to be a full-time job just to stay on top of all that useful, informative, entertaining and motivating content flooding the web.

Pocket’s goal, according to Weiner, “is about helping people to consume great stories.” That is, don't let information-overload consume all your attention. By helping us stay organized, an app like Pocket puts us back in charge of what information we take in, which better equips us to make the most of it going forward.

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