Thursday, May 23, 2024

Photographic Memory for Web Surfing

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So here you are again, reading another online article you think might give you a hot tip, or inspire a new way of doing things. (You’re right, so keep reading.)

What if I told you about the most amazing Web site in the world — would you still remember it six months from now? Or will it join that invisible pile of links in the sky — awesome recourses you’ve discovered over the years, but forgotten?

I’ve found that even the most active and able seekers of new sites and new resources might be skillful in finding, but unskillful in keeping.

Sure, there are plenty of ways that various companies have made it possible to retain links — bookmarks, customizable start pages, social bookmarking, etc.

I’ve found all these link-capturing approaches lacking in either capacity, survivability or usability.

Here’s my confession — I maintain a “start page” that’s very old school. It’s an HTML file with hundreds of links on it that I have maintained since the mid-1990s.

When I find a new link I don’t want to forget, I add it to my page, then upload the file via FTP, replacing the old version. Every once in a while, I go through all the links and delete the obsolete ones, and “tweak” the links that need updating. I use the one posted online, so I can access from other people’s computers, and on my laptop. The copy on my desktop gets swept up in my normal data backups.

My page contains a built-in Google search box, plus links for posting and maintaining my various web sites; research sources; a variety of reference sites; Internet radio stations; analyst sites; big-file sending sites; Web development and design tools; exotic search tools; news feeds; links to submit “letters to the editor” for various newspapers; Photoshop tips — the list goes on and on.

The page is a lifesaver, figuratively speaking, and I use it all day, every day.

I strongly recommend that you make your Web discoveries more “sticky” by creating and maintaining your own reliable place to capture links, and use your page as your browser’s start page.

The ideal page has the following characteristics:

1. Categorization. Make sure you can quickly find the resources you’re looking for, even if you have thousands of links.

2. Speed. If you’re going to use it all the time, keep it simple, avoid fancy widgets and other stuff that relies on outside resources.

3. Freshness. When you find an obsolete link, kill it.

4. Relevance. Don’t just grab cool stuff — make sure the resources you retain will be useful in the future.

5. Clarity. Sometimes the name of a resource tells all. Other times, you need the link to explain it. Make sure you can understand what the link is.

6. Organization. Put frequently-used links at the top in a special category.

That’s my system. It’s old school. It’s ugly. It’s the opposite of Web 2.0. But I’ll tell you this: It has survived for more than 12 years, and I still have very old links that come in handy.

Do you have a better system? If so, I’d love to hear about it — and write about it. Send your method of site capture to:

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