Curate Inspiration with Instapaper and Tumblr

The Techie Scheky series offers tips and tactics for being more productive and creative through technology (especially with a Mac).

A while back, I wrote about using Simplenote and Notational Velocity to capture inspiration. Whenever anything important comes into my brain, I make sure to quickly jot it down to ensure that my goldfish memory doesn’t lose it forever1. This works really well for my own thoughts and ideas, but it isn’t the best for managing the best content I encounter around the web. For a while I used a combination of Instapaper and Evernote to read, store and reference great content. While helpful, this really never did much for me… that is until I switched from Evernote2 and started curating quotes from my daily reading on my Tumblr blog, Smarter Than I Am.

And why on earth would I want to do that?

Sure, you can use bookmarking sites like Delicious or an external brain like Evernote, but in my experience, you rarely look back and use these. Sure, there will be that one day where you need some random article, but for most people and for the most part, we rarely go back. It wasn’t until I discovered3 the integration between Instapaper and Tumblr that keeping a record of where I’ve been on the web became useful.

With the exception of books4, I get most of my reading done in Instapaper on the iOS (read: iPhone and iPad) these days and this always amazing application makes it is easy to seamlessly share my favorite passages as quotations or posts over on Tumblr5. And Tumblr makes it easy to automatically send posts to Facebook and Twitter, so in addition to bookmarking, I’m actually sharing with my network as well. Selfishly, this little side project has also become a constant source of inspiration. I set Tumblr’s random post url from my blog as my home page and now, every time I open my browser, I am greeted with a tiny spark that helps keep me energized and inspired throughout the day.

But that sounds like a lot to set up…

Not really, it’s actually a pretty simple setup:

  1. Download Instapaper to your iPhone or iPad and create an account.
  2. Come up with a catchy title and create a free Tumblr blog6.
  3. In the Instapaper app, go to Setting > Sharing Accounts and log into Tumblr.
  4. Highlight, Share and Post great content to Tumblr as a post or a quote. You can go as crazy as you’d like making your Tumblr blog your own, but for the most part, that is all it takes to get up and running.

Curation is the gateway drug to creation

Writing regularly for the web is not a natural thing. It’s easy to get started, but nearly impossible to sustain7. When starting out, curation is easier, faster and a hell of a lot less frightening way to get things out there. It took nearly a year of hitting the publish button on Smarter Than I Am to get me anywhere near the point where I could write with any kind of frequency. This habit of curation and the constant inspiration curating gives me have served me well as I continue to struggle8 to share my nonsense with the world.

Geeky quick tip

Take advantage of Tumblr’s queue. This feature lets you set the frequency with which your posts go live. Since we often tend to read blogs in batches, you can easily end up in a world where you post seven things in one day and then nothing for a week. The queue lets you dole out your content on a more consistent basis. To set this up, set the “Create Posts As” option to Queued when logging into your Tumblr account in Instapaper. Then go visit the Queue when logged into Tumblr and set the frequency.

Queue | Tumblr

From then on out, it becomes easy for even the most inconsistent of bloggers (and no one has been guiltier of that in the past than me) to post daily.

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  1. Because there is approximately a 100% chance that it will.  

  2. Although I still get plenty of use out of Evernote.  

  3. Well, I didn’t discover it, per se, I just sort of noticed the button in Instapaper.  

  4. I use Kindle on the iPhone for books.  

  5. It is not at all surprising that these two play so well together. Especially when you consider that Instapaper creator Marco Arment used to be the Lead Developer over at Tumblr.  

  6. You may want to take 5 minutes to use one of their free templates to customize the look. Don’t worry, this is really easy to do.  

  7. Trust me. I’m speaking from experience here.  

  8. ‘Cause that’s what I do best.  

9 Responses to Curate Inspiration with Instapaper and Tumblr

  1. Many thanks for describing how to link Instapaper with tumblr. I’ve been looking for a way to create an index to the articles that I read on Instapaper. This lets me do that and, at the same time, toss in quotes & links. Very useful.

    One suggestion. You might expand on how you use the Instapaper/tumblr combination. After reading your post, I opened two tumblr accounts. One I may use for public posts. This other is for that Instapaper index and I’d like to keep it private. It’d be handy to know precisely how to set that up. It’d also be interesting to hear any other tricks you might have for the combination, including adding keywords and personal comments to those quotes.

    • Hey Michael, I would question if you’re possibly using the wrong tool for your personal storage. If there is one thing I’ve been learning about Tumblr is that its search features stink. You have a few ways you can go here. The first and simplest is to occasionally download your data from Instapaper. The second, is to sign up for the $1 a month support for Instapaper and get search capabilities. The third option would be to set up a Pinboard account. This works directly through instapaper and could be a great way to keep a copy of the articles you want to have around forever. This will cost you about $10 to sign up.

      Eddie Smith talks about how you can actually automate Pinboard and Instapaper here:

      I’m just getting started with Pinboard, so I can’t say that much about it yet, but I can tell you that geeks tend to rave about it and that’s always a good sign in my book. This way you can curate through Tumblr and archive through Pinboard.

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