Do you own your data?
I have 3,855 Instapaper bookmarks collected in the over 10 years since I signed up for the service. That’s a lot of reading! The beauty of Instapaper is that it saves a text version of these webpages to its database, allowing you to preserve the original words of the article before it (usually) disappears from the Internet. Instapaper is also a great learning tool, since it allows you to highlight and notate your articles as well.
Instapaper has changed hands a number of times over the years. Initially written by Marco Arment, it was sold to Betaworks in 2013 and sold later to Pinterest in 2016, then became its own company. As with any tech product, you don’t know if what they offer today will persist into the future. Apps more famous and well-loved than Instapaper have been shut down over the years, so it’s entirely possible that Instapaper could have the same fate someday. What if Instapaper shut down? Where would that leave me? If I have the full list of all my bookmarks, highlights, and notes, then it would be fine if Instapaper shut down. So, I set out to see if I could make that happen.
parkr/instapaper-archive is the culmination of this work to date. A simple Go program reads from the Instapaper API and from the
instapaper-export.csv file generated from user Settings and generates a Jekyll site. (Since the Instapaper API only allows listing up to 500 articles per folder, it was necessary to combine the CSV export with the API results to get a full picture.) It downloads highlights today (not notes yet). It preserves whether an article was favorited (denoted by a star):
But preserving my data is just the start. What could I learn from my archive? I could do all sorts of interesting analysis with it. I can go back and see what I was interested in, say, 2013 and how that compares to my present interests. I can more easily find that one article that shaped my understanding of this or that topic. Most importantly, I own my own data – if Instapaper folded tomorrow, I would not lose a decade’s work.
If you use
instapaper-archive, I’d be interested to hear how your experience goes in an issue on the repo. In the age of closed gardens and locked-up data, it always feels great to truly own your data.