March 10, 2012
Some of my friends have it. I have it. You have it. A lot of iPhone and iPad users have it. It's a type of compulsive hoarding far removed from our usual understanding of compulsive hoarding. It's hoarding on the go, on the Web and in the cloud. It's Instapaper link hoarding. You know how it goes. You see a link on Twitter or elsewhere, you click it, and you find out that the post it leads to is rather interesting, but also rather long. And because you're either busy or lazy, you decide on reading it later in all its clutter-free glory and click on the Instapaper bookmarklet on your browser or the Instapaper button on the app you're currently using. Easy. But for some reason, perhaps because you're again either busy or lazy, your saved article doesn't end up being read later after all. And there's the rub. The same scenario is repeated and the cycle continues. Next thing you know, you have close to a hundred (or even more) unread articles saved in your Instapaper account. Next thing you know, you have given rise to Mt. Instapaper. Clearly, you, as well as I, need an intervention. What we need is something to help us conquer that mountain of unread articles. Fortunately, there may be hope for us yet. Dan Williams, a software developer based in the UK who is admittedly suffering from the same condition, has created the Instapaper tool to end all Instapaper tools. It's actually a bookmarklet that, as noted by The Verge, looks exactly like the official Instapaper bookmarklet made by the app's developer, Marco Arment. What's different about it, though, is the simple fact that it does nothing. That’s why it's called Instapaper Placebo. It may look like you have successfully added another article to get back to in Instapaper, but that's really not the case. Like the deceptive pill that inspired its name, Instapaper Placebo only pretends to save the webpage. ”I just need a way of offloading all my good intentions. A way to stop hoarding links,” writes Dan Williams on why he made the bookmarklet. ”And with less stuff to read I can make more stuff instead. Productive stuff. Like Instapaper Placebo.” Would it be too much to ask of him to make Readability Placebo, too?