Plugging my Favourite Apps
Here are four apps that I use daily to make my online life more accessible
One of the very first posts I wrote for Dinner Table Don’ts 2.0 was about how important the Pocket app was for me. Since I have significantly more readers now than I did then, I thought I would do a quick post about apps that I can’t live without, starting with Pocket.
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From the first piece that I wrote back in March 2020, as I was first launching this newsletter/Substack,
I’ve been using Pocket for a few years now to store articles, videos, whatever, from the internet, a sort of bookmark to come back to later. It connects with other apps like IFTTT, allowing me to capture online material from around the net without actually trawling for it myself.
Since I first wrote about Pocket, I have learned that it was acquired by Mozilla, which is the non-profit that operates the Firefox browser. I had been looking to change over to Firefox anyway, simply because the RAM requirements for Google Chrome were becoming unwieldy, and so when I discovered that Mozilla had already begun integrating Pocket into its interface it was the clincher.
One of the biggest advantages of using Pocket is the ability to bypass the paywalls on a number of popular news sites. While it doesn’t work for all (Washington Post), it works for many, including some that I interact with on a daily basis (New York Times, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, among others). This means that if you save an article from The New York Times to Pocket using Firefox’s built-in Save-to-Pocket button you can then go and read the article that is behind the paywall, without ads or other cluttery mess. Here is an example of the Article View of a paywalled article on student debt from the NYT:
The second app that I couldn’t live without is a personalized Home Page replacement that helps to organize all of my favourite web-haunts. Rather than relying on a sponsored alogithm to choose what pages I see first online, Toby acts as my Dashboard to the web:
As you can see, all of the websites that I might visit frequently are laid out as buttons on the dashboard. If I want to go to my Facebook Messages, I just click on the button and my FB Messages open in a new tab. Moreover, each open tab is seen on the right side of your dashboard, and each one of those open tabs is dragable to any one of your collections. While this dashboard shows “The Basics,” I also have sections set up for News Magazines and Think Tanks, along with a small section for the Russia-Ukraine War:
If you’re a voracious listener of eclectic music, as I am, you might want to know something about your listening habits. While Spotify has some rudimentary abilities, it pales in comparison to third party app, Spotistats/Stats.fm. The free version allows you to see your detailed stats from the last month, but for a small fee the paid app will walk you through how to request your full listening history from Spotify. Once Spotify sends you the required files and you upload them to Spotistats, a whole world of deep stats is opened up to you. From my public profile, which you can visit at http://stats.fm/pfthurley:
While I have my list ordered by number of streams, you can also organize by minutes played. You can see from my list that my top two tracks have each been played 55 times, but 20 Steps towards the Invisible Door has significantly more paytime, simply because the song is 45 minutes and I often play it when I am going to sleep. Also notice the steep drop-off in streams played between my Top Three artists and the rest.
The final app that I can’t live without is Chirr, a web-based tool that auto-creates tweet threads. This one is pretty simple: input your text on the left, and view the resulting tweet thread on the right. I often use this app when I am sharing a quote from an article that is simply too long for a single tweet. The pro version allows you to attach media to the tweet thread, and to share the tweets slowly for maximum eyeballs.
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