Everything is Ephemeral

Posted on January 17, 2021
Tags: archiving bookmarks web_sites

Tim Lavoie

tl;dr: Enjoy what you have, today. Support those who provide value. Save your shit.

One of the services I’ve used for some years now is Pinboard. It’s a bookmarking site run by Maciej Cegłowski, and it’s frankly brilliant. It does what it does quickly, efficiently, and if you dig, there are all sorts of useful features.

I’m one of the early bird users, having sent a one-time payment years ago (and nothing since). That was the deal at the time, and Maciej been great about keeping to that. Recently, he started sending out emails to users like myself, asking if we’d be OK with moving to a subscription model. You already see the difference to most commercial offerings, where you would just be told what’s happening, take it or leave. The ask is simple; if you find the service useful, please provide recurring support, and it’ll help maintain and build the service. After all, he has hosting costs of his own, and the poor guy lives in San Francisco. ;)

Anyway, I’d had some nagging guilt, and do feel it important to try and spend my money where I get value. I signed up for an “archival” account. That is, Pinboard will actually download copies of the pages I have bookmarked for later. Awesome!

There is always a catch. After years of cheerfully submitting links, it turns out that quite a few are unavailable for one reason or another. I get it, I’m not that good at keeping the URLs entirely stable on this wee site. On the accounts page, users with archival accounts can see the bad news.

bookmark archive errors

Each of those error types is a clickable link by the way, so you can easily go to review and perhaps correct the carnage. I expected many of the ancient ones to be gone of course, but was surprised at how much recent stuff had either disappeared or just changed links. I’ve been able to edit a few right away to update to valid links, and now the contents will be archived for me too.

Now, Pinboard itself could also go away at any time. It’s just an online site run by someone else after all, on computers I don’t control. Maciej himself has joked about getting hit by a bus, and this is a one-man operation. There is an API (application programming interface) though, meaning you can write your own programs to access or modify your own data. I’ve been using it for quite a while to at least back up my links, with a bit of Common Lisp code to write it to a CouchDB database. Maybe I’ll fix it up for public visibility one of these days, but for now, it just works (for me).

Also, if you’re curious, most of my bookmarks are public by default. This includes the currently-dead ones, but if you’ve read this far, maybe some of these things interest you too.

If you’d like to comment, please feel free to add to the tweet for this post, here