"Blogging" with Twitter and Instapaper

April 01, 2015

With the advent of “textshots”—screenshots of text linked within tweets (and viewed inline on many Twitter clients)—I’ve decided to try something new with Twitter: “blogging”. (You can find me at jblanton.) Because Jekyll doesn’t yet run on my phone (it’s coming…I know it is…right?!), and because I’m rarely in front of my home computer these days (for personal and professional reasons), I’m having a go at using textshots for the content that usually would find its way into a “linked-list” post here (i.e., posts where I have little to nothing to add to a linked article, other than maybe calling out a particular passage and/or making a smart-ass comment).

The first solution I came across that truly automated the end-to-end generation of textshots was Federico Viticci’s Workflow, which is a dizzying string of operations. Soon after that came out, OneShot debuted and made all of this even easier, but it still required you to 1) take a screenshot from within whatever app you were using to read the content you wanted to share and 2) switch to OneShot to complete the process. Finally, Instapaper 6.2 made this easier still by building the functionality directly into the app itself, which is why last weekend I switched back to Instapaper again (from Pocket). (Ugh. Yes, I’ve done this dance many, many times.)

Using this new feature, the flow of posting a textshot to Twitter is so low friction, so delightful, and so fast, that I just feel compelled to post more links to Twitter, and thus write this post about it. (Yes, Medium recently added a similar feature, but of course that’s limited to articles shared from…Medium.) Relatedly, be sure to not miss Brian Donohue’s article re how he built this feature in 72 hours; it’s a great read.

If I had to describe a niggle I have with the textshot implementation it’s that it doesn’t automatically include the title of the linked page in the draft tweet. I think that should be the default, and then I can edit/delete as desired; as it stands now I have to manually type out the title.


As a bonus, Instapaper 6.2 also added a speed reading feature. I’ve used most of the available one-word-at-a-time apps, especially those that talk directly to Pocket and/or Instapaper, but I rarely jump into them because the archiving, deleting, and moving operations are always a little clunky, or worse, don’t exist at all. Given that this functionality is now just a two-tap, in-app process, I suspect I’ll start using it more.


I last went back to Instapaper when they announced their highlights feature, which I thought I’d find a lot of utility in with respect to linked-list posts, but for various reasons, and as mentioned above, I’m not in front of my home machine too much these days and just wasn’t using it. At some point thereafter I went back to Pocket, mainly because there were a couple of services I used that didn’t support Instapaper, but did support Pocket (e.g., Prismatic), and I felt like Pocket’s article parsing was a bit more robust.

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