Staying up to date on developer news is time-consuming. Especially for fast changing areas, such as frontend development. Below is my daily workflow to utilize idle time and stay current with news and educational topics. I hope sharing this helps others do the same.
What You Will Need
- An Android phone
- Moon Reader Pro: An Android app for reading EPUB files via text to speech.
- An Instapaper account: Turns Web articles into readable, ad-free lists. It supports EPUB exports.
- Instapaper bookmarklet or the Instapaper Chrome extension: Quickly adds blog articles to your reading list.
How It Works
- Forage sites like Hacker News, Reddit and Lobste.rs during downtime and breaks.
- Save the articles with the Instapaper bookmarklet or Chrome extension.
- Before exercising or commuting, open the Instapaper EPub download link on your phone.
- Put on a pair of headphones and open the *.epub file in Moon Reader.
- Hit the “text to speech” button.
- Feel invigorated by the deep wisdom of the interwebs.
- When finished, click the “archive all” link at the top of the EPub file. This will clear all the articles out of your reading queue.
- Hitting the EPub download link again will result in a fresh set of articles.
Quirks and Issues
- The Instapaper App: Instapaper does offer an Android app with text-to-speech capabilities. It’s an OK app. The lack of a “play all” button is a deal breaker for me, though. When driving and exercising, pressing “next” after every single article becomes tedious. Instapaper has suggested a workaround on Twitter, but I find it less convenient than the method outlined above.
- Article ordering: Instapaper stores articles on a first-in-first-out (stack) ordering. This means that the last article added is the first one to show up in your reading list. On a busy news week, this can lead to articles getting “burried” at the bottom of the reading stack for weeks at a time.
- Articles with too much code: I skip articles that have too many code samples in them. As it turns out, reading 200 lines of Typescript via text to speech is not productive at all.
- Podcasts: The most obvious alternative. I am of the opinion that blog articles go deeper into technical subjects than most podcasts.
- Epub Press: A Chrome extension like instapaper. It has better support for large documents, such as developer documentation. I love using it to read library documentation cover-to-cover on long plane rides. If you find it useful, consider donating. It has one a single (generous) maintainer.
This has been my daily commute ritual for over 4 years. Foraging the web for articles exposes me to new people, trends, and ideas that I would not have otherwise not known. It utilizes time that would have otherwise been wasted and turns it into something productive.