Do It For the Nerds

June 07, 2011 by Gabe | [mmd] |

Marco Arment, of Instapaper fame, has repeatedly stated that he is not worried about the new Safari Reading List. He's not worried and may be a little hopeful for it's success. I agree with his estimates. The new Safari feature will introduce an entirely new option for reading web pages to the mass market. Instapaper will benefit and, collectively, we will all be a little better off.

You see, Marco makes a product that is for the nerds. Nerds(1) are bleeding edge adopters that like to experiment. They also have a low tolerance for things that don't work right. Instapaper works right because it's made by someone that understands the customers and does almost nothing but think about how it can work better.

For all of it's great ideas, Apple doesn't make products for nerds. They make products for aspiring nerds. That's not a slight. Nerd is the new cool. Apple makes products that work well but ultimately are pale ghosts of their influences. Mail is an acceptable email manager. However, I have no less than three extensions installed to make Mail useful to me. I added a bunch of Nerd options. Tagging, shortcuts, auto-filling and customized views all round out a somewhat simple email application.

The Finder is far removed from the Bash shell and much more limited. I run PathFinder most of the time.(2) And Let's just agree to ignore the RSS reader in Safari all together (maybe it will go away if we ignore it long enough). None of these are tools are for Nerds. But they are a huge steps forward from what most users have come to expect.

In the end, Apple took the ultimate nerd tool, Unix, and polished it into a pale version of itself. That's great. I love OSX. I'd much rather work with their GUI than in the Terminal. But I also run Launchbar, Keyboard Maestro, PathFinder and TextExpander to give me a bit more customization that fits my work.

Instapaper will always be breaking new ground and adding features that aspiring nerds don't want or need. My guess is that it will also continue to be my tool of choice for reading long form web articles. Here's just a brief list of the extras that Instapaper brings to the market:

  1. Google Reader integration
  2. Email links to Instapaper
  3. Bookmarklet in ANY browser (even on Windows)
I will enthusiastically teach my wife, father-in-law and mother about the new Safari Reading List. They will absolutely love it and the simplicity that it brings. Some day I hope they will graduate to Instapaper.


  1. I feel uncomfortable speaking for all Nerds, but I think I'm an expert in the area. I had a chemistry lab in my backyard when I was 13, watch Star Wars a couple times a month and taught myself Python so I could inventory my hard drive archives. I'm proudly in the nerd territory.
  2. Seriously, get on board with PathFinder. You won't regret it.
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