So you’ve got a whole load of content in your Pocket, how does the WP🤖 decide what to put into any given edition? This has been a mystery, but I might as well tell you the secret.

Imagine that this is all your articles, sitting there in your Pocket. (There are no tags or search queries set up for the moment, we’ll cover them later.)

This is actually a view of my own Pocket from the editorial page. The graph is different, a histogram not a bar chart, but you can do the mental gymnastics if you like

There’s a mixture of lengths of article. You can set an upper and lower limit to what you want to get in your edition on the editorial page. I read articles under 5 minutes while I’m waiting for a bus1, so I have my shortest length set to 8 minutes. I want to get a decent bit of variety in my edition, so I’ve got my longest set to 432.

If we take out the articles that are over and under the limits, we’re left with these:

When I first made a Walden Pond for myself, back in the mists of time3, each edition would be an hour. The driver for that was how many pieces of paper the office printer could fold. These days things are totes profesh, so you can get a 1, 2 or 4 hour edition4.

Let’s demo filling a two hour edition:

The first thing we do here is pick the longest article that’s left over after the filters have done their thing. WP has always been about making it easier to read the long articles. The ones that got missed because of my insufficient attention span. That article is put in as a big rock.

The 🤖 fills up the rest using a “knapsack solver5.

More often than not, this comes up with exactly 60, 120 or 240 minutes of content, which feels like magic to me.

And that’s how a basic edition gets “curated”6. If you’ve more special needs, read on!

Getting specific with it

Sometimes you want more control over what’s going to end up in your edition.

The simplest way is to control how far back in time we look for your articles. People have said that their old articles in Pocket were saved by someone else: “previous me saved a whole bunch of garbage!” There’s a slider on the editorial page titled How far back should we look?. I’ve got almost 10 years of pocket articles, but mine is set to 200 weeks, which is about 4 years.

If you want a particular article to show up in your edition (or not) then there are a couple of ways to achieve it. You can use tags and search queries to include or exclude articles. It’s pretty powerful if you want to make a themed edition.

WaldenPond on Twitter

If you’ve ever wanted to make a zine full of articles about cats, then we’ve got you covered. There’s a new feature on the editorial page that lets you add tags and search terms that’ll bump articles to the front of the queue.

If you have a specific article to print, tag it with wpMustPrint in Pocket, and if you want it to not print, wpNoPrint. The curation algo puts as many wpMustPrint articles into your edition as there are, or that will fit, and then fills the rest of the space with using knapsack magic. 🧙‍♂️

If you like the idea of themed editions then you can tag your articles with whatever you like, and then give a list of tags to the 🤖 on the editorial page. Or you can put in search words and let fate take its course7.

Coming soon

People have asked me to add other curation strategies. The first one that’s coming is going to be a straightforward last in, first out so that you always get the most recent articles you’ve saved.

There’s also going to be some support for ordering. If you want to save a series of articles, e.g. a five part series about building a log cabin8, then you probably want the first one first.

These are going to take a bit of thinking about, so if you really want them to happen, let me know and I’ll bump them up the queue.

  1. Actually, I haven’t waited for a bus in months. I just sit at home and work on Walden Pond. I guess my short articles are getting neglected! #PandemicThings 

  2. I’m a bit of a lazy slider operator. 

  3. It was called Paper back then. 

  4. I think a ten hour edition is possible, if you’re super keen, get in touch and I’ll see what I can do! 

  5. Computer scientists love puzzles, and eventually those puzzles find their perfect use. 

  6. “Curation” is really too fancy for what’s going on here, it’s really “filling”, but that could do with more pizazz. 

  7. I’ve done this with some pretty strange things. I used the word ode and got a whole bunch of articles that were linked only by the most tenuous threads, but it still felt pretty “curated”! 

  8. Which is the integral of just “cabin” (but don’t forget the c, which technically makes it a beach hut) ∫ (⌐■_■)