Blog Post

Brain Tickler Tools for Story Ideas – Part 1

Where do you get your ideas? Much of my work on the Web involves content development which is my fancy way of saying I write articles, monthly columns and bi-weekly blog posts for clients. Coming up with new ideas to publish on a regular basis for a variety of media outlets can be a daunting task, but I work hard to be “fresh and original” for each client. So far, so good, but my biggest challenge? Finding a super simple way to save sites and portions of articles and blog posts that I can access easily at a later date as I’m looking for content ideas.

I blogged about a “dream tool” I could use and called it Ticklr, and several WWD readers threw out some possible options of Web tools that actually exist, so I thought I’d try them out.

This is the first of two posts where I’ll test out these tools specifically for creating an online tickler file of potential story ideas.


I was attracted immediately by Instapaper’s uncanny simplicity. Register with your email address, create a password only if you want to, then drag the bookmarklet to your toolbar.

instapaperOnce you’re set up with the Instapaper bookmarklet, you just click the bookmarklet as you read a blog post or article on a site of interest that you don’t have time to read at that moment and move on to your next task. Then when you have more time and want to skim what you haven’t read, just visit the Instapaper site and voila, headlines to the articles you saved. As you read them, they automatically go to a Recently Read list. If you click the bookmarklet on an article already in your Instapaper, the site automatically updates the save date so it appears higher on the list.

What I really like about Instapaper is that I’ve always found bookmarking articles and blog posts in my browser to be a pain once I want to go through them. And bookmarking sites like haven’t worked for me when I want to scan content for story ideas.

A little while ago, I remembered an article I didn’t have time to read this morning that someone tweeted about on Twitter. I wanted to read it to get some background for an article I’m writing. At first, I headed to Twitter to try to track down the article link, but then I checked Instapaper just in case I had remembered to file it. And there it was!

Even as I prepared this post, I found Instapaper to be instantly handy. I linked to the Web apps I wanted to review for this post instead of bookmarking them. The next day, I was able to find them on my list of links on the Instapaper site – far easier than if I had bookmarked them. In just a few days, I’m pressing the Read Later button as if I’ve been doing it all my life. Because it works.

Instapaper was created as a side project by a guy working on, another site I really like but that doesn’t really work as a tickler file to me. A possible downside I can see with Instapaper is scalability, that is, if I don’t go through the articles frequently enough, the list will get really, really long. Being able to sort them by category would be a plus.

Read our previous coverage of Instapaper here.


I heard about Notefish from a comment in my Dream Tools post so I figured I had better take a look. After registering, I was prompted to download a Firefox plug-in, restart Firefox, and it added a notefish tagging button right next to my button.

So Notefish takes the concept of saving articles and blog posts and search engine results to another level. All you have to do is highlight the text you want to save, click on the little yellow Notefish on your browser, then add the content to a “Page” you create which essentially is like a category.

notefish2I was blown away when I went to Notefish. The post was there, on the page I had created, but not only that, the interface let me move it around by clicking, dragging and dropping it. You can also change the color of each note. I’ve already started a page of notes and research for an upcoming article I’m writing for a women’s business web site.

Okay, so I’m easily impressed, you say. I guess it doesn’t take much to knock my socks off although my sock-removing criteria includes:

  1. Must be simple.
  2. Must be intuitive.
  3. Must be helpful.

Call me a Web apps snob, call me a spoiled Mac user, call me what you want. I know what I like and know why I like it. And so far, I like both of these apps. Two down, three more to go.

6 Responses to “Brain Tickler Tools for Story Ideas – Part 1”

  1. Using a web tool like Notefisch whose last entry in its news page dates from September, 2006 (almost 2 years old) would make me nervous.

  2. onebagnation

    Although I’m more and more a “web worker”, I’m not at all tech-savvy and these resources sound wonderful. Simple, intuitive, helpful; unless there’s another similar tool that can also make coffee, what more could you ask?