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I Built My Own Linkroll

4 July 2023

    Ever have that feeling that you might run across something on the web and hope you can find it again someday?

    Yeah, me too.

    So I built my own linkroll.

    tl;dr: If you’re just interested in the linkroll, you can find it at This Might Be Useful, which I often abbreviate as TMBU.

    August 2023 Update: I’ve since renamed TMBU to I’ve updated the links accordingly, but the name lives on in some related code as you’ll see below.

    Things you’ll find there:

    • lots of developer-related things (especially related to the Rust language)
    • some photography things
    • a few travel links
    • and some random stuff beyond that.

    Yes, I know there are linkroll solutions out there. I’ve even used a couple of them over time (notably Digg, once upon a time).

    Call me an old curmudgeon, but I’m increasingly of the opinion that I want to own my own content and not have my online presence be subject to anyone else’s business whims, which is why my links are self-hosted and not on anyone else’s platform.

    Design Goals

    Since we all have our own notions of what such a site should entail, let me share my goals (✅) and non-goals (❌) for this site:

    • ✅ self-hosted site (see earlier commentary)
    • ✅ easy for me to add new links
    • ✅ publicly visible
    • ✅ publicly searchable
    • ❌ letting other people contribute links
    • ❌ letting other people comment on links
    • ❌ building a generalized linkroll tool

    Alternative Considered: Mastodon Itself

    A lot of my content these days comes from a well-curated list of follows on Mastodon. Theoretically, I could search posts and boosts on Mastodon to accomplish most of my linkroll goal, except for three things:

    1. Not everything I’m interested in comes from Mastodon.
    2. The overlap between what I boost on Mastodon and what I might want to find later is incomplete in both directions.
    3. The Mastodon culture is notoriously hostile to search efforts.

    So I built my own linkroll.

    Alternative Considered: Private Bookmarks

    Someone close to me asked me why I wouldn’t just use browser bookmarks. Which also almost works, but …

    1. I want my bookmarks and my commentary on them to be public.
    2. I don’t really want to be tied to any particular browser or its bookmark sync technology.

    So I built my own linkroll.

    How I Built It

    A significant part of the art of being a programmer is to identify relevant technology that already exists and figure out how to combine it in the most minimal new way. I’d say I found some pretty good off-the-shelf components to use.

    And, of course, I did build a few new pieces.

    The Core: Zola

    Almost all of my web presences these days (including this one) are built using Zola, a super-fast static-site generator built in the Rust programming language. The only current exception is my primary site,, and I have plans for a Zola-based makeover soon.

    Zola neatly satisfies most of the design goals I listed above and I built the core of the site using Zola several months ago using templates that I had built for my other sites, including this one. I use Netlify to automatically deploy and build my site, but could pretty quickly move elsewhere if the platform stops working for whatever reason.

    Ruh Roh: I Stalled Out!

    The source code for the site is available on GitHub @ scouten/ If you look at the commit history, you’ll see a big burst of energy from when I started the site in mid-February until early March.

    And … then … nothing.

    🦗 crickets 🦗

    What Happened?

    Well, the typically workflow was that I’d see something on Mastodon, typically on my iPhone, using the delightful Ivory client from Tapbots.

    I’d e-mail myself a copy of the link when I found it and then circle back later, read that e-mail, and manually convert that into a Zola post and push it to GitHub.

    What happened was that manually part began to feel tedious. Really tedious.

    By the time I circled back to the posts a couple of days ago, I had more than 100 such messages and there was no way I was going to do this manually.

    The Solution: Automate It!

    So, having a bit of time to myself this week thanks to a summer vacation (read: Adobe’s excellent sabbatical program), I built a tool that would read my (purpose-specific) inbox, parse out some relevant bits from the message, and write most of the desired Zola post.

    I’m making this tool available via open-source (GitHub: scouten/tmbu-worker).

    A couple of quick notes about this tool:

    • I’m a huge fan of the Rust programming language, so the tool is written in Rust.
    • Though licensed under a permissive open-source (MIT) license, this is really “inspire-ware.” I do not plan to invest the effort to make this into a larger general-purpose tool. More details here.

    This tool wouldn’t have been possible without the following open-source crates:

    Thank you to the authors of these crates!

    Bottom Line

    Using this automation enabled me to change the time it took me to prepare a new bookmark from 10-20 minutes per post to roughly 3 minutes per post. That makes it really close to sustainable. I cleared the 100+ message backlog in just a couple of days, and expect to keep up with new “might be useful” content going forward.

    If you’ve enjoyed this …

    You can see more of my travel stories without having to check back randomly to see if I’ve posted something new.

    Thank you for following along!