Maybe it's because I've worked in IT so long, but I'm generally one of the last people I know to jump on tech fad bandwagons, most especially anything that reeks of the redundant moniker, "social networking." I don't use MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, or Last.fm. I'm even suspicious of Friendster (even though I'm there), because they seem really focused on the skanky 18-year old Filipino demographic and I'm just not skeevy enough to be interested in that.
Yet, this other thing has really caught my eye: Del.icio.us. They call it "social bookmarking." I call it handy as all get-out. Essentially, instead of keeping your bookmarks in your browser, you keep them on the web where other people can see them. People can look at your bookmarks and you can look at theirs. Bam. Social bookmarking.
So, that doesn't sound so incredibly hot, right? No. I didn't think so either, at first. So my bookmarks are on the web. So I can see how many other people bookmarked something, and even who they were. So what?
Well, the first benefit is this: Your bookmarks are available to you anywhere you go. If you bookmarked something you saw at work, you can look at it at home with ease. No matter what computer you're on, you can always log into del.icio.us and see them. Your portability has increased.
Next, you can store them with keywords, which makes it much more likely that you'll throw something into your bookmarks to check out later. For instance, every handy Firefox extension I've run across lately has been bookmarked with the keywords 'firefox' and 'extension' Now, with two clicks I can get a full list of only those bookmarks.
All of a sudden, it's not just a list of bookmarks anymore -- it's a reference library. Anything that you want to keep is easily findable, so long as your own tags make sense to you, and what's better is that you can click through other people's tags and find out what they thought was good enough to keep as well -- possibly even finding stuff you didn't even know existed. It's like Googling, but removing most of the junk responses.
On top of that, if you know other people who use del.icio.us, you can become a "fan" of theirs, and click through their bookmarks at anytime, and they can do the same with yours. If there's something you think they would appreciate, you can even bookmark it "for:(username)" and they'll get it on their del.icio.us page in a special section called "links for you."
Up until this point in the article, I expect you to consider this to be a somewhat handy tool (if you were to use it), and a possibility for a good time-waster on the web -- worth jumping on occasionally, seeing what's hot, maybe doing a tag search for "badgers" and clicking around for a few laughs.
But, like most things, it's the accessories that really make it invaluable. Something that's merely clever can become indispensable when combined with the right tools.
Enter the del.icio.us bookmarks Firefox add-on.
This add-on completely replaces your normal Firefox bookmarking functionality with del.icio.us bookmarks (and will also import any bookmarks you've already got on the computer) and allows you to access and search said bookmarks from the browser. You don't even have to go to the del.icio.us webpage. All of the functionality is at your fingertips.
Install this add-on on every computer that you have, across platforms, and any bookmark you tag is instantly available to all of your browsers. It completely standardizes and customizes your internet experience.
Nothing has changed the way I interact with the internet more than this combination of applications has.
Now, I tag everything that I come across that might be even remotely handy down the road sometime, knowing full-well that I can always find it again within a few clicks. No more trying to figure out what I Googled for. No more annoying bookmark editing sessions where I try to figure out what that URL is, and why did I save it, again? No more e-mailing myself URLs so that I can look at things at home. No more sticking Post-It notes on something I'm likely to take home to remind me to look that thing up again, however I found it. It's all at my fingertips. Everywhere.
Do yourself a favor, and take a look at it. You can even start from my bookmarks which I update pretty much daily, and if you do sign up? Let me know, I'll throw you in my network. You never know when I might run across something I'll think you like.
IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
1.22.07 @ 7:05a
An interesting concept, and I am a person who likes to share, but I'm not sure I would want everyone to know what I bookmark. Besides, it sort of reeks of big brother.
Convenience aside, eventually we will reach a point when we hit the 'too much information' phase of the world. Looking at what other people bookmark is like looking at the type of books they collect/read. It can tell you a lot about the person aside from how well read they are.
At least you didn't bookmark Perez Hilton.
Truthfully, I joined Friendster and haven't updated or looked at it in months, the same with MySpace, Facebook, and a couple others. Maybe I'm just boring?
1.22.07 @ 9:35a
Well, but you don't have to share it.
You can mark bookmarks private, so that when you're tagging those bestiality websites, nobody else needs to know.
1.22.07 @ 10:02a
And if you use QuickSilver on the Mac you can dig through your del.icio.us bookmarks and tags direct from there.
I use a "temp" tag to flag the things I want to check out later (you know, those nsfw sites).
1.23.07 @ 12:22a
Sorry, I couldn't resist that.
Seriously, maybe I'm just a bit mistrustful of the net. I know it's everywhere, but is it always going to be there.
1.25.07 @ 8:09a
I'm not ready to stop cheerleading for del.icio.us.
I use the tags "mon" "tue" "wed" etc. So this morning I click the "thu" tag and there are the links I want to check out today. Including ones that are updated daily (The Writer's Almanac), and the ones updated just on Thursdays (Tom Toles).
1.25.07 @ 9:19a
Hey - that's pretty smart!
My big trick is that I use the Firefox del.icio.us extension to create a toolbar on my browser, than I tag them differently depending on whether I'm at home or work.
firefox:toolbar (for home)
firefox:work (for strictly work related stuff)
Keeps me nice and organized.
michelle von euw
1.25.07 @ 9:35a
I cannot believe there's a Dan Shaughnessy Watch blog. Fantastic.
And, uh, yeah, I'm mortified at the idea of sharing my bookmarks. Though I have no problems scrolling through yours!
1.26.07 @ 3:03p
I mostly use it to keep track of sites that I happen across that might be useful for my dissertation someday. Since I tend to work from different computers/places all the time, it's handy to have them online.
2.19.07 @ 1:12p
The LIS world has been giggly about del.icio.us for a couple years. I still have not jumped on.
The term for the tagging method used in del.icio.us, flickr, and others is called a folksonomy. This is a bastardization of taxonomy. Essentially, a folksonomy is a philosophical break from classical ontology (the science *cough* art *cough* of classification).