Saturday, January 28, 2006

 

DEL dot ICIO dot US

I recently discovered something else to use and do on Internet: tag and publish bookmarks (URLs). There seem to be at least two such systems in operation. One is called CiteULike: A free online service to organise your academic papers. Another, which I chose to use, is del.icio.us.

Why bother, one might ask? I happen to like bookmarking stuff I find so I can find it again, tell friends and family about things I imagine they'll find interesting, and occasionally go through sublists of bookmarks to have a look at things I haven't looked at for a while. In a sense, it is like keeping my books and magazines sorted and accessible in bookcases.

Similar choice of placement of books in bookcases, which require that a publication be in only one place, bookmarks in browsers seem to always be tree structures. Since bookmarks don't *cost* the way books do, one can save them in several places at once, but finding them again is still basically walking through a hierarchy. The system in question, however, is not particularly hierarchical; one stores one's bookmarks with associated *tags* (keywords), not in node(s) of a tree. Apparently, one cans bundle one's tags, but I have not yet felt the need to do so and so cannot comment on the usefulness of this feature.

A second advantage to this system is that one can use one's bookmarks wherever one is, not just on one's personal *home* workstation (as long as one has an Internet connection to the service, and would presumeably be the case if one wants to use bookmarks). Folk who don't bookmark, just re-Google (or memorize URLs!), may not appreciate this advantage; I bookmark lots.

Yet another advantage is one's bookmarks can be shared. For instance, the list of tags I've used is in the left-hand column of this blog; it is regenerated (JavaScript call) each time this blog is visited. Anyone who knows me, or at least who knows my del-icio-us handle, can check out my bookmark collection. (Hint: if you click on "my del.icio.us tags" you get to my collection, and see that my handle is "suitable"). While I'll probably continue to send friends and family links via e-mail, I take comfort in knowing that links I forget to send they can find, with my comments, in my bookmarks collection.

The last advantage I've discovered, and which I have only begun to appreciate, is the potential for connecting with other folk whose interests coincide with mine, and benefit from referal to links they have added to stuff I hadn't yet found. And vice versa; in fact, not only can one easily navigate to the bookmarks of other folk--those whose handle one knows and those who have bookmarked the same URLs as one--, one can send and receive "recommended bookmarks"! So far, I've only done this once (to a user I don't even know, but who seemed likely to be interested by a conference announcement in his field) and recieved none. I'll see whether any regular exchanges develop.

What *could be better* so far as I can tell, is the querying. Clicking on a tag results in a list of all my bookmarks to which I have associated that keyword. For instance, clicking on *gatherings*, I get (today) a list of 15 links. I would like to now limit the list to those in 2006, and then July. This is possible by adding "+2006+July" to the search criterion, but not (so far as I've been able to find) by accumulated clicks on tags. Thus, it is only a minor inconvenience for lazy typists, not a true shortcoming.

I suppose I'll develop a tagging style more like *everyone else's* so that queries by tag scoped to "all," "popular", or "recommendations" rather than "yours" ("mine") will yield more complete and homogeneous results (and so that queries will find my links). This is not yet the case, for instance, for my tag "gatherings". I seem to be one of the few who use this term inclusive of conferences, trade fairs, association congresses and annual meetings, seminars, press conferences, and so on. I may transform it to a "bundle" and tag with these other, narrower names, which I suspect others use. Also, I need to learn whether the convention is to tag with plurals to name "category comprising:" groups to which bookmarks belong, or singular to name "an instance" of a category to which a bookmark belongs. In other words, should I tag a conference as belonging to "gatherings", or as being a "gathering"? At everything2.com, the norm was to use singular for links, even when the text of the anchor was plural.


Tags: tagdel.icio.usconnecting

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