Bookmarking is one component of the Read / Write Web that I have found my use scaffolded by over the years. In the beginning, I was like so many people and would hit a quick CTRL-D when I found a webpage of interest. In my browser, that would bookmark it for later reference. After all, I wouldn’t want to forget it.
That actually worked quite well but I quickly ran into a few problems. First, if I bookmarked on a computer at school, it wasn’t available to my computer at home. Secondly, the tools for organizing the bookmarks via browser were pretty primitive. I needed to solve both of these problems and so the next step was to create and post a series of webpages by category. That put me well on the way to organization.
But, this was not without problems either. First, it was a great deal of work and secondly, what do you do when you find a resource that is cross-curricular and falls into many categories. More work was required to make it available in multiple categories. But, it did work and an unintended benefit at the time was that I could share these webpages with others. People really appreciated it when I share my efforts with them.
In the meantime, a different approach to recording resources emerged. Instead of categorizing resources by subject area, the content of tagging a resource with words that describe its functionality had emerge and was far more powerful than categorization. So, I was off to find a better way and that’s when I discovered the power behind Delicious. My initial goal was to find a way to bookmark resources but it’s now evolved to being one of the most powerful and connecting parts of my digital arsenal.
The functionality part is pretty simple. In my browser, I have installed the Delicious extension. When I find a web resource that I’d like to bookmark, I simply highly a significant part of the resource and click on the extension’s icon. A window pops up on top of the current webpage. The extension has pre-populated much of the form with things like the URL, title of the page, and the notes section is populated with the text that I’ve highlighted from the webpage. All of the fields are editable and so I’ll spend a second or two tightening the language and then head to the “tags”. What words or phrases would define the content of the page? After all, I want to be able to find this later. I enter the words and then save it. Voila, the bookmarking is done and I can review them at any time at: http://www.delicious.com/dougpete.
The functionality doesn’t end there though and the power of the tools becomes obvious once you put it into use.
First of all, Delicious has a terrific search feature. By searching for a concept, I can quickly locate my resources by key word which includes the descriptor and the tags. More powerfully, though, the search will also return resources that others have described or tagged with the same words. It’s like having your own private research team. A couple of years ago, a group of us collaboratively worked on a schema for the new Computer Studies curriculum. We didn’t know the exact names of the courses at the time but we knew what the concepts were going to be. Among the group of us, we agreed to tag any resources as per usual, but to add “ICSXX” to the tags. That way, any of us could do a search for “ICSXX” and locate resources that were tagged specifically of interest for these new courses. It was a very powerful concept.
Eventually, I found that there were some regulars who are bookmarking resources with a similar focus to mine. Delicious includes a feature where I can follow these people so that I can see where their bookmarking and tagging energies are spent. Similarly, others can follow me if they are interested. In this way, I’m both taking the efforts from my group to build my library as well as paying it forward to anyone who chooses to follow me.
This resource gathering and sharing enables online learning in a way that I’ve only dreamed of. It’s a never-ending stream of high quality information. I’ve just got to share it further and Delicious has me covered there as well. An experimental feature of Delicious will take the entries from the last day and make a nicely formatted blog entry for you. Consequently, there usually is an entry into my blog to let anyone who drops by know what I’m researching. How do you know when there’s something new? Ah, you have to love the power of Twitter. Using the service of the web-based tool dlvr.it, new entries to my blog are posted to my Twitter account. If you’re following dougpete, you’ll receive a notification when there’s something to check out.
The final step in their story takes me back to the browser. In contemporary browsers like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, you have a search engine built right into your browser. Delicious can double as your default search engine! The advantage become so obvious once you use it. Instead of searching and refining resources on the internet where EVERYTHING is catalogued, I’m now searching my and everyone else’s Delicious account. The power lies in the fact that the resources that are returned have already been screened and are of enough value that people have taken the time to bookmark them. Again, the power of the community rises to the top.
It’s been a long, evolving road from the humble task of just bookmarking a website in my browser but it’s made my time online far more productive. Delicious lets me find, store, and share the best of the best. But, it doesn’t stop there. Tomorrow, I’ll show how Diigo now fits into the process.