I’ve found much resonance in this observation someone (I cannot remember who) shared with me — “Your mobile phone area code indicated where you lived in 2008”. It sounds odd until you recall what your own number is.

Likewise, I think, you can gauge someone’s early web experience is (the kind that was Web 2.0 before it was called Web 2.0) by uttering one adjective…. “delicious”.

In conversations this week with Antonio Vantaggiato about things we want his INF115 class to do we’ve been seeking ways to build a shared reference collection as students begin their web exploration. This of course is the original idea of del.icio.us (the pre-Yahoo eff-over era) of social bookmarking… that we could with one click store and organize web URLs and be able to share or combine them across domains by simple tags.

It’s one of those brilliant ideas that still make tons of sense yet never really caught on beyond the people who can get compulsive about tagging.

So I have been going back to the idea maybe not in just seeking a tool, but to revisit the idea. The “remembering” and organizing of bookmarks seems not to be of high importance to most people, when back of the mind they might say, “Why bother when I can just google it?”

That, to me, misses the point. If you can remember enough to search for it, then that means you have some amount of grand recall in your head. Like quick, tell me, anyone, what web page you were thinking was important in your work in say, April 2013? (Not off top of my head, but I have it organized here). Or what about a group of readings, resources about remix? What do you have, Google it? (I got mine).

It’s easy to find what you don’t remember when you remember what it is you do not remember. But social bookmarking was more about just being a lookup service, it was about having versatile ways to organize and reorganize, and share, and re-share web resources.

So here is what we have been pondering, the big challenge is that very few services allow you to track a tag across multiple persons accounts (e.g. the social side)

  • The New Old Delicious http://delicious.com/. I gave up on it a while ago, Antonio has been trying, but as he reports, the system wide tags are inconsistent. It’s not even clear who or what keeps the lights on. It has the old functionality, you can compound tags, but… feels shaky.
  • diigo http://diigo.com is what Antonio uses now, and he has an IFTTT recipe that also posts to delicious. I have this meh relationship with diigo- it is viable, and there is a lot you can do there. It seems to have so many feature, that one gets lost in there. There is also no way to see what is being tagged sitewide with a common tag, to get this functionality, you have to use groups, and there is another level of things to remember when sharing. There is a lot to like about diigo, and I do not criticize the way people use it, but it feels like a giant 128 pience multitool when all I want to do is slice some cheese.
  • pinboard http://pinboard.in I’m a big fan since moving all my old bookmarks and new activity to pinboard. It’s reliable, I can have my own tag stream for sites tagged creative commons and see what the use of that same tag is across pinboard users. And I can set up compound tags for my own bookmarks and again, the compound tags across the base of pinboard users. Everything has an RSS feed. The search works great. And its minimal, no fancy window dressing or extraneous features. The main downside? You have to pay for an account. And maybe that it does not have a kazillion users.
  • Google Form we talked about setting up a google form that would then put all the bookmarks in a spreadsheet (we could reformat, make it searchable, use its RSS feed). But how much do you like typing in forms? I did some digging around and can see some ways to build a bookmarklet tool that could shorten the task of adding. We could have a field of tags, maybe. The downside is losing the factor of having content form from people beyond the class. And what is value to students later of using custom one off system.
  • Weird Idea — subreddit http://reddit.com/ I am advocating this partly so I can get some more in depth experience in reddit. The idea here is to have a class subreddit for sharing links, and use the upvoting for surfacing “better” links, and maybe the comments for discussions? I set one up for our course to do some experiments with. But I did not find anything that made adding to it beyond using the in page form. So I dabbled some yesterday with building a subreddit bookmarklet tool (thinking it would be useful to have one to post to any subreddit) (I anxiously await someone telling me where one is already built, I did look!).


    The thing with reddit is that there is no notes or description field, it’s just title and link. So in mine, if you select some text on a page before bookmarking, it appends it to the title of the page being bookmarked (the tool is crude, partly finished, and yes, has a typo on the page). Yet reddit has no tagging system for links. We discussed maybe an IFTTT recipe to send back to a spreadsheet (?) the most recommended links? This is wild speculation, For my own learning, selfishly, I’d like to play with reddit.

  • Old School Delicious in WordPress I did know of (and have a pinboard bookmark) for Stephanie Leary’s Twenty Links WordPress Theme (I think I met her at a Phoenix Wordcamp). Okay, it’s a child theme of Twenty Ten and her own version of it is 404 (old freshness date), but seemed worth a little bit of experimentation. I installed it on one my my dev sites http://show.cogdog.casa/delicious/
    a version of the Twenty Links theme on my own site

    a version of the Twenty Links theme on my own site

    I already had to do some customizing of the code and the style to bring it to this point. I like the way tags work each with an RSS feed. I have not tried the mods for the Quick post, that is next. But I can see this going as a class collection, with each student an author (?)

Like I said, a pile of ideas to try out here. Maybe it’s a dream? Likely someone will say, why don;t you just use FizzleShchlitz and I can learn something new.

What I have learned is making the bookmarklet building tools and running them from github… that’s another post as I have been reworking another old browser tool to work there. more on that later.

Darn, since I have gotten to Puerto Rico, I have waxed nostalgically on gopher, went down memory lane with Mr Kotter, and now am trying to build social web technologies popular more than ten years ago.

I think I should go to the beach.

Top / Featured Image: Found by searching compfight on “bookmark” easily landing me flickr photo by found_drama http://flickr.com/photos/found_drama/2058127104 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so)


  1. I’ve been using a self-hosted bookmarking thing for I don’t know how many years now. It supports multiple users, rss, tags, private bookmarks, and other stuff. Bookmarklets let me add links from any browser/tablet/phone. Easy peasy. And nobody can take it away, at least as long as PHP and MySQL are still things.

      1. Yeah. Scuttle handles multiple accounts. I’d set up an account for Brian to try it out, but the jerk never actually added a bookmark. IIRC, you can follow other accounts in a scuttle site, and users can share tags.

  2. This all reminds me how hypothes.is is so annotation focused it doesn’t do the bookmarking. Diigo does both but i find it a bit buggy on diff devices. Delicious was buggy a lot of the time. Or maybe it’s me! Looks forward to hearing how this pans out!

    1. That’s what I like about hypothesis too, that its single purpose, and it feels more like a layer on the web rather than a big fat app. I’m just starting to look at using it with this class I am working on, but like its integration of tags to organize activity across groups.

  3. I did a lot of thinking about this a couple years ago. Diigo and its ilk, frankly, take up too much screen real estate…I want two or three dozen sites on a page, not five or ten (separately, this is why I use self-hosted TTRSS vs. other post-Google Reader solutions…I don’t WANT magazine style or some Pinterest wannabe, I want really concise, text-focused, easy-to-skim stuff). I love Love LOVE the way Chrome (e.g.) bookmarks output to nested HTML…but I don’t get descriptions.

    I hit upon the idea of using Google forms to output to a spreadsheet, as you mention above. I can easily put in a title, link, and, crucially, a description. But then, I’m stuck. To answer your question about sharing, if you want to get super hack-y, one could keep a wiki/webpage of links to public bookmarks spreadsheets, and one could then selectively import data from other spreadsheets into their own using normal Google Sheets functions. It’s not pretty, but it should work.

    My thought, in using a Google Form + Google Sheets, was not that I would now have…a spreadsheet, but that some blessed soul would provide a tool such that I can output my Sheet content (perhaps at regular polling intervals, manual sync, whatever) to HTML and CSS that I control and host wherever I like. In other words, I want a more dynamic, controllable version of the spare, plan-vanilla BEAUTY that happens when I export my carefully -curated Chrome bookmarks to an HTML file.

    I’m reminded of the pre-search days when categorized, hierarchical web directories were a thing. These plainly don’t work for a huge audience anymore, but for an audience of one or a few [score], they are beautiful. My personal Web browsing focuses predominantly on just a few key sites with a looooong tail. Google is outstanding for finding just in time help or pulling up facts/figures at will, but in terms of curating a truly personal, annotated web, I really just want to make a late-90s link directory…I just don’t want to do it by hand.

    1. Thanks for the ideas Sean- it reminds me of what I forgot to include in the post, that there is this idea of a “best” tool for doing X (in this case social bookmarking), people are asking for those kind of blanket recommends. I know there are people who make great use of tools I do not like, and that does not invalidate their effort nor does it knight the tool as “best”.

      You do have me thinking about the overlap of the Google reader experience — easy to skim as headlines, keyboard shortcuts to step through, a visual indicator of what’s new/unread, that you can make collections of steams (folders). So what if it does not matter what bookmark tool a group of people used (e.g a class or a project), but that their tool provides an RSS feed (which I think you can do off of a google sheet), and you use an RSS reader as the bookmark browser? I miss Google Reader, but Feedly and Digg do okay for the reading experience, and feeds could be bundled into an OPML subscription. Or they could be syndicated into a Feed WordPress powered site with some minimal reader=-like theme.

      You got me thinking….

  4. I have been using http://www.pearltrees.com for a long time because I love the cluster organization. However, I also use Pinterest extensively. I have an old Diego account from, like the 90s or something, but this is the fond time in 24 hours I’ve heard that name again so will forward your post to the librarian who quizzed me on this very topic.
    Get thee to the playa, amigo!

  5. Following conversation….I did the delicious route, couldn’t discipline myself to a good tag structure. I did like the sharing feature. For classes and sharing LiveBinders came in handy, but seemed more for curation sharing….and then for more article or r adding things I have been following and trying a new company @declara. I like how it connects and mostly use it for the lit rup view, reading kind of sharing.

  6. Hey, Alan I am guilty of throwing weird ideas at you! And I know I am privileged to have you her with us at Sagrado! Anyhow, wow, I’m impressed with the flow of comments. It is indeed a curious and yes, delicious, task. I still dream of having a distributed database of bookmarks for each of my classes, grouped by tags (as I could do sometime in a galaxy far far away). It is impossible with diigo and inconsistent (to my experience) with delicious.com. The idea of installing one’s own service is great, and we’re exploring it, but we know we’re not taking advantage of other users not belonging to a class, but whose bookmarks are worth looking at.

    Alan’s point that this is a sort of old-school quixotesque pursuit is valid, though: Does all this make sense? I love his idea of trying out reddit.com, since it adds the upvoting feature, and then we could catch all the notes surfacing. But it is still not like having the distributed database I could have with the old delicious. So, is this just a capricious pursuit or does it still make sense? Alan says people don’t seem too eager about saving bookmarks… I know I still am. In all cases, I’m learning a lot in the process!

  7. I used to use Delicious for students, had just got something set up with some tags for sharing etc., when it was taken over by Yahoo! …about two days before term began & I lost quite a few features. I then set up Diigo & imported all of the existing bookmarks – and I’ve used that since.
    I did, however, discover that I could import marks automatically from Diigo to Delicious (which now has regained most, if not all, of the features I’d missed).
    I use Diigo a lot – both to share bookmarks with students (give each unit a tag & then tag appropriately & use a tag based search to generate RSS to drop into home page for the course); and also for my own reference.
    The delicious / WordPress link you’ve shared looks promising; I may go and investigate later … so, thanks 🙂

  8. Bother … comment first came as a reply to someone else:
    I used to use Delicious for students, had just got something set up with some tags for sharing etc., when it was taken over by Yahoo! …about two days before term began & I lost quite a few features. I then set up Diigo & imported all of the existing bookmarks – and I’ve used that since.
    I did, however, discover that I could import marks automatically from Diigo to Delicious (which now has regained most, if not all, of the features I’d missed).
    I use Diigo a lot – both to share bookmarks with students (give each unit a tag & then tag appropriately & use a tag based search to generate RSS to drop into home page for the course); and also for my own reference.
    The delicious / WordPress link you’ve shared looks promising; I may go and investigate later … so, thanks 🙂

  9. I have no decent answers for you but I feel your pain and your yearning . . . and I want to be part of the longest comment string I’ve seen in a long time. Can I heart this post for reviving blog commenting?

    I’ve given serious thought to using the ‘Press This’ tool and doing it all in WP. Gives you the bookmarklet, captures highlighted items, title, automatic link, tags/cats etc. That’d open up a number of options including the rare occasion when I want to capture an image.

    My current technique is to use Diigo and I slave it to Pinboard. Things I like in Diigo- the weekly digest WordPress post and the ability to share to groups (curtailed on free accounts, slightly less on edu versions). I pretty much dislike everything else about it.

    1. Thanks, Huck.

      I can see an elegant WP approach as a personal one, tags and categories offers some nifty ideas. not sure I can see students picking it up.

      And I still wonder about maybe having multiple raw streams via RSS, and doing a feedreader to review. I miss the Google reade bundles where you could share back out again.

      1. I don’t remember G Reader well enough to remember exactly how the bundles worked, but Tiny Tiny RSS allows you to “publish” any article to a _single_ bundled RSS feed (that is, you have one public feed), but it will also give key-based access to a formatted/styled RSS feed of any category of feeds or any single feed.

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