Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Using Del.icio.us

I use Del.icio.us tags on this blog as a way of creating a form of broad category index, so that readers and I can find posts on certain broad topics. I first got the idea from Julia, whose piece on how she did it seemed much more comprehensible than the Del.icio.us website itself.
Once I had set this up, however, I began to learn more about Del.icio.us, and found that while it works very nicely to categorize one’s blog, that’s not what most people use it for. Most people use it to keep track of Web pages.
Think about it. In your Web browser, you have “Favorites” or “Bookmarks” or whatever your brand of browser calls them. You visit an interesting or useful website, you bookmark it. Very easy. If you’re inclined toward organization, you create a section for Software, News, or whatever. Splendid.
On the other hand, once a person has been using the Web for more than about a year, the browser has hundreds of these things listed. The user no longer knows what half the titles refer to, how to find something that didn’t fit in a category, or whether to put a given page into School, Art, or Czech. It’s a system that only works well for beginners, or those who only go to a few tightly controlled types of sites (for example, you have no significant overlap between your News and your Shopping pages, or your only interests in life are Skiing and Quilting).
I quickly realized that I needed to start tagging my Favorites so that I could more efficiently find subjects, especially things I rarely use but might want again. For instance, that page of tiny national flags. I found it very useful once, and might again, but it clutters up my Favorites list.
At the same time, I didn’t want to turn my blog tag list into an index of every web page that ever caught my fancy. I had also made the mistake of using my own name when creating the account, as Del.icio.us doesn’t warn you that the user name shows publicly. Since this blog is not particularly anonymous, that was merely irritating, but I think it is generally good practice to be somewhat less instantly identifiable. What I needed was a second user account. However, Del.icio.us automatically knew it was me.
I was pretty sure that this was browser-specific—probably a result of cookies or something. I could make a point of logging in and out of Del.icio.us, but I don’t mind being permanently logged in. It occurred to me that I had been meaning to try the Firefox browser. It’s easy to have two browsers; anyone who does Web design has several in order to test compatibility.
After putting off the download for quite some time, I finally got Firefox and installed it. It was easy to create a second Del.icio.us account that was primary for the Firefox browser and didn’t affect the account I use for the blog. Firefox also handles Del.icio.us tagging much more easily than does Internet Explorer, so I recommend it for anyone who plans to have just one account (which would be nearly everyone). The setup is almost instant.
I then started going to everything on my list (Firefox can import the list from your current browser). This is actually proving to be fun! It’s an excuse to find out what all those things are and why I thought they were worth bookmarking. I can assign ten tags to one web page if I want. I can tag it as Library, Catalogue, California, Berkeley, or Art, Artists, Duchamp. If other people have already tagged the page, Del.icio.us shows me the tags they have chosen, which I am free to use or ignore.
The larger benefit of tagging is that it helps more than the individual user. While I’ll now have a place on the Web I can go to look up my stuff (for instance, if I’m using someone else’s computer, I have no access to my browser’s Favorites list), and can see at a glance that I’ve tagged some sites as being about Leonor Fini, other people can also find sites of use to them via the tags. Many readers come to this blog because they searched for a topic I’ve tagged, like Prague.
There are many more fun niceties to using Del.icio.us, but here you have your basic reasons why to do it.

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Blogger pk said...

Thanks for this Karla. I had seen the tagcloud arrangements before but they were all in sidebars. I should have guessed (duh) that it was just the code placement. A footer cloud is much neater!

June 20, 2006 7:22 AM  
Blogger Karla said...

Glad to be of help. I had the cloud in the sidebar at first, but it seemed kind of squashed.

June 21, 2006 11:38 AM  
Blogger pk said...

Just by the by, you might find this other delicious help page useful. I think it's new but I haven't tried it - looks v. good though.

The reason I haven't installed it also stems from what you've written: I have 2 accounts and must log in/log out all the time....wellllll, not all the time but it's a bit annoying: I keep 1 personal a/c and 1 for categorizing BibliOdyssey posts. Hmm..maybe I'll write them an email asking if some tweak can be fashioned - I'm sure there are lots of us.

So I'm a little apprehensive about installing a new gizmo if there's a chance it will disrupt either of the 'post to delish' browser buttons I have now.

Am I thinking out loud too much? Heh, probably.

June 27, 2006 12:12 AM  
Blogger Karla said...

It does look like it might be good, but I'll have to look at it more when using my own laptop with Firefox installed so I can compare it with what I already have. Will be returning from conference-land in a few days...

June 28, 2006 5:34 PM  

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