I have long found that the Favourites folder on IE was not exactly the most convenient way of storing websites for future reference. I often found that I had to go through my folders trying to find the actual link I required, all the time wondering what it was called and what folder I had actually put it in. Many a time I eventually gave in and ended up trying to search for the site again using Google – an infuriating and wasteful way of finding that elusive website. The need to find an alternative became even more pressing when I started my course, as I knew I would be bookmarking a lot of material. It was at this point I finally plunged for Delicious.
I have to admit, I came to Delicious a little late. It was already widely used by the time I came round to finally signing up for an account. However, no sooner had I joined than I wished that I had signed up for an account a long time ago. Quite frankly, once you have signed up for a Delicious account, you wonder why you have put up with IE Favourites for so long. So, what actually is Delicious? How does it work? What are the benefits of using it as your library of bookmarks?
Once you sign up for an account with Delicious, you have the option to download a toolbar direct to your browser. After downloading, you can simply add a website to your Delicious links at the press of a button. Nice and simple. The downloaded toolbar also has a number of other neat features, like a list of your most recent bookmarked items and the ability to see your links in a sidebar. The thing that really stands out on Delicious, is the ability to add tags to items that are bookmarked to your account. This enables the user to retrieve links quickly and easily. The tags can either be simple one word tags, or word combinations using ‘_’ or ‘-’. When searching for a specific tag, you can simply click on a tag to present a list of items tagged with that specific term. You can then drill down even further by adding another tag into the mix. So, for example, you may click on the tag ‘football’ and get a list of items related to football. You may then decide that you want to find the links that are related to Italian football, so you would just click on the tag ‘Italy’. You would then be presented with all the links that have been tagged with the terms ‘football’ and ‘Italy’ (which should hopefully relate to both these tags). This is really handy for finding items quickly and efficiently. Unlike IE folders, you don’t have to indulge in a fruitless search through a sea of links and folders that give you very few clues about what they relate to. You can even add a short description on Delicious to make it even easier to find the right item.
There is also the ability to browse through tags that have been applied by other users in order to find items that might also be useful for future reference. And, if you discover a fellow account holder with similar interests, you can add them to your network and keep up-to-date with what they are bookmarking. As a result, it is possible to not only organise your bookmarks, but also to discover new resources that may not have encountered before. Delicious enables a degree of knowledge sharing not previously possible on the internet.
There have been arguments amongst some that the idea of individuals tagging items would be a nightmare for someone wanting to find a particular resource. After all, if everyone applied there own tags to an individual bookmark, there would be chaos, right? How could you guarantee that you could find all the weblinks that you were after if there is no consistency in the way users ‘tag’ their items? Well, this isn’t as much as a problem as you might think. It turns out there is a high level of consistency to tagging the more people save a particular bookmark.
This consistency is rather helped by the fact that Delicious suggests tags that may be appropriate for the item that you have bookmarked. These suggestions tend to be the most popular tags which therefore helps to standardise the cataloguing of weblinks. Even if these are ignored, however, there is still some degree of consistency. Generally speaking, there is a tendency for people to tag things in a similar way. As more people tag an item, a commonality amongst tags starts to emerge. Although there is a variety in the number of tags that are applied, there does tend to be a small number of tags that will consistently appear across all users. This commonality suggests that user-based tagging is not as anarchic as one might be lead to believe. In fact, as Merholz has argued, such systems are rather like ‘desire lines’ that emerge over time in a landscape. Once it becomes clear that a commonality has developed amongst users tags, it is easy to direct them to the appropriate tag (rather like a controlled vocabulary). Considering the rapid growth of the information that is available on the internet, such a system is very useful indeed.
In short, I would highly recommend that if you haven’t already got an account with Delicious to organise your bookmarks, you should set one up as soon as possible. It has numerous benefits when compared to other methods of organising your favourites (like IE folders), not least the ease of access. And despite some concerns about the ability for everyone to freely apply tags to their bookmarks, the fact that a degree of commonality emerges suggests that these fears are unfounded. Considering that there are now well over one trillion unique urls, organising content for retrieval is absolutely vital.