Delicious has been part of my life for a long time. I first wrote about it back in August of 2004. I know this because Delicious helped me remember. The link has gone stale because I wrote the article for an online publisher, which turns out to be a good way to get published but a lousy way to stay published. Thankfully Wayback remembers what InfoWorld forgot:

Pub/sub, tags, and human filters

In 2002, InfoWorld gave a Technology of the Year award to “publish/subscribe” technology. In the writeup I mentioned Kenamea, KnowNow, and the Flash Communications Server. The del.icio.us bookmarking system has some of the pub/sub flavor of those systems, as well as some of the blogging flavor.

In the blog network, you publish to a personal identity (your own), and you subscribe to other people’s identities. In systems like KnowNow and Kenamea, people (and also applications) publish to, and subscribe to, topics.

Consider the del.icio.us tag e4x, which I created today to help me keep track of this article on a subject I expect to learn more about soon. At the moment, my e4x page and the systemwide e4x page are the same: mine is the one and only use of that tag.

Even if I’m the only one to collect e4x references by means of that tag, it will have value. I’ll be able to access a set of bookmarks from anywhere, and easily share them. Things could get more interesting if other people’s e4x references start to show up when I visit (or subscribe to) the tag. Whether del.icio.us (or an analogous service) will reach a scale that makes that likely, for specialized as well as common terms, is an interesting question.

Once a tag does reach critical mass, another interesting question arises. Do you monitor the global view or do you rely on one or more user-filtered views? I guess the answer is both, at different times. When a tag is new and receives little traffic, watch the whole thing. If traffic grows too heavy or too noisy, interpose trusted human filters.

Looking back I can see what attracted me to Delicious. It embodies what I’ve come to know as ways of thinking like the web.

I am now working on a service that invites people to learn and apply web thinking in order to systematically inform one another about things. My web service uses Delicious as a partner service. One reason is that I am virtuously lazy. I would much rather use a service than create one. The elmcity project only cares about one thing: calendar syndication. If it can partner with a service like Delicious for other things — managing lists of feeds, configuring hubs — then I can focus on trying to do the one thing that really matters to my project.

But there’s another reason. I believe that people who use Delicious in the way that elmcity curators do are learning to apply some key principles of web thinking. Things like informal contracts, information chemistry, the pub/sub communication pattern, and the structure of information,

I wrote up specific examples recently in Can elmcity and Delicious continue their partnership? Today I realized that I still lack an answer to that question. If the new terms of service are going to require me to swap out Delicious for another service I should get cracking. But first I’ll try again. Is it OK for elmcity to keep using Delicious the way it has been? If anyone reading this can help me get that question answered I will be grateful.