- Nobody really needs a way to centrally store their bookmarks
- Most people don’t understand what del.icio.us does
- People don’t feel compelled to share del.icio.us with others
The winning explanation, I am sure, is #2. Nobody understands what del.icio.us does. I am constantly explaining the nature and value of its social information management capabilities. Just this week, in various meetings on Microsoft’s Redmond campus, I found myself reiterating four of my major uses of del.icio.us.
1. Answering a question with an URL.
I’m often asked questions like “What have you written about how to do screencasting?” I answer with an URL:
This not only wildly efficient, it’s future-proofed. If I hand you that URL today, then later add new items to the list, you’ll pick them up if you visit the URL in the future.
2. Del.icio.us as a database.
The URL shown above is an example of the pattern I discussed here. It’s actually a query: select all bookmarks where one tag is screencasting and another tag is howto. If you understand that such queries are possible, judicious assignment of tags becomes a data management discipline.
3. Collaborative list curation.
As discussed here:
Recently I began keeping track of interesting public data sources using the del.icio.us tag judell/publicdata, and invited others to do the same using their own del.icio.us accounts. That method sets up an interesting pattern of collaboration whereby all contributions flow up to the global bucket, tag/publicdata, but individual contributors can curate subsets of that collection according to their own interests.
It’s a powerful pattern for loosely-coupled collaborative list-making.
4. Feedback monitoring.
When I’m visiting an URL, I often use my del.icio.us citations bookmarklet (available here) to see who has bookmarked the URL, which quotation and tags were used to describe it, and what the history of attention to that URL has been over time.
Is it del.icio.us’ fault that, even in the geek subculture where the service is mainly used, so few people seem to discover and exploit these patterns? I wonder about this all the time, and not just with respect to del.icio.us. True, all of our information management tools could do a better job making features more easily discoverable. But to grok the patterns and apply the strategies I’m talking about, it’s not enough to know that features exist. You need to develop a sense of how those features can be used in support of certain principles of personal and social information management. It would be great if we could create software that naturally leads us to the discovery of those principles. But that’s a tall order. While we’re waiting, I think we should admit that these principles ought to be part of what you learn in order to become a digitally literate 21st-century citizen.