Beating the drum for Delicious

Yesterday’s stream of notifications brought two links paired with invitations for me to comment. The first link points to a NY Times story about how AVOS, the new owner of Delicious, plans to remake that service. Chad Hurley:

The home page would feature browseable “stacks,” or collections of related images, videos and links shared around topical events. The site would also make personalized recommendations for users, based on their sharing habits. “We want to simplify things visually, mainstream the product and make it easier for people to understand what they’re doing,” Mr. Hurley said.

The second link points to a blog post from Mark Surman, executive director of the Mozilla Foundation, who wants to teach the world to code:

This has been the premise behind much of what we have done with Mozilla Drumbeat: people who make stuff on the internet are better creators and better online citizens if they know at least a little bit about the web’s basic building blocks. Even if they only learn a little HTML, the web gets better.

I wish I could broker a conversation between Chad Hurley and Mark Surman. If mainstream folk used Delicious and understood what they’re doing when using it, they’d understand themselves to be makers of things on the Internet. The things they make are custom information systems. They make them by writing code, but not in the languages of HTML or JavaScript. Instead they use tag vocabularies that produce and consume web services. And services, I argue, are the most fundamental of the web’s basic building blocks.

Here is an example: http://www.delicious.com/judell/del.icio.us. Ostensibly it’s a list of dozens of articles I’ve written over the years about what I mean when I say that Delicious enables non-programmers to code and use web services. But it’s not just a list. I think of it as a web service. One aspect of the service provides the list in HTML format for people to read in browsers. Another provides the list in RSS format that enables cooperating services to watch the list and react when new items are added. Another enables the list to combine with other lists. Here, for example, is a subset of my Delicious-related articles that are also related to the elmcity project: http://www.delicious.com/judell/del.icio.us+elmcity.

More than anything before or since, Delicious empowers me to manage web resources — both personally and socially. Once those resources were mainly things we found on the web. Now they’re also things we make on the web. I hope the forthcoming Delicious makeover will help people understand it to be a tool for creating, mixing, and sharing web resources. And I hope it remains the sort of open web tool that Mozilla Drumbeat wants to popularize.

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