Why I Use More than One Social Bookmarking Service

Not that I’m paranoid (or maybe I am but I like to call it cautious skepticism) but I am always aware than any of the free web services that I use, or even ones I’ve paid for, could go belly up and my stuff on it (them) could vanish into a black hole. So when I read about speculation that my wonderful collection of bookmarks on del.icio.us could disappear, I feel my paranoia is justified.

Internet search marketers could lose some invaluable free tools from Yahoo such as their Site Explorer. Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb was concerned what the deal meant for Build Your Own Search Service (BOSS), Yahoo’s search developer platform Search Monkey and social bookmarking service Delicious, which he described as “one of the last era’s most heartbreaking symbols of untapped potential in social media”.

Bing is exciting as an effective challenger to Google, but if that competition comes at the cost of cannibalising Yahoo’s innovative search work – then we won’t be so excited about Bing any more.

I also celebrate that I have a strategy to deal with this. What are the odds that two similar web services will disappear at the same time? Not good, I hope.

My web stuff paranoia has led me to set up another social bookmarking service called Diigo. So I have two active accounts on different social bookmarking services.

So does that mean I have to save everything I like twice? Well, sort of, but that’s because I’ve recently taken to using Evernote, a broader and more visual saving application. But back to strictly social bookmarking. I only save once.

How? you ask. In Diigo, under my account name, I go into “Tools” where I can “Import Bookmarks”, but more importantly, I can “Save Elsewhere”. I have added my del.icio.us account here, and every time I save to Diigo, I also save, without any extra work, to del.icio.us.

So I’m prepared! If Yahoo and Microsoft let del.icio.us die, I still have all my bookmarks in Diigo. (Same thing if something happened to Diigo.) And I have Evernote too!

Social Bookmarking – Diigo

Social bookmarking is one of the most useful aspects of the web. You can use it to create your own online library, organized to your own interests by using tags. Although I’ve been using some form of social bookmarking for years, every so often I want to review what I can do with the social bookmarking tools I use.

Currently I use Diigo and del.icio.us.

One of the useful aspects of webapps is that many give you notice when an upgrade is available, and then, when you install it, open a page explaining all the changes. Diigo has recently upgraded and among the items available in the upgrade page were these very informative videos:

I use two social bookmarking apps because I’m wary of any web app closing down, and having two makes it more likely that I’ll still have access to most of my saved bookmarks if one closes. But who wants to do that extra work you ask? It’s no extra work, because I can save to Diigo and have my new bookmark automatically added to my del.icio.us account.

Diigo to del.icio.us
Diigo to del.icio.us

The final step I’ve taken is to add a del.icio.us widget to my blog so readers can see what I’ve been saving.

My del.icio.us widget
My del.icio.us widget

If you don’t already use social bookmarking, you might want to give it a try.

MagNet Presentation on Researching Using the Web


I’ve noticed that when I speak, I have my deepest focus on what I’m saying and trying to communicate, but that I pay substantial subsidiary attention to the audience’s reaction. If they don’t respond, it doesn’t matter how good my material is and my intentions are, I feel like I’m tanking. So, yesterday, when I presented, I automatically checked the audience’s reaction.

Before I fill you in on what happened, let me describe the set up. There was a big screen at the front of the third of the ballroom we had, in the middle. I project well, but I couldn’t be heard without a microphone. I was using a PowerPoint (because I suspected the wifi would fail. It did.) so I was tied to my laptop, especially since the remote that worked before and after the session didn’t work IN the session. My laptop was on a podium, on a platform on the audiences’ right at the front of the room.

Let me clarify, My podium was in line with the edge of the audience seats on one side, the screen was in the middle of this wide room, and the audience stretched out in a slight curving layout beyond the screen. There were only a few rows, but it stretched 20 feet, maybe more, across. My over 3 feet high platform had my podium on it and a six foot table, with at least another six feet across the floor to the screen, and, as I said, the audience ranged beyond that. It was the most bizarre set up for a speaker I’ve ever encountered, and I’ve been in some clumsy ones.

Then there was the beginning as the IT guy tried to make the wifi worked. I tried to speak while I was re-starting (wifi still didn’t work) and re-setting up myPowerPont program. Not smooth. Finally I started, only to be interrupted by audience members and coached on how to position my head so the mic would work. I kept on going, only somewhat daunted.

During my talks, I usually throw out little bits of humour to get a sense of the audience. I did this to the MagNet audience a few times, and nobody laughed. Whoops. I kept going, but noticed subliminally that I was feeling disconcerted. Looked out at the audience and noted that a substantial number were highly focussed on taking notes. Decided that must be a good sign, and, anyhow, the show had to go on.

I got several positive comments after I finished, but I won’t know until I get the formal feedback, what most of the audience thought.

When I present, I love having a slideshow to help me stay on point and keep me going when I talk! It’s a great security blanket when I don’t feel much resonance from the audience, and so it was yesterday. My PowerPoint was there when the wifi wasn’t, and when I felt worried about whether the audience was with me.

I have some observations, I hate under-designed, almost anti-speaker designed venues BUT I can survive them.

Finally, in lieu of handouts, I put my presentation up on SlideShare. This morning I received an email from them telling me it would be up in their News & Politics feature page for 16 to 20 hours, (News & Politics?!?) so that’s an audience reaction I can enjoy ;->

Beyond Google featured on SlideShare
"Beyond Google" featured on SlideShare

MagNet ’09

I GO-trained into Toronto today to attend some sessions  at the MagNet ’09 Conference. I was really impressed with the excellent level of organization and with the high quality of the two sessions I attended, a session with a panel of literary agents answering questions and a session with Harry van Bommel on self-publishing. Both were excellent. Harry van Bommel speaks frequently and if you ever get a chance to hear him, do it! I learned a lot from him. http://www.harryvanbommel.com/Harry_van_Bommel/HOME.html

Harry van Bommel's Home Page
Harry van Bommel's Home Page

It was a lovely day to be in downtown Toronto:

Torontos Old City Hall
Toronto's Old City Hall
Toronto's current City Hall

Tomorrow I give my presentation on researching using the web.

iQ mobile Search - an iPhone Screenshot
iQ mobile Search - an iPhone Screenshot

I worry a little because the audience will be doubly diverse. They will have many different angles on what they want to research and what for. Plus, today I noticed a wide range in web awareness and know-how in those attending the sessions I was in. As well, I’ve been tweeting using the hashtag #MagNet09, and when I’ve searched, very few seem to be using it. I’m hoping I’ve got something for everyone but tomorrow will tell.

I’m using a PowerPoint, for three reasons.

  1. I like KeyNote better, but if anything went wrong with my laptop, there might not be another Mac handy and a PowerPoint file will play on a Mac or a Windows platform. (Not that I’m paranoid ;-> but I’ve emailed a copy to my Google mail, and I have a memory stick with my presentation on it which I carry separately from my laptop,)
  2. I’ve just found PowerPoint’s Presenter Tool –  something I thought only Keynote had – and that will make my presentation easier to run.
  3. I don’t trust hotel wi-fi having had previous bad experiences with giving web-based presentations where the promised wi-fi was down more than up.

So tomorrow, I will be looking at this screen –

PowerPoints Presenter Tools
PowerPoint's Presenter Tools

Wish me luck ;->

Personalizing Web Access

Sometimes a bunch of experiences mash together and inspiration results. A couple of day ago I received a comment on one of my posts – #2 by Virginia Yonkers where she said “Try working on another’s computer! Just as we have idiosyncrasies in the speech, how we do math, writing (think of handwriting), we develop different patterns for tools and how we use them. If we can see how to modify a tool or how it is used to achieve our goals, we are more motivated to ask for help, persist through problems”. That has been my experience in my own learning.

Later in the day I was working with some people who were not that efficient at using the web and wanted to show them what I regard as an essential web tool, del.icio.us, the social bookmarking application. I reached out to the laptop, not my own, to try to open up my del.icio.us account so I could show them why it was so useful. Two problems:

  1. Although this was the same model as my laptop, the owner doesn’t use a mouse, and I do. I have to think to use the trackpad and that slows me down and klutzes me up;
  2. The owner’s desktop looks different and so do the applications because she has them set larger than I do mine, also disorientating.

Both of these reminded me of Virginia’s comment, and an often overlooked factor in encouraging people to expand their web efficiency. I think knowing how to set up and manipulate our tools is essential to any skilled artisan, knowledge workers included. Which computer we use is important, but knowing how to set up our PLE (Personal Learning Environment) or, the term I prefer, our PLWE (Personal Learning and Working Environment) is foundational. To work efficiently and effectively, you need to streamline your access to the different software and applications you are going to use. You need to fit your tool to your use.

Because I have a laptop, I can travel with it and use it for presentations. Because I am on it for several hours almost every day, and because I am impatient, I have researched and developed my own idiosyncratic setup.

Working SetUp

So let me explain, starting at the top left:

  1. I use Apple and Firefox because experts I know talked about how easy and handy they were, and that has been my experience too; I like them.
  2. I have my applications dock on the left side where I am less likely to “bump” into it. What can I say; it works for me.
  3. Most importantly, I have a personal toolbar, right under the address bar, where I keep all the links I regularly use. I use the Bookmarks feature to put these in the order I want them in, and to shorten their names so I can squeeze more on. I add other links I frequently use too, but allow these to be beyond the “>>” at the right end of my personal toolbar. When I click on the “>>” a long list of these medium important links appears and I can choose from them.
  4. Most of my “Saved for possible future use” bookmarks, I don’t put in the Bookmarks feature of my browser (Firefox) because they are then tied to my computer, and when I get a new one (yum!) or have a crash (the pain! the pain!) or use another computer (awk-ward!), I don’t have access to them. Instead I use an online application for social bookmarking, usually del.icio.us, (although I’m also checking out diigo). I can access my del.icio.us (or diigo) accounts from any online computer, provided I can remember my user name and password. (Not always that easy ;->) So I always have access to the links I’ve saved. Saving to del.icio.us is easy using the (circled) icons (which I dragged onto my address bar from the del.icio.us site) to the left of the URL field. The checkerboard, when clicked, opens my del.icio.us account so I can find previously saved links.  The  tag icon that says “TAG” on it, when click opens a small field in front of the site I’m saving, and allows me to add tags so I can easily re-find the site when I want it.
  5. I have a Google toolbar even though it takes up screen space on my small laptop screen because it has an icon, circled, that allows me to open a new tab with one click. I like having lots of tabs open so I can switch from site to site with ease, which brings me to my final PLWE essential >
  6. When I took the screenshot above, I had seven (count ’em!) tabs open in Firefox. Often I have more because it makes my work easier. When I finish this draft, I will add links, and what I usually do is open the site I want to link to in another tab, copy the link address, return to my draft and add the link. Multiple tabs – I love ’em!

So there you have it, some of my secrets for making my work efficient and easy to manage, for setting up my PLWE, my “tool”. All learned, I’ll add, over years of chatting with others and reading about what the possibilities are in this ever changing web world.

Tagging – For Organizing Information

One of the most important aspects of the web today is a way of organizing information called tagging (or, on Blogger, labelling). You could say that tagging is the child of alphabetical indexing – a post-Gutenberg information management invention – and hyperlinking – a web networking development. You can see what this looks like in the tag cloud pictured below.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tag_%28metadata%29 (If you want to learn about Web 2.0, you can click on the link to Wikipedia and then click on the various hyperlinked terms in the image to read the Wikipedia definitions. The size indicates how often each is used.)

A Very Small History Lesson
Humans spoke before we wrote and for centuries we dealt with information by remembering, sometimes using memory aids like rhyme, rhythm, and formulaic storytelling. Then writing developed, and people could note down information, and compose stories. Sacred writings passed wisdom along the generational chain, with “books” being tied together into one unit, no matter what their subject matter. A small elite of those who could read and write formed, and were usually part of a priesthood devoted to preserving, accumulating, and passing along the wisdom. All the “books” were hand-copied and some priests had books virtually memorized, but that didn’t create the absolute uniformity that came with the printed word.

from – http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/4200/4255/printing-press_1.htm

When the printing press was invented, exact copies could be made, and human interventions, mistakes and alterations didn’t cause variations among copies. Reading, in the European world was still associated with the sacred, although universal literacy was seen as a way to allow everyone to have immediate connection with the Holy Scriptures rather than having to go through a hierarchy of priests. With the growth of universal literacy, many other developments followed, including the ability to “read” (and interpret) the same texts differently, which created dissent. People began to reproduce books other than scriptures, and thus to share and spread philosophical and scientific thought, which sped up “progress” and led to even more differing opinions.

For scholars and readers, other developments were built on the uniformity of the books being published using a printing press. In order to avoid reading a whole book while looking for one piece of information, the organizational development that most links (pun intended) to tagging was developed.

While information and ideas were being discovered, collected, and published, readers began to want to read just parts of (non-narrative) books. Now that many people could read books where the pages always stayed the same, it became easier to manage information. Scholars started creating categories, or taxonomies, so they could find specific information quickly and completely. They began using indexes at the ends of books, and alphabetizing these indexes; it was worth the time it took for someone to index the information in a book to make it more accessible to the many readers of the book.

It quickly became essential for any learner to learn how to use indexes in books and in libraries, and systems of organizing information developed as rigid categories were set up, and people learned how to use them.

With the arrival of the World Wide Web came the possibilities of hyperlinking. Taxonomies & alphabetical indexing (top down hierarchically controlled) plus hyperlinking (giving choice in reading/viewing paths)combined and in Web 2.0 tagging was born.

I use tagging for my blog posts, to make it easier for readers to search for the topics that interest them. However, the real power of tagging, for me, comes with my online bookmarks. I use del.icio.us – to collect website addresses, URLs, for future reference. I use words or phrases that have meaning for me as keywords. Sometimes when I’m adding a site to my del.icio.us account, a tag may be a general topic, like, say, “social_bookmarking” or it might be highly idiosyncratic, like the course code of a course I teach, or I might add both plus the name of a friend whom I’ll send the link to next week, or all of them. For example,

While I check through the blogs I follow, using my feed reader, I don’t read them in full, but I do add the relevant ones to my del.icio.us account, and now have an extensive collection of tags –

far more than I can show you in a screen shot. They are an invaluable resource, and they are named for my interests and needs, not according to a rigid and prescribed set of terms.

Tagging is a new and highly useful way to organize information, a method that didn’t exist, before the web.