Getting into this online stuff: Part II - A better way to bookmark and favorite links on the web using del.icio.us

This is the second installment of posts I plan to use for the class I'm teaching at Fordham.  It's probably a little remedial for hardcore techies, but it might be the kind of things you send to friends who might not be as tech savvy.   See the prior post at the bottom...

So, you've been surfing the web for 10+ years now.

How many bookmarks or favorites do you have?  5? 10? 50?  So in 10 years you've only seen 25 things on the web worth saving?

What about discovering new things?  Are you one of those people who gets stuff sent to them or are you always the first to find something? 

I want to share a really useful tool I use called del.icio.us.  It has a screwy name because it's actually at the "icio.us" domain...  You can get to it from delicious.com, but that just takes all the novelty out of it.

del.icio.us is a better way to remember, discover, and share URLs.  It may not seem compelling at first, but I guarantee once you use it a few times, particulalry the first time you retrieve or discover a new link, you'll be hooked.

What is it? 

del.icio.us is a way to store your links online.  So, right off the bat, anything you save can be easily retrieved from other computers that you use?  New computer?  Home computer.  No problem.  And no searching through e-mails for links anymore either.  Welcome to 2006. 

All of the del.icio.us links are saved with your own keywords.  No more trying to figure out if the Barry Bonds story goes in the sports folder or the steroids folder.  (If you even have folders for links.)  Just "tag" it (attach keywords) using words that will help you retrieve it later...  Just "jerk" or "jerk, baseball, juice, BALCO, SFGiants, and Bonds."  You'll never lose a link again, because you stored it using any and all of your own words.  I never lose the Central Park softball field finder because I have it tagged "central park, maps, and softball".

By default, links in del.icio.us are public. You might freak out at first, but keep in mind the following...  You don't have to have any personally identifyable information displayed in your account.  If you want to be metsfan06 in del.icio.us, no one will really know who you are.  Also, you can make any of your links private.  In my year and a half of using del.icio.us, I think I've done this twice, and I actually set my name to be viewable in my del.icio.us account.  Look at most of your bookmarks.  Would it matter if any of them were public?  Maybe a handful, but I doubt that's the case for most.

The value of the public default in del.icio.us is that you can discover new links tagged by the community of other users, and there are over a million.  You can check out the most popular links tagged PHP at del.icio.us/popular/php or the most popular things tagged funny at del.icio.us/popular/funny.  Because there are over a million del.icio.us users, most of these tags are pretty deep in their content.  You can also check out combinations (but just a chronology...it doesn't do popular for combos) of tags.   Check out links tagged nyc and food at del.icio.us/tag/food+nyc for a good restaurant recommendation.  There's no rating system on del.icio.us, because, as the founder put it, links only have two settings... "stuff worth saving" and "everything else".  Plus, you can discover other users who have similar interests.  I found a guy who was tagging cool Brooklyn restaurants and places "naveen" at del.icio.us/naveen/hangout.  I didn't even know who he was, but followed what he was tagging hangout.

One last thing and then we'll get to the how.  You can tag links for specific people right at the moment you save it for yourself.  If you find a link you want me to see, just tag it as usual, but also add the tag for:ceonyc.  When I want to tag something for Shaival, our biz dev guy here, its for:sshah06 or for Kristina, our Oddcast intern, its for:kw11.  You have to know your friend's screenname...there's no user search.

Oh, you can also subscribe to any person's links, any tag, any combo, or the popular lists, by RSS.

Here's how to use it:

First off, it's much easier to use it in Firefox, because they've built a really nice little extension.  Plus, you should be using Firefox anyway....less bugs and holes, plus webpages pretty much display the way the auther intended.  IE does screwy things to the web.

1) Register here.

2) Get the firefox extension.

3) Restart your browser.

4) Now you've got these two buttons on your toolbar.  One for tagging pages and one for retreiving your tagged pages. 

5) When you tag a page, use space seperated keywords that make sense to you. For me, I always use a combination of general subject tags and ones that intidcate to me why I tagged them.  So, this post might be tagged "del.icio.us howto web bookmarks favorites fordhamclass".  You can use as many or as few as you like and it doesn't matter if they make sense to anyone else but you.  So, someone looking for better ways to manage bookmarks would find this post through the "bookmarks" tag, but no one would ever care about or look for something tagged "fordhamclass".  That tag is for my purposes.  The neat thing about tagging is that I just did something for myself...tagged a link so I can find later, and others still benefit.

There are lots of other neat features of del.icio.us, like creating linkrolls for your blog or automatic once a day blog posts of all your links from that day.  Take some time to explore it.  I guarantee that if you get into the habit of using it, you'll find it really useful and you'll never forget anything you saw on the web.

Other "Getting into this online stuff posts":

Getting into this online stuff: Part I - Blogging as the Industry Cocktail Party