There is a lot of cool stuff going on on the web nowadays. There are Wikis and Blogs, Flickr and FoaF, del.icio.us, various flavors of P2P and Google Betas and personal streaming technologies,… and usually RSS feeds are provided as a unified headline stream. Its hard to keep track.
Out of pure selfishness I’ll start a miniseries on a few technologies I enjoy – hopefully some of my friends will get hooked as well ;) – with the fabulous del.icio.us
Its a free webservice for managing bookmarks. The documentation is short and sweet.
Why is it great?
- Its web-based. Bookmarks can be accessed across all browsers and machines.
- Its social. You can view the bookmarks of other users or the bookmarks of all users for a given (or combination of) tag. One nice usecase for this is to apply a specific, unlikely tag for intra-group bookmark exchange (you can’t prevent others from joining or hijacking this term though ;) )
- Its combinatoric. You can assign an arbitrary number of tags to each bookmark. You can browse your bookmarks by date, tag or various combinations of tags (inclusion or exclusion). This might not sound like a killer-feature, but once one came up with a decent tagging strategy, the bookmarks become very accessible.
- Its subscribable. You can (among other possibilities) generate RSS feeds for topics of interest.
Well, almost. One thing I really like with del.icio.us is the principle that everyone applies the tags the way he/she wants to. Academics and taxonomists might (and actually do) object that there are all kind of problems involved: people might use different tags for the same concept (newyork nyc …) or the same tag for different concepts (java for the island or the programming language), so even if we wouldn’t want to enforce a strict taxonomy or a controlled vocabulary we still might want to…, but what those arguments are missing is the fact that the users
are tagging info-economically and smart.
Everyone is part of the system, everyone is observing the system and reflecting his strategy of using the system, everyone at the same time is observed by the system and everyone knows this. There seems to be a permanent differentiation of tags if they become unusable (because there are too many links associated), or a unification of tags (because there is a usablility constraint with too many tags), or a homogenisation of tags (because it makes more sense if one applies the best practices of others) and so on.
There obviously are various forces at play here, but in the end del.icio.us turns out to be a powerful tool for sharing, finding, browsing informations available on the web and better suited for this than all more structured or moderated alternatives.