A few years ago, I heard about the rage of saving your favorites online (or “bookmarks” as Netscape and Firefox calls them). The advantage was that you would have all your bookmarks in one simple place. For those of us who use multiple computers (home, work, laptop, friends, etc), this was certainly an attraction. I couldn’t recall the number of times I would have to “re-Google” something because I was at the wrong computer. I don’t mind re-googling when it is something easy. For instance, I already know that Dreamweaver’s extension list is at adobe.com and I can just click a few times to get to it. But there is really a better site called…. something about a zone…. dreamweaverzone.com? No, that’s not it… dmzone.com?… no…. ahh, yes.. dmxzone.com. Having your bookmarks with you can really save time.

I signed up for the MyWeb feature at Yahoo and started to use it back then, but I found it a bit cumbersome. And like anything cumbersome, you just stop using it after a while. It is a great idea, and I think it will eventually be the future of online favorites (and sharing), but right now it is still pretty rough.

So, about a month ago, I finally bit the bullet and signed up for del.icio.us, which although it is a terrible name for a website, I’ve finally got it memorized. It has everything I wanted.

First, I had to import over a 1000 bookmarks that I’ve accumulated ever since I got on the net over ten years ago. I’ve faithfully transferred my favorites from one machine to another, and even though I’ve weeded them out from time to time, I would typically get distracted and never finish. At one point a few years ago, the number exceeded 2000 links. Call me an information junkie.

Del.icio.us will tag all your existing favorites with words that equate to the categories you had them in originally. Now, if you are a hierarchal thinker (like me), you might get nervous about no-longer having a structured outline format of your bookmarks. I was. But, I have to say, that the tagging is far superior overall. While it does present a rather large list of tags if you have a lot of favorites in different categories, you can always display them in a cloud format which can help. I had bookmarks that were organized like this: Computer / Website / Development / CSS. For the most part, I deleted all the directory structure tags above CSS, and just kept the CSS. The only reason I had them so organized on the browser was that otherwise it would become a huge list of 300 categories. Well, after working hard and fine-tuning the structure, I’m down to about a little under 100 tags. Very manageable.

My first mistake was not to fully categorize everything in my browser before importing my favorites. I had about 150 favorites that I had lazily left at the bottom of my favorites, so I had to manually tag these later. With Firefox, it would have been far easier to use its Bookmark Manager to quickly drag and drop these into some rough categories.

When you import your bookmarks into Del.icio.us, it gives you the option of adding an “imported” tag to the bookmarks. I highly recommend using this. Even though you’ll have to eventually remove that tag from every bookmark, it is a good way of seeing your progress as you get things organized.

Del.icio.us also offers a plug-in for most browsers, so you can quickly access your bookmarks (and save new ones) right from your browser. If you are ever at a public terminal or someone else’s computer, you can always just access it from the del.icio.us website. This is very useful, because it is usually when I’m at someone else’s computer and they are showing me something interesting when I see a site I’d like to bookmark for later. Now, I can just have them pop up a new window and put it in my del.icio.us account (once I login) and forgo the usual “email that to me” conversation - which takes just as much time for them to do, but also leaves me with a “to do” later.

I also discovered how much garbage had accumulated in my favorites. I was able to pair down my favorites to about 450 from an original 1100. I don’t save obvious sites (like yahoo.com, google.com, etc) so I was able to get rid of about 40 of those right off the bat. Then I found a bunch of favorites for things that I no longer had a need for, a few dead sites (not many - since I had always used AM-Deadlink to keep my favorites clean), and just the typical stuff that was excessive: how many bookmarks for online dictionaries do I really need? I managed to keep three and delete eight others.

My only negative comment is that when you first import your bookmarks, you are likely going to spend some time cleaning them up. This process (making changes to your lists) is apparently monitored by del.icio.us and if you get a bit too aggressive and make a lot of changes in a short amount of time, they will block you from the site temporarily with a cryptic message that says “You’ve been temporarily blocked for accessing our site too quickly. This could be the result of misconfigured software, buggy scripts, or malware. Please hold off for a few minutes, and try again later, in a gentler fashion.” It allows you to send an email if you think you were blocked wrongly. I did, and only got a horrid bot-mail response back that addressed none of my comments in my email and offered the typical bozo advice (read the help files, etc.). From searching around the net, the best information seems to indicate that they limit your access for a lot of activity in a short amount of time. Apparently, I’m penalized because I type 80wpm and don’t waste time. There should be some recognition that a new user is going to modifying his account pretty heavily the first few hours of access.

Additionally, I’m constantly asked by others if I know of any good sites to do such-and-such. Typically, I dive into my bookmarks, open them up in various new windows, cut-and-paste the hyperlinks into an email and send them off to the requester. Now, I can send people right to my del.icio.us bookmarks (http://del.icio.us/lsalberg) and they can view all the bookmarks that I’ve elected to share - which is about 90% of them. If someone asks me for some good sites regarding CSS design, I can just reference the URL for that tag (http://del.icio.us/lsalberg/css) for them to view. Much easier than the old way. Your bookmarks are automatically not shared, unless you specify to share them. While this is kind of a pain, having to click “share” on each link you want shared, del.icio.us rightly suspects that if they had a “share all” button, people would accidentally share things they didn’t realize they were sharing, and allow spammers to hijack del.icio.us for nefarious purposes. Having to click that does force you to think for a second, probably a worthwhile activity. I found a few that I would not have otherwise thought to be a problem, until I looked at it from the perspective of some clown on the net and how he/she might use that information. As it is, I’m usually pretty open and transparent on the net, but I’m not going to tell you where I do my banking online, who my auto insurance company is, or give you links to internal corporate sites that even I shouldn’t have access to… whoops! Wasn’t supposed to say that, I don’t think. Who’s that knocking on my door?

What made me finally decide to jump in was when I read that Yahoo had bought del.icio.us late in 2005, and while still pondering about it (thinking they would just use the del.icio.us platform to enhance their MyWeb feature), I read a positive review of the improvements at Del.icio.us from TechCrunch and decided to take the plunge. While I do hope that Yahoo eventually integrates Del.icio.us into the main Yahoo site (saving me yet another login ID), hopefully making del.icio.us a bit more pretty to look at, I’m very happy with it for the moment. Hopefully, Yahoo will also work on creating a bit more bandwidth for del.icio.us, so users don’t get blocked as much - or at all. Hardly seems like a reason to ever block a user unless it truly is excessive (50 page refreshes a minute or something weird like that).

Lastly, if you’ve ever had something bookmarked and can’t seem to find it (especially if you are one of those types who just save all your bookmarks as one giant list - ugh!), with del.icio.us, you can search your own bookmarks very easily, including descriptive text you can add to each bookmark (*currently capped at 255 characters). I’m usually an early adopter on some things, but I feel a bit in the dark by waiting so long on this. I’ve already deleted all my bookmarks on all my machines - no more duplicity or confusion. Still, if you have a few moments, give del.icio.us a try. It’s completely free and there’s no limit to the number of favorites you can save (that I could find). There are many more powerful features worth exploring that I did not cover here.

Technorati : del.icio.us tagging bookmarks favorites

Posted in: Websurfing & Computing