Saturday, December 6, 2008

How to bork your bookmarks, delicious-style.

Step 1.
Read this post, in which Delicious announces their updated Delicious Bookmarks Firefox add-on. The addon:

has received a major behind-the-scenes change as we moved from using RDF to SQLite for storing the bookmarks. This means that the add-on is faster and more stable, especially for users with large accounts. It has been updated to work with Firefox 3.1 Beta and now works on Firefox 2.0-3.1b1 on Windows, Mac, and most Linux distributions that support Firefox.

Exciting, huh?

Step 2
Install the update, as requested by your Firefox add-ons manager.

As it synced for the first time, I noticed the progress bar was making a lot of progress, but I only had 39 bookmarks (out of 1894). Turns out, after the full update, that was still all I had. 39 bookmarks.

Okay, that’s okay. Let’s try this: Delicious Options—>Advanced—>FULL SYNC.

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Yes. That’s what I need. Go little green progress bar, GO!

Uh, wait, what’s this?  I now have zero bookmarks. And I’m not the only one.

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Look, I love Delicious Bookmarks. And I know they’ll fix this. But this update is only one in a long line of updates to this venerable add-on, all of which were intended to fix some prior grievous error. This certainly isn’t the first time I’ve had a serious problem, so I’ve been a regular reader of both the Delicious Forum and the Yahoo Group for the Delicious Bookmarks Firefox add-on. I am only one of many users who are waiting for the day when everything will just work as advertised and as hoped. Said one poster about this latest update:

Finally a new version that hasn't created more problems than it fixes. Also, thank you for allowing capitalized tags again. I had about given up on it ever being fixed, and was looking into other bookmarking options.

From my end, it appears he spoke too soon. I am aware that Delicious has updated their site to include streaming audio bookmarks, and that is very cool. But I’m necessarily focused on my own little problem right now, and I’m hoping that a fix comes soon. I also hope that the fix doesn’t break something else.

I kid.

Because I love.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Your own private Google

Earlier this evening, Google unleashed SearchWiki, a feature allowing you to edit and annotate Google search results. The kicker? They’ve added the feature to their flagship product: Google. It’s not in beta. It’s not a lab feature. It’s not part of Google Notebook, and it doesn’t require a Firefox plug-in. As long as you’re signed in under your Google ID, you’ll see it whenever you search for something on Google. This video does a great job explaining the feature, so I won’t bother repeating it.

This is pretty fascinating, and I’ve got a couple of thoughts. First, if you’re the type of person who thinks bookmarking is useless because Google gets you there faster and easier than any other option, well, this announcement bolsters your argument. For example, type in “sports.” ESPN comes up first, but you don’t like that. You’d rather see Fox come up first. Press the arrow to promote Fox to the top. Done.

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But what if you want to see Football Outsiders and King Kaufman’s Salon column on this list? Just add them using the “add search result” feature at the bottom of the page. You might rarely use Google for simple, generic keyword searches like “recipes” or “weather”, but with SearchWiki, those same keywords can now be used to map your most visited sites.

imageThe other obvious use is for searches you might regularly perform, but which are frequently updated with new results. A vanity search is a great example.

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Come on. It would have been boring if I used my own name.

I’ll be interested to see how often I use SearchWiki. I certainly use Google a lot, but I don’t frequently run the same searches or run into the same results. I’m skeptical as to whether Google’s latest innovation will prove all that useful. On the other hand, it’s difficult to predict how useful a new feature will be. I’ve never used anything like it. In a few weeks, SearchWiki might be solving problems I didn’t know I had.

Finally, I should say that I’m impressed with how polished the new feature is at launch. Google has managed to add some extraordinary new features without changing the basic layout or aesthetics of their flagship product. And the icons make the functions refreshingly clear.

Nice job, Google. 

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Endnote’s suit against Zotero headed to a courtroom

ArsTechnica provides an overview of the legal conflict between EndNote (the leading all-in-one academic research software) and its open-source competitor Zotero. I use Zotero for work, and I recently offered an enthusiastic endorsement of the Firefox add-on, which is still in beta. I’d be misleading you if I offered any insight on the nature of Endnote’s reverse engineering claims against Zotero. I’m not an intellectual property expert (or an expert on much at all :). But I do think the lawsuit opens an intriguing new front in the war between commercial and open source software (via Ars):

Zotero is an open source project led by a pair of academics, Dan Cohen and Sean Takats, at George Mason University's Center for History and New Media. Zotero is a plugin for the Firefox browser, and therefore cross-platform, and also has the advantage of being free. It also includes functionality similar to the Mac OS X application Papers, in that it manages PDF libraries, as well as offering users a way to insert references into a document.

The lawsuit, brought by Thomson Reuters against George Mason University and the Comptroller of Virginia, alleges that GMU is in contravention of their EndNote license with their newest version of Zotero, thanks to Zotero having allegedly reverse-engineered the file format that EndNote uses for citation styles in order to offer a similar functionality in Zotero. Thomson Reuters claims that GMU is causing "irreparable harm" to its brand, and is seeking to prevent GMU from distributing the offending application, as well as significant financial damages.

GMU denies this claim, insisting that, although Zotero can read EndNote's .ens files, the application does not convert that data to Zotero's .csl format. GMU has decided not to renew its site license for EndNote, and has re-released the controversial Zotero 1.5 Sync Preview.

Outside of Endnote’s claims against Zotero, I don’t think the extension is all that controversial. As I said in my earlier review, I think the software is an outstanding notemarking tool, even if you don’t ever use the whiz-bang academic features or import your research from Endnote. Indeed, it’s Zotero’s very powerful feature set and very free price that will continue to disrupt the market for expensive commercial options like Endnote.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Delicious Bookmarks add-on closer to syncing with Firefox?

A new beta version of the Delicious Bookmarks Firefox add-on uses SQLite to store your bookmarks locally instead of RDF. In a post on the Delicious Bookmarks group, product manager Jared Elson said the switch would result in some serious improvements:

1. Extension should be much more stable and usable for users with
large accounts
2. After the initial conversion of your existing RDF file to SQLite
syncing will be faster and more reliable
3. Corruption experienced in previous versions of the extension with
RDF should be a thing of the past

But I wonder whether the SQLite conversion might also help the Delicious team make good on its promise to enable some form of syncing with Firefox’s native bookmarking and history system, Places. You see, Firefox 3 also switched to SQLite as its internal bookmark database.

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what advantages a SQLite database has over an RDF, nor am I sure whether Delicious and Firefox using the same storage framework will actually aid their synchronization efforts. So the question in the post title is genuine. Could this alignment in storage methods mean Delicious-Firefox syncing is closer to becoming a reality?

I hope so.

For now, I’ve been using the beta version on two machines for more than a week, and I’ve noticed the performance improvements are real. The bugs seem to be gone, and the add-on is finally handling my favicons properly. You can download the beta if you click here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Does Twine finally have their shit together?

A while back, I wrote about Twine and criticized the service for, basically, being slow as shit. Well, today the service leaves private beta and opens to the public. To celebrate, they’ve put together a jokey, NSFW video that aptly describes the site’s purpose and mission:

You use Twine to collect, find some shit, and share that shit with people you know.

Viewing it, I wondered if the self-described “Delicious on steroids” might finally have their shit together. Nope. At least, not from a speed perspective. The site is still too slow and unresponsive to displace its main competitor, Social|Median. Social|Median might be more unfocused and cluttered, and all its features don’t work all the time. But SM is a helluva lot faster than Twine and it has some nice features that actually set it apart from simple bookmarking tools. Even without the ‘roids.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Zotero: The best notetaking / bookmarking hybrid you’re not using

image I use Delicious as for public bookmarking and sharing, because it works great with my Tumblr blog, FriendFeed, and Facebook. When it comes to personal reference and easy, social publishing, Delicious is where it’s at. But in my job as a lawyer and researcher, I need something more powerful—and more private.

Until a few months ago, I had been using the Scrapbook Firefox extension as my workplace personal assistant. Scrapbook captures links, snippets, and full Web pages to a private, searchable, client-side notebook. It also allows you to edit and highlight your saved Web pages. The one drawback with Scrapbook is that it doesn’t sync with my two computers at home; my notes are trapped at work.

Enter Zotero Sync Preview. It does pretty much everything Scrapbook does (without some of Scrapbook’s deep link features), but it also syncs across computers and platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux) using either Zotero’s server or your own. If that were all Zotero did, it would be awfully amazing. But Zotero is the most full-featured Web research tool you get at any price, and it’s free. To get a feel for what Zotero can do, watch this video.  Trust me, it’s worth six minutes of your time.

You might be thinking, “This tool seems like it’s built for academic researchers. I don’t need a tool that organizes, automates, and exports bibliographies and citations.” Neither do I. Don’t let Zotero’s academic focus scare you away from its amazing feature set. It’s not just for liberal-arts majors and scholars.

I first came across Zotero in law school, and although I was impressed with its ability to grab bibliographic data from sources like JSTOR and Lexis-Nexis, I now rely more on Zotero’s meat and potatoes features:

  • Make local copies of web pages, and add your own highlights and annotations
  • Sync your notes, items, and links across computers using Zotero’s servers or your own.
  • Organize your stuff using both folders and tags. You can place items into more than one folder, and even identify related items within a folder.
  • Save attachments, such as PDFs, and sync them (must have your own server to sync attachments).
  • Automatically grab metadata from sites like the New York Times, Blogger, and Amazon, in addition to traditional academic databases.
  • Export items in your library or specific folders to a number of other formats.
  • Customize column views and sort your saved items.
  • Set custom keyboard shortcuts.
  • Extend Zotero with plugins and 1,100 bibliographic citation styles (if you’re into that kind of thing).

imageAnd that’s really just scratching the surface. Recently Zotero released a new online viewer for Sync users that store their bookmarks and items on Zotero’s servers. The viewer is painfully simple right now, but that’s perfect for iPhone users who want mobile access to their research (yes, there’s a customized iPhone view). 

It’s obvious I love Zotero, and I chose it as my workplace bookmarker for it’s robust feature set and killer sync capabilities, as well as its emphasis on private research. But I do have a few caveats.

First, this is not going to replace Delicious or Diigo as your social bookmarking tool. Nor will import items from those services. Zotero is best understood as a powerful, but supplemental tool for focused (not necessarily academic) research.

Second, Zotero is more complicated than your average Firefox add-on. But they’ve got a Web site with documentation and forums for users who are dedicated to unlocking its full potential. On the other hand, I’m using about 40-50% of the available feature set, and without trying too hard it’s already better than anything similar I’ve tried. However, if Zotero is too much for you, I evaluated Iterasi as a workplace bookmarking tool, and it’s an excellent, more traditional bookmarking alternative. That, of course, is a separate post that hasn’t been written yet.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

New Evernote release: Smartly done Delicious importing

In an email last night, Evernote announced several updates to their various platforms, including a flexible import feature for Delicious bookmarks:
You can now import your Delicious bookmarks right into Evernote. To do this, click the link above to sign in your account, then click the "Settings" link. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the Import Delicious Bookmarks, then follow the instructions. The import process will bring over links, tags (optionally), and any associated notes. Each bookmark will become an individual note. Delicious limits the number of people that can use the importer at the same time. So, if it's busy, just come back in a bit and try again.
I gave the feature a try last night, and I’m really impressed with how well Evernote has implemented this feature. I’ll take you through the screen shots.

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Evernote promises a “simple 3-step process,” and it is simple, but they give you lots of options.

image
After inputting you Delicious information, Evernote allows you to decide what gets imported, and how you want it to look.
  • Import all bookmarks or filter by tag.
  • You can choose to retain tags or strip them.
  • Select a destination notebook or create a new one.
image
This last step is critically important, and awesome. Evernote tells you exactly how many bookmarks it’s fetching and more importantly, they let you know how many tags you’re about to add. When I got to this step, I decided I didn’t need to add all those tags to an already crowded sidebar. Indeed, one of my criticisms of both Evernote and Google Notebook is the lack of a space-saving tag cloud option. I certainly don’t need a line for every tag. But I digress.

What do your Bookmarks look like once they’re imported?

image
Well, this is still my least favorite thing about Evernote: the default view is optimized for photos and drawings rather than text. But you can switch over to list view.

image
Either way, the date and time info is prominently displayed. Some people will really like this, because Delicious deprecated the timestamp feature in its recent update.

Overall, I’m extremely impressed. Evernote continues to do the little things very well, and this flexible Delicious import feature is just more of the same. As I’ve said before, I’m a fairly dedicated Google Notebook user. But Evernote is a great option for lots of people. Their approach to bookmark integration is certainly much more elegant and configurable than Google Notebook. Add that to their unbeatable sync options and superb mobile apps, and *presto* you’ve got your Delicious bookmarks on your freaking phone.

That’s pretty compelling.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Apologies for the long droughts between posts.

I will have a few substantive posts for you once power is restored to my house (as a Houstonian, I'm still coping with Ike).

But beyond my current, weather-related constraints, I have to set realistic expectations. My day job is working as a lawyer for a hospital. This means I take a lot of notes and do a ton of research. But it also means that blogging is, for me, a hobby. This is a place for me to share my web-dork inclinations with people who care about such things (shockingly, most of my pals do not share my interest in what the digerati call "social media" and "web 2.0"). 

My goal is one or two posts per week—at most. Lately, you haven't even got that from me. But I'll start up again. Soon. In the meantime, I urge you to check out a couple of places where I funnel interesting stories about web-based bookmarking and notetaking, or notemarking:
  1. I share lots of Notemarking items via a cloudnotes tag in Google Reader. That stream is updated in the sidebar of this blog, but you can also access it here.
  2. Lately, I've been using the increasingly awesome Social|Median to collect updates and blog posts from around the Web. I encourage you to join the Notemarking News Network on Social Median if you want to access a broad range of items focused on web-based bookmarking and notetaking.
Thanks for enjoying CloudNotes, and I'll return soon.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Bookmarking in Google’s Chrome Browser

image After reading all the Chrome posts yesterday and today, I knew better than to expect a bunch of showy links to Google properties such as Gmail, Google Reader, or even Google.com. Indeed, Google showed admirable restraint in focusing narrowly upon enhancing the browsing experience. That meant a smooth import process that transfers all your browser settings, including your default search engine (even if it’s not Google).

Google extended their open and easy approach to Chrome’s bookmarking functionality. Chrome doesn’t link up directly with Google Bookmarks. Instead, Chrome offers a less functional version of Firefox’s bookmark engine. Chrome imports your bookmarks and browsing history from Firefox (you do use Firefox, don’t you?) and seamlessly incorporates them into Omni Bar, its version of Firefox’s Awesome Bar.

There are a few key differences from the Firefox approach. First, the Omni Bar includes search results from your default search engine. I’m not sold on this approach because the suggested auto-complete results in Omni Bar aren’t as relevant for me. Take a look at the screenshots below to see what I’m talking about.

image
Gmail search in the Awesome Bar using only “gm”

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The same search in Omni Bar doesn’t get me close to Gmail.

If Chrome learned from my past searches the way Firefox does, it would automatically provide me with Gmail as the top result. This is minor, considering Chrome is a beta release, but it’s something that will need to be improved.

The second key difference is the abbreviated feature set of Chrome’s core bookmarking engine. The appearance is quite similar.

image
Firefox’s bookmark dialog

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Chrome bookmark dialog

Note that unlike Firefox, there’s no way to add tags or keywords, or even edit them. You also can’t search your bookmarks outside of the Omni Bar. Again, this seems pretty forgivable since it’s a beta release. On the other hand, it does look like they lifted the bookmarking engine directly from Firefox. Why not incorporate all of Firefox’s bookmarking features?

One nice thing about Chrome’s approach is the screen you see when you open a new tab.

image

The display includes both recent bookmarks and most visited sites. This is incredibly useful, but I don’t view it as a huge advantage for Chrome, because both Firefox and Internet Explorer are likely to integrate similar features in the future.

Overall, I have to admit I’m not impressed with Chrome’s bookmarking capabilities. And I’m worried that the lack of tags might indicate an unwillingness to integrate with Web-based bookmarking services, including Google’s own bookmarking product. Scott McCloud’s otherwise awesome Chrome comic book hints that Google may not be very enthusiastic about bookmarking, when your Omni Bar can locate the item much more quickly.

image

That might be true. If the Omni Bar worked as well as the Firefox’s Awesome bar. It doesn’t. At least, not yet.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Magnolia goes open source? That’s great, I guess.

image Magnolia is going open source, and will allow any site publisher to use their platform in building their own personalized version of the feature-rich social bookmarking engine. Every story I’ve read suggests the company wants to become the Wordpress.org for the social bookmarking set.

My take: I think it’s kind of neat. I especially like the fact that bookmarks saved to user-hosted satellite installations can also be sent back to the Ma.gnolia mothership. It offers niche publishers and groups a more personalized social bookmarking option with enhanced control over their data. And, if it takes off, it could allow the company to gain market share in a field that’s dominated by Delicious and otherwise crowded with a lot of pretenders.
Nevertheless, I’m skeptical about the proposition’s overall value for two reasons.

Solving a problem that may not exist

First, is there a need for this sort of thing? Yes… and no.

Yes, I do think collaborative bookmarking for groups is a nut that needs to be cracked. Employers and other groups who share similar interests could certainly use a more focused and flexible social bookmarking environment. Delicious doesn’t offer a feature for groups, and this opening has encouraged companies like Social|Median, Twine, Reddit, and Mixx to approach the problem from different angles. The efforts in the space are at such an early stage, it seems the perfect time for Ma.gnolia to offer itself as a kind of white-label alternative to Delicious.

On the other hand, the analogy to Wordpress raises some red flags. Wordpress offered publishers and companies something that was already in the Web’s DNA: Blogging. Content management. An all-in-one Web site. But the idea of a self-hosted, user maintained bookmarking service doesn’t seem to meet the same unmet need. Why would I say that? For the same reason there aren’t a ton of group blogs out there.

Lots of people will build and host a blog for themselves or their small business. Significantly fewer people will create a blog that has multiple users. It happens, but I will unscientifically suggest that group blogs hosted on Wordpress or Moveable Type are more rare than single-author blogs. Rarer still are the individuals who host their own wikis or social networks, especially with hosted solutions like PBWiki and Ning available. Finally, Ma.gnolia and Reddit offer users a self-hosted bookmarking option? “This will be great for my friends / coworkers,” says E. Adopter! “They will love it!”

As soon as you explain it to them.

And that’s the sad truth. I have 254 friends on Facebook. I follow 90 on Twitter (with 144 followers). I’ve got 24 people in my Delicious network. Mileage may vary, as they say, but what is your gut telling you? Not a lot of people need this.

Ma.gnolia isn’t all that exciting

Second, is Ma.gnolia your first choice for an open source bookmarking service? Read Write Web’s coverage of Magnolia’s open source announcement was very positive, but it ended on a sour note:
Will communities all over the web download, customize and participate in a federated Ma.gnolia? Maybe. It's hard to know. Unfortunately, Ma.gnolia founder Larry Halff's presentation announcing the open sourcing of Ma.gnolia here at Gnomedex illustrates the problems the company will continue to face. Just like the service Halff created, the man himself seems like a brilliant guy who you know has great ideas but communicates them poorly enough that it frustrates people pretty quickly. The value proposition is unclear, the site architecture is frustrating - right now it's a service for standards true believers. This author uses it personally, though almost every time I do I grumble and ask whether I should go back to using Delicious.That’s been my experience with Ma.gnolia, too. It looks great on paper. It’s got tons of features. It’s a model for all sites that want to embrace open standards. It’s…still not a viable alternative to Delicious.
I touched on Delicious.com’s dominance in earlier post, but it’s worth repeating. The Delicious API makes it super easy to take your bookmarks to another service that has more features (e.g., Diigo and Ma.gnolia). Indeed, both those services allow you to seamlessly populate their service with your Delicious bookmarks using just a few clicks. And still, despite lagging in social-ness and open-ness, Delicious continues to dominate. Why? Because Delicious is better. Users can easily try out alternatives, but they keep coming back.

Ma.gnolia going open-source means you can start your own inferior bookmarking service. For people who’ve been wanting to build and maintain their own social bookmarking site, I guess that’s all they’ve got. But I can’t help thinking they’d rather be running Delicious on their servers.

Conclusion

Despite my skepticism, I do think an open source Ma.gnolia will be a great option for companies, groups, and classrooms that want their own little slice of social bookmarking. An open source Ma.gnolia will be especially compelling if it works on corporate and university intranets. It will also be interesting to see if the Ma.gnolia architecture will be extensible and themeable the way Wordpress is. That would be unequivocally cool.

Nevertheless, I believe that individuals who want to share bookmarks with like-minded people are better served using an existing social bookmarking hub that supports groups, which I think is just about every other bookmarking site but Delicious. The network effects, such as they are, will be more powerful than on a self-hosted site.

The fact that Delicious remains the most popular bookmarking service, even without a group feature, should tell you one of two things:
  1. No one has done groups in the right way yet. The service that perfects group bookmarking will fill a much-needed niche.
  2. Hardly anyone cares about group bookmarking.
I really hope it isn’t number two.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Diigo loses me again.

Image representing Diigo as depicted in CrunchBase

I’ve tried to get into Diigo, the much ballyhooed Delicious alternative, a couple of times. Each time I do, I’m confronted with shortcomings that kill the deal.

First, they were even later than Delicious in releasing an add-on that was compatible with Firefox 3. Obviously, I wasn’t going to use IE while waiting for Diigo to get its act together.

Next, there were problems with its ability cross-post to Delicious. It was always a crapshoot whether the bookmarks were actually going to get there, and the Delicious update has made things even more unpredictable. Obviously, this feature isn’t a must have. Indeed, having such a feature is a plus for Diigo, because it lets users hedge their bets when deciding whether Diigo is for them. That’s exactly I’ve been trying to do, and over the last two days crossposting has been working fine, despite Diigo informing me that my Delicious account is unvalidated.

Unfortunately, Diigo’s tool-bar / add-on hasn’t worked for me all that well in my most recent testing, and I’m almost ready to give up again. Sure, it’s now compatible with Firefox 3. And it’s beautifully designed to take full advantage of Diigo’s admittedly copious social features. But when I search for items in the sidebar or on the site, the search feature is either glacially slow or it simply FAILS. As you can see in the screencap below, a search request at the site gets me plenty of ads, but no bookmarks.

image

If you can’t see it, Diigo’s error message reads:

We are in the process of rebuilding the tag search index as part of a major server and database upgrade to provide you with speedier performance and to support Diigo's rapidly growing user base. This may take up to 24 hours. Thank you for your understanding.

Obviously Diigo is struggling to remedy their historically slow and buggy search capabilities. But because the Delicious Bookmarks add-on handles such searches effortlessly, it’s particularly difficult to tolerate Diigo’s poor performance. Diigo may be spectacularly social, but if Diigo fails to recall my saved items, it’s failing at bookmarking. This post offers a compelling list of “six reason Diigo is better than Delicious.” But none of that matters if you can’t find my stuff when I ask for it. None of that matters if you aren’t actually bookmarking anything for me.

Maybe my insistence on being able to search my bookmarks is a bit myopic. Perhaps I should view Diigo as a purely social bookmarking service, in which reference and recall aren’t really the point. Instead, maybe Diigo is more like an advanced version of Digg or Stumbleupon where sharing is the point and personal reference is an afterthought.

My conception of social bookmarking gives equal weight to both concepts. To be a social bookmarking service your service must embrace two functions:

  1. Quick reference to my bookmarked items, with the ability to privately store items as I choose.
  2. Flexible sharing options, including both passive sharing with a network of friends and the ability to export or post items to a blog or aggregator (e.g., FriendFeed, Swurl, Second|Brain, Socialthing).

But two recent posts I read call into question my assumptions about Social Bookmarking. First, Digital Inspiration shared some data indicating that Facebook and MySpace were among the leading social bookmarking sites, well ahead of Delicious. There’s an obvious caveat to the data. As RWW pointed out, most Delicious users probably share their items with the Delicious bookmarklet—not the “Share This” plug-in from which the article’s data was pulled. But I think the posts by RWW and Digital Inspiration raise a more important question:

Since when are Myspace and Facebook considered bookmarking sites?

Neither provides easy access to your history of shared items. Certainly there’s not a reference system for your bookmarks that’s even as robust as what Mixx or Digg provide. Delicious is a bookmarking site. Facebook, Myspace, Digg, and Mixx are something else entirely, because they focus on sharing and couldn’t care less about performing the core function inherent in the word “bookmark”: I want to save something for later, for my personal reference.

Social bookmarking is about sharing. But it’s also about extending the personal reference functions that were first featured in the pioneering Netscape browser. When it comes to Diigo, my question is, “how concerned is Diigo about personal reference?” Hutch Carpenter helped me focus on this question a few days ago.

Carpenter thinks Diigo isn’t about bookmarking for personal reference, but about using your shared content as a springboard for social interaction. Carpenter’s post is a superb overview of Diigo’s social features, and he perfectly sums up the differing social concepts of the two services:

The new Delicious continues its mission of organizing a massive number of user-generated bookmarks and tags. It looks cleaner, and I like the way information is presented. Information organized by an army of user librarians. “Social” in this context means your bookmarks and tags are exposed to others, and you can find related content based on what others are bookmarking and tagging. People are the basis for discovering content.

Diigo wants people to interact via common interests in content. It has a lot of social network hooks. “Social” in this context means establishing and building relationships with others. Content is the basis for finding people.

What Carpenter’s post doesn’t address is whether Diigo is an adequate substitute for Delicious’s powerful reference capabilities. In other words, is Diigo any good at bookmarking.

I really want to use Diigo. I really want to like Diigo. But I’m not going to have two freaking toolbars cluttering my browser. And Diigo isn’t going to make me a convert until it’s good at both social and bookmarking.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Here’s a look at Mozilla’s next-gen vision for bookmarking

Obviously, it’s heavily visual, but it’s interesting to note how Mozilla plans to extend the Awesome Bar concept to dissolve the differences between your passive bookmarking (i.e., your history) and the bookmarks you actively save by clicking the now-familiar star.


Bookmarking and History Concept Video from Aza Raskin on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Twine is really, really slow.

imageA while back I managed to get an invite to Twine, a new, professionally oriented bookmarking service where users can focus on sharing content with people who have similar interests. Twine claims it’s “powered by semantic understanding,” and that it can learn from its users so that, the more you use it, “the better it understands your interests and the more useful it becomes.”

I think semantic-powered, interest-oriented sharing is a powerful idea. Certainly, as a lawyer, I can see how creating a community to share and discuss highly specialized knowledge could prove incredibly useful to a whole class of knowledge workers (e.g., physicians, librarians, academics, journalists). Also, I think collaborative notetaking for groups is one of those nuts that hasn’t yet been cracked. It’s a problem that needs solving because I haven’t been impressed with the way traditional bookmarking services, such as Ma.gnolia, have handled their group features.

And Twine is pretty. It’s well thought out, and its features are smartly scoped. But I’ve been holding off reviewing the service because of one HUGE drawback. Twine is really, really slooooow. It takes a long time for each page to load (rough estimate: forever). So I’ve barely been able to use it. Responding to a recent comment in Twine’s Beta Feedback Group, one of the developers admitted there was an issue:

There are some issues on the server side that we are working on (such implementing more caching). There should be significant improvements in the next release (we're hoping to do a patch this week or next week at the latest). There will be further improvements on an ongoing basis for the next 2 months. Remember it's in beta and we're still working on it, so thanks for your patience. I think after the patch it should be faster. Let us know.

Also if you are using Twine over international lines or lower bandwidth connections that could also be affecting performance on your end.

A few ways to speed things up a bit -- go to your Account page, and then select Twine Settings and select only the twines you really care about to show up in your Interest Feed and the Bookmarklet. That should speed things up a big for you as well.

Twine isn’t one of those services you can just figure out immediately, so I’d like to make more rigorous use of the application. But until these speed issues are figured out, there’s not much I can do.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tumblr might be fumbling its new release

Andy Desoto is disappointed that Tumblr has created an entirely new beta site just to try out a larger sign-in box.

image 

I thought Tumblr was fairly clear in their post about the new site. They’ve redesigned the dashboard in preparation for a much bigger overhaul:

We’re getting ready to push our biggest interface overhaul since last November, and we’d love to get your feedback.

Nearly every piece of the interface has changed. We’ve tried to perfect the presentation of the Dashboard, and the retooled interface will enable a lot of the new functionality we’re prepping to launch.

In other words, the update hasn’t happened yet. But if people are confused on this point, it’s Tumblr’s fault. The Tumblr Beta site doesn’t look very different, and there’s nothing inside to indicate new features might be on the way. It might have been better to wait until the new features were ready before unveiling the public test site. Indeed, that’s what a test site is for: creating new features and functionality and working out the bugs so that you can avoid confusing your mainstream users.

So far, confusion isn’t being avoided.

Why create a custom search engine out of your bookmarks?

I keep seeing people share this RWW post, in which Sarah Perez explains how to make your social bookmarks into a custom search engine. I can’t figure out why people think it’s such a great idea. Sure, a simple text search of your bookmarks is lots faster than simply browsing your tags. But Perez’s idea involves:

  1. Exporting your bookmarks from your current bookmarking service.
  2. Importing them back (using Posterous) so that they’re contained on a single web page.
  3. Adding that page to a Google Custom Search Engine.

Oh, and after you’ve done all that you still have to use a bookmarklet if you want to add new items to your search engine.

As people in the comments to the RWW post make clear, there are much easier ways of searching your content:

  • Use your existing bookmarking service. For example, the recently upgraded Delicious now offers even faster search, using both text and tags. And the Delicious Bookmarks plug-in has always been speedy when it comes to searching your bookmarks.
  • Use one of the newish content aggregators to search your stuff. If you’re going to use a different engine, why not use FriendFeed, which can search all your items (not just social bookmarks)? Second|Brain is even better, since it creates a database of your private items and keeps them private. I criticized Second|Brain in this post, but the recent update fixed a lot of the problems I was having and added a ton of new imported services.
  • Go passive. If you truly believe social bookmarking has nothing to offer you any longer, then forget about actively saving anything at all. Just search your Web history. As I point out here, if you opt into Google Tool Bar’s Web History feature, all your Web searches and activity are silently recorded and you, can search this humongous database any time you want. Google Web History also searches your Google Bookmarks. Privacy-niks may balk, but using Google’s custom search engine and Posterous certainly isn’t any more private. If you want privacy, try Firefox’s new Awesome Bar. It searches both your bookmarks and Web history, as well. All you have to do is start typing in the address bar. Hard to get easier than that.
  • Use Google. The easiest thing is to just search for stuff in a traditional search engine. A few responses to Mathew Ingram’s “Who bookmarks any more?” post suggested exactly that . Sure the database is many times larger and the results might not be 100% relevant, but at least your’re not bookmarking anything or creating more work for yourself.

The bottom line is this: You either like social bookmarking stuff you don’t. If you don’t think there’s value in bookmarking, then just consult your browser’s Web history or use Google. It’s faster and easier. But if you do like social bookmarking, there’s absolutely no reason to re-invent the wheel. You can more easily search your bookmarks using existing tools.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Social|Median was not a good experience

image After reading Louis Gray’s positive post the other day, I tried out Social|Median. Perhaps I wanted the wrong things from the service, but it didn’t work all that well for me. Here’s what I thought I could do:

  • Start my own mini-Digg news network focused on a single keyword (in my case, “bookmarking”) while also selecting some additional, secondary keywords (e.g., social media, technology). Items matching keywords would automatically be added to news river that could be sorted either by popularity or date.
  • Add my own items via a bookmarklet. I could choose either to add items directly or let Social|Median choose.
  • Import RSS feeds, including my own and others that matched my content preferences.
  • Adjust the “noise meter” so that items with less relevance to my keywords (as I ranked them) would be filtered out.

Because I consume news at a much faster rate than I write it, I had hoped that Social|Median would be an interesting place for me to collect items related to this blog’s focus: web-based bookmarking and notebooking. Unfortunately, when I tested the service, it did none of the things I thought it would do:

  • After adding a patch of items immediately, including items from the feeds I had chosen, it was dormant for several days.
  • When I tried to add items to my network via the bookmarklet, they wouldn’t actually show up in my network. This was true whether I let Social|Median choose or whether I added items manually.
  • Although I tried to import a few feeds from elsewhere, none of those items were added to the SM network.
  • Adjusting the noise meter had no discernible effect.

In fairness, other users are probably using Social|Median to consume a broader spectrum of news. I was trying to collect news within a fairly narrow focus, and I tried to start small—importing only a few feeds in addition to my own. Here’s the network I created. Notice that a few items have since been added, but far fewer than I would expect given the fairly broad keyword “bookmarking” and the other feeds I’d selected.

Again, it could be that I misunderstood the capabilities of the service. It could also be that there are some bugs that need to be worked out. I’ll never know: I submitted a support request mentioning the problems, but it went unanswered. Then I suspended my account. I was presented with a form asking why I was deactivating my account. I explained the problems again in the fields provided.

I’ve received no response. Which is fine. They’re busy.

But so am I.

Social|Median: F

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Tumblr is an image bookmarking service and (potentially) a whole lot more

Last week, after reading Corvida’s RWW post on image bookmarking services, I started to wonder why I’d never felt the need for such a service. I’m obviously a fan of social bookmarking, and my preferred service, Delicious, has no image functionality. Even before Corvida’s post, I’d been aware that Ffffound! and Vi.sualize.us could fill the gap; I just hadn’t signed up. I've just been sorta “meh” about image bookmarking.

Then I realized why: I’m already using an image bookmarking service. It’s called Tumblr. I use Tumblr’s amazing bookmarklet to save images all the time to my tumblelog, Lifeisathrill.com. It’s true no one thinks of Tumblr as a bookmarking site. It’s certainly a popular microblogging service, but it doesn’t have the obvious social components inherent in a bookmarking site. Which is to say it’s not an unfathomable zoo of OPC (other people’s content).

Tumblr’s image bookmarking bona fides

But let’s talk about what it does. Its bookmarklet saves a new copy of any photo to the hosted Tumblr site; you’re not hot-linking to some other site. And the process could not be easier:

image

I can save photos, add tags, and add unlimited text comments, including HTML. And it shows up perfectly formatted on my own Web site.

image

But what if I want to find it later? Tumblr doesn’t yet have built-in search, and its tagging features are admittedly embryonic. But, check it out! Tumblr has visual archive that’s much more useful if I’m looking for a specific photo. Note that I don’t have to remember what tag or text I used to describe it; I can search over months of archives in mere seconds and spot the thumbnail I need. For good measure, each thumbnail does include a good-size portion of text, which is searchable using the browser (ctrl-F).

image

What Tumblr doesn’t have

Tumblr is, first and foremost, a powerful blogging platform and content aggregator. I don’t just use it to collect images. I can post videos, quotes, conversations, and mp3s, all using the same flexible interface. I can also import feeds from Google Reader, Delicious, Twitter, or any other service that makes RSS feeds available. But as much as I love Tumblr, it’s NOT a true substitute for a social bookmarking service.

Essentially, Tumblr = social bookmarking. The strength of any social bookmarking service is the recommendation engine—quickly discovering what others have found interesting. Or beautiful. Or scandalous. Or sinfully, horribly cute. Tumblr doesn’t have a recommendation engine.

Not yet, anyway.

But the potential is there. Tumblr already has the guts of a great social bookmarking service. Its got tons of active users submitting content in a fairly standardized manner, either through the bookmarklet or by importing feeds. It also has a full-featured, read/write API. There’s really no reason all that data shouldn’t be leveraged into a Tumblrmeme or Tumblr-icious.

Tumblr has taken baby steps in that direction with a number of features. For example, the Tumblr Radar showcases content from around the Tumblr-sphere. Like real-life radar, stuff tends to fall of without a trace, and there’s no RSS feed, but you can browse recently featured Radar items here.

image

Every user’s dashboard features a Livejournal-like stream of activity from the Tumblr blogs you’re following. You can choose to re-blog items that your friends have blogged, and popular items feature a handy counter showing how many times an item has been re-blogged. Unfortunately, I don’t keep up with my dashboard as much as I’d like to. That’s because (wait for it…) there’s no RSS feed.

image

So yeah, unlike Delicious or Stumbleupon or FriendFeed, Tumblr isn’t exactly optimized for content discovery. There’s no way to search for items or sort by tag (although Yahoo! Pipes ninja Joe Lazarus provides a nifty tracking option). And you can’t easily identify popular items, because Tumblr doesn’t have a robust way to measure the zeitgeist. How cool would it be to see Tumblr fed into popurls? The Radar and Dashboard features prove it’s not unthinkable. Indeed, with Tumblr promising a major upgrade soon, I’m hoping to see some progress on this front.

Even if Tumblr doesn’t create an enhanced portal for exploring all that content, the API seems like it would allow another developer to do so. But Tumblr hasn’t really caught fire amongst the tech bloggers and developers. Tumblr has been criticized for its notoriously long dev cycles and the stingy pace at which they add features. Rather than adding features every few weeks, it seems they’d rather unveil a complete overhaul after a long period of dormancy. That’s a great strategy for an occasional big bang, but it’s not a good way to keep bloggers and developers interested in your product.

What could be…

Tumblr may not ever generate the breathless kind of buzz FriendFeed and Twitter have enjoyed. For me personally, Tumblr has been (by far) the more useful and rewarding product. It gives me a little place the Web that doesn’t look like a hodge podge of voices; it’s my voice. But underneath this flexible and intensely personal blogging platform is a sturdy framework that could support a world-class bookmarking site and recommendation engine. It’s these dual possibilities that make Tumblr so fascinating.

Tumblr founder David Karp is aiming for a million users by the end of 2008. Imagine peeking inside a million separate hearts. At once.

_____________________

UPDATE: I should point out that the aforementioned Joe Lazarus has built a few good Tumblr aggregators including one for frequently Tumblr'd photos, popular quotes, and one for songs. None is the all-in-one portal I'm thinking of, but he gets bonus points for actually using Tumblr to create his mashups.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Banner day for Notemarking

Today was a pretty big news day for notetaking and bookmarking applications. Unfortunately, my real job is demanding quite a bit of my time. Though each of today’s developments deserve their own post, I’m not going to be able to provide that kind of coverage until the weekend. Still, here’s a quick run down of the day’s big news:

  1. Delicious 2.0 finally launched. The Delicious announcement included this nicely done video that summarizes site’s astounding visual refresh. As Delicious.com’s announcement promised, the redesign delivers more than just a new name and a pretty face. It’s noticeably faster, and search is much improved. I’m disappointed the changes don’t include the more robust tag management features I was anticipating. And Matthew Ingram caused a stir when he wondered, “who bookmarks anymore?” A whole lot of people responded, “I DO!” One reason why is that bloggers and social media types are increasingly using the bookmarking site as a quick, low-friction publishing tool, that works well both for blogs and aggregators like FriendFeed and Tumblr. That being so, I was surprised that one very useful change seemed to get lost amidst all the hype and hoopla.
  2. Evernote continues to improve. Evernote released some significant updates for their Web-based and Windows editions. Chief among them is the addition of rich text editing to the Web-based Evernote. This is something that should have been there at launch, but adding it helps close the gap somewhat with Google Notebook. Still, I can’t dig Web Evernote’s visual thumbnail approach to organizing my notes. Evernote’s multi-platform approach and flawless synchronization are strong features, but Google Notebook still organizes text better than Evernote. And my notes are all about text.
  3. Lifehacker’s Five Best Notetaking Tools. The venerable productivity blog, with input from its readers, tags Evernote, OneNote, and Google Notebook among the best options for taking notes. My vote is here.
  4. SocialMedian launches. Louis Gray is pretty complimentary in his remarks about the company’s public beta launch. I joined this morning, and I’m impressed, too. At first blush, the ability to set up your own “news networks” might seem a like the “roll-your-own Digg” features offered by both Reddit and Mixx. But Social Median is a bit smarter than that. As Gray puts it, “SocialMedian is best described as an amalgamation of pieces from FriendFeed, Digg and Del.icio.us. Like in each service, you can bookmark external items, and share them with friends.” I created my own network for CloudNotes because I’ve been looking for a way to share all the Notemarking stories I’m simply too busy to cover. Yes, I’ve got my Google Notebook and Google Reader pages for Cloudnotes, but I’m thinking SocialMedian might be a more elegant solution.

Damn. This took longer than I thought. I’ll have more this weekend. Thank you for reading. :)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Lifehacker still thinks Delicious is yummy

Following Mike Arrington’s most recent “Delicious 2.0 is about to launch!” post there were a few comments along the lines of: “WHo the hell cares about Delicious 2, 3 or 4?” and “Wow, people still use delicious?” But there were many more comments like this one that perfectly captures my thinking on the subject:

Knock delicious all you want. It is still my favourite bookmarking tool because it is so lightweight and non-obtrusive. I’m keen to see the next version but I do not truthfully care. I will always choose any tool that provides the most value for me (and right now, delicious is it). I’ve been keeping my eye on other services and products — but I crave the simplicity of delicious.

Today, Lifehacker’s Gina Trapani added another vote of confidence. In a Macworld article, the Lifehacker editor revealed the Webapps her team uses for their Virtual Office:

With a social-bookmarking service like del.icio.us, co-workers can share bookmarks with each other using tags. Finding and sharing good Web links is what we do. So finding a way to share new links—without interrupting the entire team with an e-mail or IM every time we come across a good one—is crucial. Instead, we save it in the social bookmarking service del.icio.us. (Lifehacker’s publishing company, Gawker Media, uses social bookmarking service Wists to do the same thing.)

Whenever one of us finds something that’s relevant on the Web, we add it to del.icio.us with a unique in-house tag. The rest of us subscribe to that tag’s RSS feed, so we can peruse the recommended links at our leisure from our newsreaders. In essence, the bookmark tag acts as a low-overhead company blog. We also use the site’s for: tag—any bookmark that I tag with for:ginatrapani will show up in my Links For You area.

Now, I’m pretty confident that Delicious is the best bookmarker out there. Of course, I don’t know everything (for example, I’d never heard of Wists). But if there were a better bookmarking service out there, I expect the smart folks at Lifehacker would have found it.

Google recreates Bookmarks in Notebook’s image

According to Google Operating System, Google is ditching the old Bookmarks interface for something that looks a lot like Google Notebook. You can still access the old interface at http://www.google.com/bookmarks/. The new hottness is at http://www.google.com/notebook/bookmarks, which makes sense because bookmarks has effectively become a fully-integrated feature within Google Notebook.

image

Of course, this isn’t a surprise. When the Notebook team launched their blog, they announced that bringing Bookmarks into Google Notebook was primary goal. In a statement that practically screams “notemarking,” they declared:

It turns out we're starting this blog at an auspicious moment. As you may already know, Google Notebook is about collecting, organizing, and sharing information from the web -- but in many ways, so are bookmarks. Which is why we've been working to combine Google Notebook and Google Bookmarks.

imageIn fact, Google Bookmarks has been integrated with Notebook since November of last year. But that implementation was a bit kludgy, leaving Bookmarks with one foot still firmly rooted in Google’s Web History product, while creating a purgatory of “Unfiled Bookmarks” within Notebook.

Sadly, the clumsy unfiled bookmarks section remains part of Google Notebook. But the new Bookmarks URL reveals a clean, bifurcated interface that gives you two clear browsing options: Bookmarks and Notebooks. GOS blogger Ionut Alex Chitu thinks it’s a better look:

The old version of Google Bookmarks was integrated with the web history and allowed you to bookmark previously visited pages with one click. Another feature that's missing from the new version is full-text search, since bookmarks have been converted to notes.

On the bright side, the new interface is more responsive, it uses "infinite scrolling" to display the bookmarks and the notes can be formatted using a rich-text editor. Google Toolbar 5 (IE-only) lets you save the selected text from a page, which appears highlighted every time you visit the page.

It’s an improvement, but I’m not all that enthusiastic. Notebook and Bookmarks remain separate applications, when they should be seamlessly joined together. And what about Google’s other notemarking applications? Shared Stuff and Google Reader each have their own bookmarking functions and bookmarklets; neither is compatible with Google Bookmarks. GOS already tackled this fragmentation, and Google’s approach to bookmarking will remain fundamentally “broken” until they fix it.  But I’m hopeful the Notebook team will continue to work toward a more elegant, fully-realized notemarking application.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Delicious 2.0 is apparently close at hand.

According to a Delicious blog post, “new Delicious is almost ready to come out of the oven.” Of course, it’s understandable if you’re skeptical. Michael Arrington summarizes the now legendary delays that have plagued the update since Techcrunch first previewed Delicious 2.0 in September of 2007.

imageI took some time to revisit the screenshots in that link and prepare for a probable Monday or Tuesday release. It’s going to be like Christmas morning for me, people. My favorite screen capture was also the smallest one. See that “bulk edit” button? Delicious has needed a way to bulk-edit tags and bookmarks that for soooo long. Jebus, but my tags need to be cleaned up.

For example, very early in my usage of Delicious I would create tags like “legal+reference” to get around the fact that tags weren’t comma separated. After the Delicious Bookmarks plug-in was released, these kind of combined tags were no longer useful or necessary. The ability to quickly search both tags and bookmark text made it easy to find my stuff without resorting to tricky tags. Now, I just use two separate tags, “legal” and “reference”. 

But the bulk edit can solve another common problem: should I use “law” or “legal”, “article” or “articles”? Sure, you can use the current generation tools that allow you rename and delete tags, but neither feature allows you to see how many times a tag has been used or what bookmarks will be affected. I’ve tried some of the Delicious clients, such as Delicer and Netlicious, and they tend to be buggy and awkward or they replicate the same flaws inherent in Delicious.

I expect the new Delicious tool for editing tags and bookmarks to be a huge improvement over options we’ve got now. But, with recent history in mind, I’m trying not to get my hopes up too high.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

StumbleUpon trips up users with CAPTCHA

In my last post, I mentioned that I’d unsuccessfully experimented with StumbleUpon as a possible Del.icio.us replacement. I’ve enjoyed using StumbleUpon and there are lots of things I like about the service, but their use of CAPTCHAs is a deal killer. Each time I’ve tried to write a “review” (i.e., tag and write a comment about a Web page), I’ve been greeted with this screen:

image  

I know Social Bookmarking sites are under constant siege from unscrupulous Web site owners and spammers, but repeatedly greeting users with a CAPTCHA each time they make use of your core features isn’t the right way to solve the problem.

Not to be all John Madden about it, but for a recommendation engine like StumbleUpon or Del.icio.us or Digg to function properly, it’s got to convince users to submit recommendations. Reducing friction is paramount. CAPTCHAs, of course, introduce friction into your bookmarking process. They might deter spammers, but you’re throwing the babies out with the bathwater.

I should know. I’m one of the babies. I’m not going to use your service if you’re going to tax me with additional clicks or keystrokes each time I try to save a page. To be fair, StumbleUpon’s toolbar offers a simple, one-click “thumbs up” button that allows you to bookmark a page without running into the CAPTCHA. But, remember, I wanted to use StumbleUpon to replace del.icio.us. And I typically import my del.icio.us bookmarks into Facebook, Tumblr, and FriendFeed. I almost always add a comment that explains why I bookmarked the page. I can’t do that with StumbleUpon if it requires me to enter a CAPTCHA everytime I try to use the service.

Oh, as if running into a CAPTCHA isn’t bad enough, half the time you can’t read the damn thing well enough to correctly recognize the letters. It’s supposed to be tough for computers, not humans. I frequently had to give up and stumble to the next page. The difficulty makes sense once you realize that StumbleUpon has chosen a CAPTCHA provider that uses its hapless human guinea pigs as volunteer decoders for printed books that are hard to read.

Yes, you read that correctly. StumbleUpon is deliberately putting its users to work when the success rate is likely to be quite low.

No thanks. 

Incidentally, other bookmarking / link submission services get by without resorting to CAPTCHA in their core bookmarking flow. Here are some non-idiotic thoughts about dealing with spamm-y submissions from developers associated with del.icio.us, Mahalo, Metafilter, and more. At the risk of a self-referential pun, I’d suggest that StumbleUpon take some notes.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Del.icio.us contemplating Firefox synchronization

In an earlier post, I compared Del.icio.us Bookmarks to Firefox 3’s fancy new bookmark engine, Places. Since then, I’ve experimented with using Firefox Bookmarks alone and in concert with Yoono, StumbleUpon, and Foxmarks. But nothing can fully replace the experience you get with Del.icio.us. Its combination of speed, elegance, and social integration with sites around the Web (e.g., FriendFeed, Facebook) make it hard to beat. What I really want is some way to synchronize my Del.icio.us bookmarks with Firefox.

Now it seems like the folk at Del.icio.us are thinking along the same lines. Earlier this week, on Yahoo’s official user group for the Del.icio.us Bookmarks add-on, product manager Stephen Hood responded the question, “Why doesn't the Delicious extension for Fx3 integrate with the bookmark system?” His answer confirmed they may be planning to do exactly that:

Yep, we are definitely looking into how this could work. There are a
few challenges, including the fact that Firefox support spaces in tags
but Delicious does not.

For me the bigger concern is illustrated via a bit of history. When
we first launched the Delicious Bookmarks add-on (nearly two years ago
now), the original version did in fact integrate with the Firefox
bookmarks system. But ironically, it integrated SO well that users at
the time were nearly unanimous in their hatred for that approach.
Ooops. :) People felt that we had overreached by building Delicious
too deeply into their local bookmark system. We heard a lot of
feedback that people wanted to keep their Firefox bookmarks separate
from Delicious, since they used them for different purposes and wanted
to organize them in different ways.

As a result of the feeback we did some rethinking and the team did
some great work in quickly turning out a new version that was more
like what we have today -- an add-on that co-exists with the Firefox
bookmarking functionality and conservatively hooks into it where
appropriate.

Given all the new whizbang goodness in FF3, it certainly makes sense
to rethink all of this. But I wonder if people might dislike the
results if we went ahead and integrated more deeply...

I responded to that same thread, suggesting that Del.icio.us could integrate with Firefox by synchronizing with a particular folder (this is similar to the way StumbleUpon saves bookmarks to Firefox). But another approach might offer a more complete sync, like Foxmarks. Whatever the level of integration, synchronization should be optional, not mandatory.

Given that Del.icio.us Bookmarks already accommodates users who prefer a “classic” feel, I’d imagine Del.icio.us would be sensitive to user preferences and privacy as they implement synchronization. This is exciting news for us Del.icio.us fanboys, though.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Clip web pages to OneNote with new Firefox add-on

A long time ago, there was a Firefox extension that approximated OneNote’s “Send to OneNote” button in Internet Explorer. Unfortuntely, the plug-in was only compatible with Firefox 1.5 and OneNote 2003. Digital Inspiration documented a work-around but I could never get it to function. Now, Digital Inspiration points to a similar “experimental” Firefox add-on that works with Firefox 3 and OneNote 2007.

image

The good news is it works as advertised, without resorting to a difficult work-around. The bad news is it’s got a pretty limited feature set. Select text and/or pictures, right click, and choose “Clip to OneNote.” Presto, your clip is saved to OneNote’s unfiled notes section. You can save an entire page by right-clicking on the page, without selecting the text. And that’s it.

There’s no convenient browser button. Nor do the options allow you to save content to a designated OneNote notebook. But it basically duplicates the functionality of the native IE plug-in, so I guess we can’t complain.

Be aware, you will have to journey to the add-ons menu and configure the options so that it knows where you’ve installed OneNote.

image 

On my Vista machine it’s located at C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\ONENOTE.EXE