Monday, June 23, 2008

Notemarking: A definition

CloudNotes is “a blog about notetaking and bookmarking on the web, or notemarking.” But what the hell does that mean? Well, with a week’s worth of posts under my belt already, it’s time to take a stab at defining the term I’m attempting to coin. In the process, I’ll be defining the scope of this blog.

Defining a blog’s scope is a vitally important early step. It will help me avoid covering every damn thing TechCrunch and Mashable throw out there. I’ll be limiting the work I create for myself, and my readers (should I have any) will know what to expect from me. Much as Louis Gray focuses on RSS readers and feedsharing, I plan to focus on notetaking and bookmarking applications. But unlike Gray, I live in Houston, TX — not Silicon Valley. So I won’t concentrate on unearthing new services as an industry insider might do. Instead, I will use my unique perspective as a lawyer and former e-learning designer to blog about my own experiences using notemarking applications.

There’s that word again. Here’s what it means:

The use of software, either client- or web-based, to store, organize, search, manage, and potentially share or synchronize information, including—but not limited to—Web content and hyperlinks.

While that’s soaking in, let me say that this is my first time defining a word from scratch. I am open to refining the definition as we go along. Indeed, I am not a Web expert; I am a Web user. I explicitly invite you, the reader, to be a collaborator in this adventure.

That said, let me tell you what I like about this definition: it’s short.

But even better than that, I hope it avoids some of the assumptions I wanted to confront with this blog:

  • A notemarking tool does not have to be Web-based, but as the name CloudNotes suggests, it should include some collaboration or synchronization functions. There should be a way for users to access their information from more than one computer, but…
  • I use the phrase “potentially share or synchronize” with the following limiting principle in mind: any exposure of a user’s saved/stored information should occur ONLY at the user’s option. I think this eliminates blogs and wikis as well as link submission sites (e.g., Digg, Mixx) and life streaming services (e.g., FriendFeed, SocialThing) that are, by definition or purpose, open to the larger Web. The granularity of privacy options is up for debate, but total privacy must be a possibility.
  • Searching is necessary, tagging is not. Although tags are seemingly ubiquitous in social media, I think the more appropriate requirement is simply the ability to find your recorded information when you need it.
  • Finally, in case it’s not clear, any Notemarking application must include all the listed functions. Merely offering integration with a notemarking application’s API will not cut it. Exporting to Del.icio.us is not being Del.icio.us.
image

imageNotemarking is about allowing the user to record and retrieve information while choosing to collaborate or publish selected parts of the collection. I’ll use an iconic example. This is the “do not share” box from the Delicious tagging UI. If you wanted, you could privately save all your bookmarks; no one would ever see them. But the default is to share them with the community. Either way, you can use the Delicious Bookmarks plug-in to add, manage, retrieve, and sync your bookmarks across machines.

That is notemarking.

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