Wednesday, August 13, 2008

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.

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