Posts Tagged ‘Social Bookmarking’

Lostmoya on Swurl

June 21, 2008

Ah, the endless search for that perfect web 2.0 application which will aggregate all my online content once and for all and let me get on with my bleeding life for a change instead of searching endlessly for that perfect web 2.0 app… etc.

Where was I?

Oh yeah, Swurl!

It says it’s in beta at the top of the page, so it’s clear we’re firmly in web 2.0 territory before we even start. Swurl claims to make your life easier by bringing together all your online stuff in one place, kind of like Friendfeed.

In fact, there’s really not a lot of difference between the two that I can discern after a brief play-around with Swurl over the last half hour. Swurl does appear slicker, particularly when it comes to adding friends: it automagically finds all the friends from the services you add (e.g. twitter, youtube, del.icio.us) and sticks their updates in a separate tab. Whereas on Friendfeed you have to find and follow friends using that service.

Bizarrely, Swurl even accepts Friendfeed as a source for your consolidated online presence, which probably makes it some kind of meta-meta-mashup. My head’s hurting…

Anyway, here’s my Swurl profile if you want to check me out or whatever it is you kids do these days.

Friendfeed: Aggregate All Your Feeds Into One

May 7, 2008

In my ongoing quest to find the ultimate Web 2.0 utility I’ve just started using Friendfeed.

Friendfeed logo

The idea is simple: you subscribe for an account then add the feeds for a bunch of social bookmarking and networking services you already use, like del.icio.us, reddit, youtube, twitter, last.fm, etc. Friendfeed then monitors all your activities and publishes them in one place. Here’s mine.

If you’ve ever found it difficult to keep track of everything you’re doing online then that’s useful enough. But it doesn’t stop there. What’s even more interesting is that you can add friends see all their feeds alongside yours.

At the moment I don’t have any Friendfeed buddies ūüė¶ so my Friendfeed actually looks identical to my individual feed. Over the next few months I’ll be working on my Facebook buddies who already use social bookmarking sites to try and get them to adopt Friendfeed too.

Incidentally, it’s also really easy to add people already using Friendfeed since it automatically publishes everyone’s activity into one mega-feed. So you can scan through (or search for something/someone in particular) and quickly add them.

10 Tips For Better Tagging

January 17, 2008

Luggage¬†tagWhether it’s bookmarks on del.icio.us,¬†music on last.fm, email on Gmail, photos on flickr, or blog posts right here on WordPress, tagging has become an everyday part of life for the Web 2.0 generation. We do it because it’s fun and¬†addictive, but above all, it’s useful. Tagging enables you and others to find and organise posts, bookmarks and any other content more quickly and easily than a simple search.

Part of the reason why tags are so widely used is because they’re simple to understand:¬†a¬†tag is just a keyword (or short phrase) associated with a piece of information. For bloggers in particular tags help readers to find posts on their site, and also drive traffic to the blog.

Everybody knows there’s no right or wrong way to tag, but the following tips might be useful for those new to tagging. They’ve certainly helped me organise my content both here and on del.icio.us. Feel free to leave some tips of your own in the comments section.

1. Don’t leave it blank! It’s an obvious one, but I often see del.icio.us bookmarks listed as unfiled or uncategorized. There aren’t many items that are truly unclassifiable. Why not mark something as to-tag or similar and then return to it later?

2. Develop a system This is a good tip if you often struggle to find items in your bookmarks. By “system” I don’t mean somthing rigid, but it might be a good¬†idea to reserve one or two words or phrases for certain kinds of content.¬†One example would be¬†tagging time-sensitive items with timed or deadline. I do this at work with del.icio.us, so that I can occasionally prune funding opportunities which are out of date.

3. Spend some time pruning your tags occasionally¬†This is a well-known and oft-repeated tagging tip. Don’t be put off by thinking that it will be time-consuming: it needn’t be, if you keep on top of your tags regularly. Most tag-based websites (e.g. del.icio.us) allow you to view and edit your tagging master list.

4. Get rid of plural (or singular) tags¬†This is a more specific instance of number 2, really. In some ways, it’s¬†a personal preference thing, but usually there’s no point in having both, e.g., blog and blogs. Decide which you’re going to keep and ditch the other. Over time, more plurals and other forms of duplication¬†will creep in, but as long as you carry out regular pruning, it shouldn’t be an issue.

5. Categories are not tags But not necessarily vice versa! Check out this excellent article on the difference between the two. Lorelle makes the point that tags are often less formally structured¬†than categories, but can be used to flag up fine-grained “micro-distinctions” between topics. This can allow readers of a blog to find posts quicker. Aaron Brazell at Problogger agrees, and outlines a few strategies for using tags on your blog.

6. Check which tags others use Use this with caution! Del.icio.us, for example, provides a list of¬†other user’s tags when you submit a new item.¬†Other people’s tags may provide inspiration, but at the end of the day tags are an inherently personal thing. If your brain works differently, don’t use the same tags as everyone else! Of course, this depends on what you’re using tags for (see number 9 below).

7. Keep it simple This applies to most things in life, but it’s especially important with tagging. Most tag-enabled websites these days (with the notable exception of del.icio.us) allow spaces in tags, but this shouldn’t be taken as liscense to have long phrases as tags. In some cases that might be appropriate, but often one or two words does the trick.

8. Try not to have lots more tags than pieces of information Sometimes this may not be possible, and it’s certainly not a hard and fast rule, but in general, if you have 100 bookmarks and 250 tags, you might need to rethink your system a little. My own wordpress blog right here is a counterexample to this, of course, but that’s more of a problem with the way wordpress manages tags – you can view and edit your categories but you can’t, currently at least, see a master list of all your tags.

9. Think about others as well as yourself Here’s another general life principle which can be applied to tagging. In many places (a notable exception would be your Gmail account), tags are a fundamentally social way of labelling information. As well as thinking of keywords which you would associate with a particular item, think about what might help others to find it. This can only be good for everyone in the long run: other people can find useful information, great photos, or bookmarks, and you’ll be raising your profile and developing online social networks. For example, I tag items with research at work. Now,¬†virtually everything I bookmark at work is research-related, but if I don’t tag with that basic keyword, others might not find the information.

10. Use tags to make a note to yourself For example, tag an item toread and then you can see at a glance any news stories, etc., that you have yet to read. You could also use the tag classic or similar for extra-special links. Wantz.it uses a similar idea to create a personalised wishlist: Simply sign up, tag any item on del.icio.us with dowant and it’ll automatically be added to your Wantz.it wishlist.

Okay, I’m out! If you have any suggestions about using tags or tagging, or if you just think I’m plain wrong, why not leave a comment.

Why My Reddit RSS Feed Is B0rked

October 11, 2007

For a while now my liked.rss feed from reddit has been well and truly knackered. You can see the results of this on the right-hand side of this page, in my sidebar — just keep scrolling, you’ll reach it eventually…

Yesterday I found out why: apparently all reddit rss feeds now require a login cookie. This is fine when you’re logged in to reddit and viewing my liked items, but not so good when you’re trying to display a feed in a feed reader or on a blog. This has been reported on both the bugs subreddit and vanilla reddit, so far without any response — not even an acknowledgement that there’s a problem.

And that’s not the only unfixed problem: I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve tried to submit a link, only to be told “you’re submitting too fast!”. Well, I’m not the only one. This has been reported again and again, and there still hasn’t been any response.

In general I do value the quality of reddit as compared to digg et al, but all these problems are beginning to take the shine off somewhat.

UPDATE: 17/10/2007: It’s fixed! Reddit changed their code at the weekend and revamped most of the site. With this came a change in the way RSS feeds are handled. The upshot is it now works fine, so I’m happy!

Videos In Plain English: The CommonCraft Show

August 30, 2007

I’ve just become a big fan of the CommonCraft Show’s series of Videos In Plain English:

The CommonCraft Show

They are a sort of “…For Dummies” series for the YouTube generation: short (3-5 mins), witty and straightforward, they give you a good bite-sized overview of a number of web 2.0 topics.

Social Bookmarking In Plain English is a case in point. This is the latest — and by far the most enjoyable and effective — of the four videos produced so far. It concisely presents the benefits of using social bookmarking tools such as del.icio.us, as well as giving a quick tutorial on how to get started:

Also notable are Social Networking In Plain English and RSS In Plain English. These aren’t quite as slick as the most recent offering, but are well worth a look.

Social Networking… is entertaining, but it concentrates too heavily on the functional benefits of networks like Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn (e.g. finding contacts to get a better job, house or relationship). While important, I think most people use social networking sites just to stay in touch with friends, rather than to achieve some life goal. Similarly, RSS… is good but it’s also the least polished of Commoncraft’s videos, so don’t expect the high editing standards shown in Social Bookmarking…

Nevertheless, this is a great resource which could be equally useful for introducing technophobe friends or work colleagues to the wonders of web 2.0.

Why I Use Del.icio.us At Work

August 26, 2007

Del.icio.us logoI’ve recently started using the popular social bookmarking site del.icio.us at work. I work in the research office of a UK university and part of my job is to find and disseminate research funding opportunities to academics.

The usual way to do this, of course, is via email and on the department’s intranet site. On a typical day, I’ll trawl through a range of online funding databases, like ResearchResearch, Community of Science, Welcomeurope, CORDIS, UK Research Office, etc. and pass on the relevant information to different groups of staff.

However, since what I’m doing in my day-to-day tasks is essentially finding, sorting, and distributing links, it occurred to me that using del.icio.us would be a great alternative way to store and share funding opportunities with colleagues. My intention is to create a database of opportunities which are relevant to my institution, and which staff can peruse at their leisure. You can find the beginnings of that database here:

Researchoffice’s del.icio.us bookmarks

The best case scenario would be if a good number of research-active staff join del.icio.us themselves (or use their existing accounts) and create a network to share research funding links with one another. However, I’m willing to settle for a more likely option: a minority of tech-savvy staff start using the service as another information source when seeking funding. (I’m not expecting miracles here; I always keep in mind the one per cent rule.)

Here are 5 more reasons why I decided to use del.icio.us at work:

  1. It’s popular: Del.icio.us is the most popular social bookmarking website around, so there’s a higher chance that other staff will have at least heard of it, if not already use it themselves.
  2. It’s simple: Unlike many other social bookmarking sites, such as clipmarks, furl, and blinklist, del.icio.us has a simple look and feel; some might say too simple, but at least it hasn’t jumped on the web 2.0 reflective text/beta version bandwagon! It works nicely with most browsers, and has a pared-down vibe, rather like Google in the early days.
  3. It’s easy to use: From the readable URL scheme to the easily sortable and customizable tags, it doesn’t take more than 10 minutes to understand and start to use the site. This is crucial when promoting the site to those who might never have experienced social bookmarking before.
  4. RSS: As far as RSS feeds go, del.icio.us is very powerful. You can pull a feed from any tag you like, or from combined tags, or from a particular user, or from their inbox. You can even pull a feed for a specific type of media or filetype, as this blog post shows. I haven’t used this feature yet at work, but the ability to export the latest links as RSS will no doubt come in handy. For example, if this takes off I’ll probably end up putting an RSS feed on our office’s intranet page.
  5. It’s quick: This is perhaps the biggest boon of all. It takes between 60-90 seconds of my working day to post a link to del.icio.us. All I do is copy a relevant line from the page for the description, then click a few tags — perhaps adding one or two new ones if necessary. All done! The browser buttons are essential timesavers here, allowing speedy one-click saves.

Of course, it’s really important to set up a coherent tagging system before you start: I generally use at least one tag to describe the source website, several for the actual content, and various others to denote whether it’s a funding opportunity with or without a deadline, etc. Once that’s in place, it’s a breeze!

If you’re not convinced check this ReadWriteWeb article which compares the features of a number of social bookmarking websites, and choose the one which is right for you.

What Are (Digg) Friends For?

July 21, 2006

Until recently, I was a passive reader of digg.com. Oh, sure, I subscribed to the front page RSS feed in Firefox, and every few days I might check for interesting stories. However, all that changed a few weeks ago when I subscribed and started digging stories.

Digg homepageIn case you’re one of those who don’t yet know what all the fuss is about, Digg is one of the most popular of the new wave of user-driven news sites. Initially it focussed solely on tech news, but it has recently expanded to include a range of more traditional news topics: current affairs, science, entertainment, financial news, etc.

What sets digg apart from other news sites is user-driven content. The idea is simple: users submit stories and other users vote up (digg) all the stories they’ve enjoyed reading. The most “dugg” stories rise to the top and appear on the homepage, where they receive a massive amount of traffic.

To be honest, I joined digg because it added to my ever-increasing arsenal of advanced work-avoidance strategies. I’m a gamer, and digg appealed to me partly because it reminded me of gaming. For example, there’s competition to see who can submit a hot story first, and there’s the ensuing rivalry between digg users to see if their stories can get the most diggs. In a way, digg is like an abstract MMORPG, with the number of stories dugg to the front acting as “level ups”, and digg friends acting as a kind of “guild”. (Yeah, it’s a stretch, but bear with me because it might be relevant later on.)

A couple of weeks ago I started using the “Friends” feature myself. This is a staple of the new breed of “Web 2.0” websites, which are built around the notion that we want to share everything with our online buddies. But what does it mean to be a “friend” of another digger?

This question was highlighted yesterday by this (now super-popular) digg story:

Top 100 Digg Users Control 56% of Digg’s Homepage Content

Like the title says, a relatively small group of “elite” diggers control more than half of the stories which appear on digg’s homepage. One of the allegations in the comments (though not in the article itself) is that the friends networks of top diggers allows them to maintain a stranglehold on front page content.

The strangest thing about digg friendship is that, unlike the real world, it is not reciprocal; it’s not a relationship. You can add as many friends as you like, but they are under no obligation to add you. This is unlike myspace, for example, where friends must be mutual or not at all. Mutual friendships can be formed on digg, but you’re never notified if someone adds you as a friend (you have to check your account manually).

So what benefits does digg friendship bring? If you befriend someone else you can see at a glance all the stories they have dugg. Theoretically, I guess this is supposed to work like a recommendation system: there are far too many stories on digg to trawl through each one (although some of the elite users give it a pretty good shot). Ideally, the friend system should work like a filter. You befriend someone who shares your interests, or whose submitted stories you’ve dugg in the past, and this acts as a sort of guarantee; most stories dugg by that user should be interesting to you also.

How does all this relate to elite digg users? Well, a story needs only around 30-40 diggs within Digg's top usersa short space of time to rise to the front page. If the friends of top users constantly cross-digg each others’ stories, this ensures that their stories will always (or almost always) rise to the top. The claim is that they are acting as de facto editors of the digg.com homepage. The question then becomes: is digg really any different from a traditional news site (apart from the fact that it’s not paying the editors)?

But the idea that this is a bad thing is based on the myth that Digg is (or should be) fundamentally democratic, when in actual fact it is a meritocracy. This was pointed out in the comments section of the digg article, but it’s self-evident: the concept of “digging” is essentially meritocratic. The idea is that some stories will rise to the top of the pile while others will sink. Of course, digg is a democracy in the sense that one user’s digg is worth exactly the same as any other. But, as with any social network, those with more time on their hands are able to make their votes go further. Moreover, like most modern MMORPGs, a “guild” of friends is more powerful than a single user digging alone. (Okay, so the analogy is still a stretch, but you get the idea…)

In any case, would the supposed utopia of a “truly free” and democratic digg actually be interesting to read? Taken to its logical conclusion, this simply means turning digg into another news aggregator, with stories submitted by users instead of newswire. But this wouldn’t be digg, and it wouldn’t be possible to sort the wheat from the chaff. The bottom line is that many of the stories suggested by the top users are in fact interesting; they wouldn’t be dugg so highly if they weren’t.

Still, there are some less radical and more interesting suggestions in the comments section which are aimed at redressing the balance. For example, discarding the “friends” feature altogether; or hiding the identity of the submitter until the story rises to the homepage. I like the last idea in particular, since it emphasizes the stories over the users, but still allows users to be identified with their stories once the best ones have come to the front.

Equally, though, there are some awful suggestions which would, to my mind, only make things worse: more points-based systems, in particular, are a no-go as far as I’m concerned. If a user gets minus points for digging poorly performing articles, that means only the big name articles will ever be dugg, so you’d get an even more powerful elite editing cabal.

What I think is most interesting about this story is that it highlights the more general issue of online communication in the Web 2.0 age. If digg friendship is not necessarily reciprocal, how will this affect our online communication in the future? Web 2.0 social networking sites have the capacity to connect us to more people than ever. But are we actually “connecting” in any meaningful sense of the word? Or is it rather the case that we’re all in one big room shouting at each other? “This link is cool!” “Read this blog!” “Check out this weird news story!” As Mike Shea asked recently in his blog, just how much unactionable content can we process?

Faced with this onslaught of information competing for our attention, are we just paying attention to whoever shouts the loudest?