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Taking del.icio.us for granted

Thanks to Chris Addison’s teachings and some serious futzing on my own, I’ve been able to learn over the past year and a half about many of the things del.icio.us can do. Namely, it can help you create an online database of your favorite resources, generate collaborative lists, share links with other del.icio.us users, and embed link rolls and tag clouds in your blog or webpage, among other cool tricks.

But the more I think I know about such tricks, the more dismissive I became. “I’ve seen all that before,” I would say to myself.” But all in a single tool?! Well, that’s where the title of the post comes in…

The other week, I was showing a colleague from the CGIAR what del.icio.us could do in a very hands on way. We started by uploading a list of bookmarks from her browser into del.icio.us. This was something I’d done for myself when I first started playing around with del.icio.us, but upon my arrival to Ethiopia and subsequent “misplacing” of my recently bookmarked pages in my work computer I suddenly realized that I needed to update my del.icio.us account more regularly. “I can’t find some of my bookmarked pages,” I explained to her. “I should be updating these bookmarks in del.icio.us more regularly.” (Let’s call this “aha moment number 1″…)

Next, we started playing with some different tags. She’d already done this before and got the basic gist of RSS, but wasn’t aware that each tag in del.icio.us had its own RSS feed. “You can think of tags like folders,” I explained. “Each time you tag a resource, it saves it to a folder by that tag’s name, along with every other tag you assign to that resource. And every page that you can view in del.icio.us- whether it’s by account name, your tags or even a common tag used by others, it has its own RSS feed.” Once again, I was struck by how special this feature was. Not many other services I could think of have this type of tagging, page view and RSS interoperability as part of the standard, free service. (And this was “aha moment number 2”)

Next, we visited her blog at WordPress. I explained that this del.icio.us widget she had in WP could be configured to display all her links from del.icio.us or just those belonging to certain tags. We configured the widget and voilà!- her del.icio.us items showed in her blog. Needless to say, we both were highly impressed.

Next, I showed her an webpage whose entire content was driven through del.icio.us. Euforic members bookmark in del.icio.us and they are pulled into the website (note: this is now done using feedburner as an intermediary step). “Amazing,” she said. By clicking through the links, you are taken to their del.icio.us account. And by clicking on the ‘save this’ link to the right of an item’s title, you can easily save it to your own bookmarks- “Amazing!” You can even see their tags for that item, or popular tags from more than 2 million other del.icio.us users and add your own already used tags with just one click.

“If i find someone who has a lot of interesting bookmarks,” I explained, “I can simply add them to my network.”
“What- no friend request?,” my colleague asked.
“Nope. In del.icio.us, these are all public and sharing is the default.” There is a way to hide individual items, if you like though…”

“What else?” I asked myself. “Maybe you’re all excited because you fnd great link and want to share it with a friend. All you do is tag it as as for:yourfriendsname and voilà! it shows up the next time she logs into her account. Moreover, if you and your friends create a unique tag, you could take the feed from that and add it straight into a webpage so that whenever one of you tags a new item, it gets automatically pulled into your website or blog…”

It’s my own damn fault for not remembering how cool and dynamic del.icio.us was. As I mentioned before, Chris Addison helped turn it into the content management system for the Euforic website and Peter Ballantyne uses it to tag all his posts in the IAALD blog (thereby driving up incoming links, overall traffic and even their Google ranking). In many ways, I came to realize that del.icio.us had become the poster child for Web 2.0 functionality (whatever that means). Thanks for reminding me of this, Alexandra.

Any other tips or tricks I forgot to mention?


9 Responses

  1. Excellent post Peter. We need to talk about the possibility of doing the webinars! Those tips and hands-on exercises would be extremely useful for many CG staff and research partners.
    I would have loved to be in that session with Alexandra!

  2. Small update/correction: Pete and I were just putting together a session on RSS and alerts for our colleagues at IFPRI and realized that when you do a del.icio.us search, the results page does unfortunately not offer a feed.

  3. Hi Pete. very nice …

    At euforic (and iaald) we use feedburner between del.icio.us and the web page just because it gives us some extra control over the look of the feed – and we get some stats on the feed usage, and we can set up email alerts for each.

    I personally like the ‘network’ and ‘fan’ possibilities where I can tap into the bookmarks of other people who share interests in similar issues. See what we are doing with the ‘npk4dev’ or ‘e-agriculture’ tags! We could probably do a lot more together like this.

    Final thought: With del.icio.us, it’s also possible to tag and then generate rss feeds from web sites and organisations that have yet to get hooked on, or produce, RSS feeds….

    Cheers, Peter Ballantyne

  4. Hi Peter, the last bit of your comment intrigued me. Can you expand on how to generate feeds from websites without RSS through delicious? Would that update automatically as with a blog feed for instance?
    thanks, Stephan

  5. Hi Pete,
    nice post. Just want to let you know that the link for the Euforic website is not working. Guess it needs the ‘ www ‘ in front.

    Martin Behrens

  6. Hi Stephan,

    On the RSS, it’s a bit of a workaround and not at all automatic!

    If you manually tag interesting resources in delicious, say of FAO, you can generate ‘your’ feed of FAO resources. Much better of course would be that they produce their own feeds. Even then, I find most organisations still make ‘a’ or a few pre-defined feeds available which might not be quite what I am looking for.

    We probably need to be learning from services like google news where any search result can be turned into an alert or a feed…. In the meantime using delicious, as you mention, any tag can become a feed…. which offers lots of potential…



  7. Hi Pete,

    Very nice to know that our sessions were so inspiring for you too! That makes me feel better, so we both gained with the various hours spent on the computer… Nice summary, and a good refresh/remind/revision for me still!


  8. Thanks for the comments everyone. I’ve corrected the Euforic link and included a link to Alexandra’s blog. Perhaps the coolest thing about del.icio.us I forgot to mention relates to the link rolls and tag rolls that can be found under “settings.” These allow you to copy and paste your content from del.icio.us into any webpage. Happy futzing!

  9. Hi Pete! what an excellent post! youve got me thinking about all kinds of stuff i want to do with our blog (were now playing with a demo version in anticipation of launching it soon!). i also never knew what a feedburner was until about 10 minutes ago and im still trying to get my head around it.

    one thing i struggle with is the information overload that comes with having it so easily accessible! on the right side of your page i see your del.ici.ous bookmarks, on the left side i see your RSS feeds… and as a user i’m asking myself “how are they different?”, because qualitatively you’ve got the same kind of stuff in both.

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