I have been using the online bookmarking tool del.icio.us since 2 January 2005. I have spent considerable time in the continual organization of my del.icio.us bookmarks. I search the bookmarks of others. I ‘steal’ ideas from other users as well as bookmarking the sites they also link to. I have 19 users in my network (i.e. I follow their bookmarks on the ‘Your Network’ page of my del.icio.us site) and I have 21 fans who watch what I save in my bookmarks. I have not yet taken advantage of the RSS feed that I could subscribe to (I use Bloglines at the moment) so I get the latest bookmarks of others in my RSS feed (already a busy read and I am hesitant on making it busier). What does all this mean? Well I believe I have a method to my use of del.icio.us. So here is my own manifesto on del.icio.us:
There is already an extensive help section on del.icio.us.This is something that everyone should read who uses del.icio.us. But at the same time it is a very flat and general description of what can be done using the tool and how it can be adapted to what is required by each individual. I began (of course) by opening an account. It lay dormant for a long time until a hard drive crash lost me a lot of links (for the pros and cons of public versus private links and much more on social tagging practices see danah. I decided to put as much online as I could, so then came the collecting. I put a del.icio.us button on my toolbars (saved in my log in settings on 3 computers: office, home and HUMlabâ€¦God, I need a laptop) and just clicked on sites that were relevant to my professional and personal life.
Soon it got crowded and difficult to find things. I started organising them into what the del.icio.us Help site calls “bundles”:
Bundles are a way to arrange previously-used tags into groups. For example, if you have the tags “design”, “painting”, and “moma”, you may want to group these together into a bundle called “art”. To create a new bundle, type the name of the bundle and click create. You can then start entering tags by clicking on the tag cloud below, or by typing tags directly into the text box. To remove a tag, click on the tag in the cloud or delete it from the text box. When you are finished, you must remember to hit the save changes button, or your changes will be lost.
This is a bare bones description of Metatagging. In my experience, to organise tags as subgroups it has been necessary to prioritize the features of the tagged site. For example, I just bookmarked Wikibooks – a wiki that archives free text books online. Such a resource serves several functions; it could be classified under the tag ‘Books’, the tag ‘Wikis’, ‘Archives’ and ‘OpenEducation’. In del.icio.us a tag will be broken up if it is more than one word, so ‘Book’ and ‘Wikis’ are one tag each. ‘OpenEducation’ is my way of making a two word tag into one (there are other ways. It can also be done using underscore _ between words). This helps for clarity but it does get confusing after a while as many joined two word tags come very close to each other in the general tags. I prioritize the order of the tags from most relevant (in the case of wikibooks for me it is ‘Books’ then ‘Wikis’ then ‘OpenEducation’) and this becomes relevant when tags are ‘bundled’ into meta-classes.
I have bundled over 4000 tags into 20 Metatags and I use an interim Metatag of Unbundled as a sort of Triage or assessment. Like everything in a good folksonomy these classes are always being updated, divided into new classes, deleted, recycled and mutated. This is one of the strengths of del.icio.us; it teaches self-reflection by doing. The Metatags need to be general but specific enough not to overlap. They must be accommodating and relevant in that they allow for a broad range of subjects but clearly signify the connections between those subjects. Metatags need to be consistent and thematic. An example is my use of the Metatags; ‘Wikis’, ‘Archives’ and ‘OpenEducation’. There is some overlap between these but I have here made distinctions such as the importance of form (Wiki), the functional aspects of ‘Archives’ and the contextualisation of ‘OpenEducation’. The example of Wikibooks appears under the Metatags of ‘Media’ (Wikis), ‘Literature/Language’ (Books) and ‘University’ (OpenEducation). By my rational an entry made under multiple tags should not appear more than once under a Metatag as this lessens the need for multiple tags. If it needs a second tag it is because it has crossed over into a separate field in the metatags.
Once the tags have begun to multiply then it is a matter of being attentive to your delicious site; spend time with it, watch your network grow, visit the ‘Popular’ and ‘Recent’ pages of del.icio.us, link your page to your other websites (your blog/s especially) using the button scripts offered by del.icio.us (there are some cool unofficial add-ons and tools as well). But the most important thing is using your bookmarks and that’s what I will write about in my next blog entry on del.icio.us.