Sharing interesting websites
The tool: del.icio.us
Del.icio.us is an online tool. Its potential is described in just 3 words on the website : keep, share and discover. Information on the internet can be collected, shared and discovered online with this social bookmarking tool. All the information stored on del.icio.us is public, so everybody can see and search all the collected bookmarks of other people.
What can you do with del.icio.us?
Bookmarks to websites and online PDF-files can be documented online. The user can assign so-called tags to these bookmarks. A tag according to the website is: “just a word that describes an item saved on del.icio.us.” By assigning different tags to a bookmark, a description is provided of the information behind the hyperlink. The bookmarks cannot be categorized, as you would in the ‘favourites’ of your internet browser. Instead of assigning categories to the bookmarks, in del.icio.us you can place the tags used under a heading. These categories and the tags are displayed on the first page of del.icio.us, so you quickly get a good idea of the owner’s field of interest.You can subscribe to other peoples’ del.icio.us webpage. Their links will appear in a separate section of your own del.icio.us webpage. With every hyperlink added you can see how many people have the same page bookmarked and who they are.
What do you need?
Del.icio.us is online, so you need an internet connection, and it is free of charge.
The next interview took place at June 7, 2006 with Joitske Hulsebosch from IICD.
Knowledge sharing and finding people
“I’ve used del.icio.us for while now, since January 2006, and I think it is an ideal tool to organise all the information that I gather in and around my work. I tried it after a discussion we had online about web2.0 tools in CPsquare, but started to get enthusiastic when I talked to Peter Ballantyne and his ideas on how to use it to produce a feed with relevant links on a certain topic. At first, when I’d just heard about de.icio.us, I couldn’t really picture the benefits for myself. Because of Peter’s vision and our experiment with the possibilities of the tool, I started using it more intensively and invested time in learning for instance how to cluster tags. I use del.icio.us to bookmark all interesting websites I come across when looking for information for work or just to keep up. Besides keeping all the information organised I also use del.icio.us as a search engine.”
Can you tell me anything about the experiment you started around del.icio.us and social bookmarking? “Around February of this year we (myself and my colleague Nynke Kruidering, Dorine Ruter from ETC and Peter Ballantyne of Euforic) came together and decided to start a little experiment with del.icio.us to see what social bookmarking could do for us and how it could help in our work. We shared an interest in actually experimenting with web2.0 tools. Our areas of interest and work are very similar, we are all interested in knowledge management and development cooperation. So we started thinking: “why look for information separately if we can share?” We could produce a feed with the links we found by using a unique tag for resources we want to share with others. That’s why we chose to make use of a special tag: km4dev_pilot and we made a habit of using this tag for all our resources related to knowledge management in development. Del.icio.us offers the option of an RSS feed for a tag, so it is very easy to create a list of the bookmarks that were added by our group. And Dorine used Superglu to ‘glue’ our tags together. This way it is possible to make a feed with bookmarks for a particular subject. We recently also created one around health and ICT at IICD. To help each other even more, we agreed that we would also add tags concerning the kind of information and the geographical area the link refers to.” Helping to find interesting information on the web and share it: that’s what it is all about! But how did you get together? “I knew Dorine from the e-collaboration group and we were both using del.icio.us, although Dorine was using it more intensively than me. Peter found us online through del.icio.us, because he noticed we were active taggers on del.icio.us. And I brought in my colleague Nynke who was also interested. So it’s not only possible to discover information, but also people with similar interests to you! It is relatively easy to find people with certain interests using del.icio.us. If you add a bookmark del.icio.us automatically tells you how many more people have added that same link and you can quickly click to their del.icio.us webpage. Sometimes there can be around 8000 people, but if there are only 1 or 2, I often check if they’ve collected more interesting links.”
Easy to use
“It’s easy to get started: you only have to create an account on the del.icio.us website. You need to create a username, password and provide an e-mail address in case you lose your password. Then you can get started and add your bookmarks.” Is getting started that simple? “Getting started is very easy. You can add buttons in your browser, which enable you to simply add the site you are currently visiting by clicking on that button (called ‘post to del.icio.us’). You add a small description, add the tags and you are done! You might want to add your old bookmarks, which can take a while, but after that they’ll be nice and organised. Adding bookmarks as you work or while searching for information is also almost no trouble at all. After that you automatically go back to the site you were on and continue where you left off. Because of the ease of adding tags, you’ll also add websites that are not needed at the moment, but that contain interesting information. This may be very useful in case you need to search for that subject later on. You don’t need to search any more for what you have already found.”
Benefits for work
Can you give an example of how it has made your work easier? “Recently I had to prepare for a presentation about web2.0. The first thing I did was search my del.icio.us webpage with the tag web2.0 and I quickly found a lot of material I had come across earlier. It saved me a lot of work and time. I could select some of those as handouts, and had excellent inputs for my presentation. It’s also very useful when a colleague comes over with a question, and I know there are interesting things to read on a certain subject. Mostly it doesn’t seem worth investing the time if I have to start searching for materials that I know are interesting for that specific subject. Now I can quite easily send a link from del.icio.us with all material I have found before.” Are there any aspects of del.icio.us that are harder to get familiar with? “I can’t say that anything is hard. At first I didn’t immediately notice that the tags could be organised in clusters, until I saw it on Dorine’s del.icio.us webpage. Then I started to look how this could be done which was quite easy. Del.icio.us doesn’t have a whole lot of options, so you quickly get to know the ones available. Besides that we always have our little group where you can ask for help. We keep in touch by e-mail and Skype, where we discuss technical questions. For example, I wanted to use an RSS feed at del.icio.us for my blog. Dorine helped me with that. Now the latest del.icio.us bookmarks are displayed on my blog.”
Has the co-operation between you always been this good or have there been changes in the relationship with the others in the experiment? “We have become a real team, even though we have met only once! We are all very enthusiastic about our collaboration with del.icio.us, and that leads to a sense of being ‘partners in crime.’ We have extended the group, but the 4 initiators are more active. We all share the fun of exploring the possibilities of the tool. That is clearly demonstrated in the discussions we’re having about a new tag. We scheduled a Skype session to discuss this, because we wanted to come up with a good name. Besides that we are also more aware of the subject somebody is currently working on by looking at the bookmarks added. But if you don’t have any idea about how useful a resource is, or what the others thought, it won’t stimulate any discussion.” Are there any disadvantages or would you like to see some changes made to the tool? “I never really thought about any changes. I am used to del.icio.us as it is now and changes would only mean that you’ve got to get used to it again. What I did notice is that although information can be shared on the internet, you can’t give any opinions or discuss any material. So, I use my blog for that.”
More people, more information
What would you like to achieve with del.icio.us? Do you see any big ideals behind the tool? “We’d like to involve more people. We just need to take care to make sure that new people aren’t overwhelmed by the ease with which we use the tool nowadays. We probably need to support these people at the start. The current plan is to expand the group to seven people, but I can’t tell yet how much further we can and will go. The more people, the more information there will be, and there is a limit to what we can handle. The larger the group, the less influence you probably have over the quality or type of information tagged. We could also think about having a smaller group of taggers and expanding the users by promoting the feed. The audience can get very big, because everybody is free to look at what the taggers have added. The taggers should consist of motivated individuals, who people can put their trust in and who are active information workers. The quality of the bookmarks must be maintained by the taggers. Also, the taggers shouldn’t consider the tagging as extra work and it should fit into his or her day-to-day work.”
Who would find del.icio.us useful? “I think everybody whose work is involved with knowledge and everybody who wants to be kept informed about certain subjects. As I already mentioned we also started an experiment with a unique tag within IICD about health and ICT, where we have come up with a new tag, ‘ehealthroundtable’. It is amazing to see what happens when 3 people start tagging, you find so many more useful resources than when tagging alone. We also introduced this to two of our partners in the south, and their reaction was positive, but different to what we expected. The problem was not the bandwidth as we feared before, as del.icio.us seemed to work well with them since they had broadband connections. These partners indicated that they foresaw a problem in the time involved in searching for resources, tagging them, and making use of the resources. They just have to see how easy it is and that it doesn’t take much time once you get used to it. A practical introduction to tagging as a collaborative event can stimulate this. Dealing with information overflow is a real problem though, hence we might need an ‘infomediary’ to pre-select the best materials (short and concise).