Getting addicted to del.icio.us

Within the last couple of weeks, I’ve started to use the del.icio.us service more and more. It’s called a “social bookmarking” service… andwhile brief, it’s not the best way to describe it. A (wordier) description would be “an online service that lets you bookmark sites and assign descriptive tags to those sites.” The “social” angle comes up in that your bookmarks are shared by other users of the service (they also provide some “antisocial” settings).

A tag is essentially a keyword that you define and you can use multiple tags for a single bookmark. If you’re familiar with Flickr for photos, it’s a similar service for bookmarks. Not coincidentally, both Flickr and del.icio.us have been purchased by Yahoo — Yahoo’s loving tags these days.

When I first checked it out last year, I thought it was a cool idea but I’ve got over a thousand bookmarks in Firefox. I’m fairly anal about categorizing them into folders and the thought of going through all of that to assign tags and descriptions wasn’t appealing. On the other hand, synchronizing those between machines and different browsers can be a hassle… and they’re not accessible from other machines. Enter the “del.icio.us Loader for Firefox” by Julian Bez. With this tool, you upload your Firefox bookmarks.html file, assign some tags, and run it. It will show you all the bookmarks it found in the file and let you visit each, add/remove tags, etc. I found that splitting my bookmarks.html file into multiple .html files made this process easier. It took some tweaking, but it was worth it when it came time to assign tags.

So now I can go to my del.icio.us page from anywhere (as can anyone else) and get at my bookmarks: http://del.icio.us/jdonnici

If I want to quickly get at all items that I tagged with a certain word, I just use this format:

del.icio.us/jdonnici/[tag_name]. Like this or this.

If I want to see everyone’s bookmarks for a certain tag, I use this format: del.icio.us/tag/[tag_name]. Like this or this.

Tags can be concatenated together with the “+” plus sign like this: http://del.icio.us/jdonnici/dotnet+sqlserver 

Finally, I can subscribe to various del.icio.us feeds in my aggregator, including a specific tag or a specific user.

This makes it easy to see the things that other people are finding interesting. There are lots of other tools that I’ve yet to tinker with, including an “Inbox” for tags and the ability to tag something as being “for” another user (presumably making it show up in their inbox). I can also go to the main site page and see both “recent” and “popular” bookmarks.

For Firefox, I’m also finding the del.icio.us Firefox toolbar extension to be invaluable. It puts a shortcut on your toolbar to your tags, as well as a shortcut that opens a tagging window for the current page you’re on. Clicking that lets you tag the page and even shows you suggested tags based on what others have used for that same page.

As I said, I’m just getting started but I do see how this could be a MUCH better way of managing bookmarks and coming back to useful content than the old bookmarks file and/or Favorites directory. It takes some work up front if you have a lot of bookmarks… and I can see how keeping your tags clean and consistent is pretty important (the site provides some tools for removing and renaming tags). But it’s free and seems very much worth the effort.