4 information-management problems
- My bookmarks are on my work machine, but I’m at home / on vacation / . . .
- I’d like to find out more about some topic, without setting aside time to search for it and filter out what’s new.
- I’ve got all these bookmarks or web pages that I need to organize.
- My students are all working on similar problems, but they’re not sharing information, or not sharing it at the right times.
del.icio.us solves these problems
- Your bookmarks live online, not on any one computer.
- Easy, RSS-friendly tools for passively discovering new, relevant information (Is there a user who seems to use tags similar to yours? Add her to your network. Want to find out whenever people bookmark something about Victorian fiction? Add the tags to your subscriptions.
- A new approach to organizing information (Folksonomies instead of taxonomies. NB: I’m aware that del.icio.us didn’t invent this. I just meant, “new relative to organizing your bookmarks into folders.)
- Easy tools for sharing information (In addition to subscriptions and networks, there’s also “links for you.”
Here I pointed, clicked, and talked. We talked through the assignment, too. The assignment tries to do a couple of things:
- increase a sense of in-semester intellectual community, especially among undergrads.
- encourage students to move away from a model where they only think of the class at high-stakes times (right before the paper) to a constant, lower-level kind of engagement. (Ideally, I guess, there’d be a mix of both low-level and intense engagement.)
Two things that taste great with del.icio.us
- A real browser, especially Firefox. There are some nice del.icio.us plug-ins for Firefox.
- An online news aggregator / RSS reader (Google Reader, Bloglines, NewsGator, etc.). Virtually everything in del.icio.us can be set up as an RSS feed, which is convenient.
Two possible problems, and how to turn them into opportunities
- Tag proliferation / synonyms, etc. When you start tagging pages on a topic, it can be hard to settle on a particular convention. For a while, I had “digital, humanities, computing, digitalhumanities, humanities-computing, humanities_computing, humantiescomputing” as variations on the same concept. This can make it hard to find stuff. However, del.icio.us makes it possible to rename your tags for consistency, so you just have to remember to clean them up every once in a while. Also, though, for me this tendency has been a feature, not a bug. When I start tagging in a particular area, it takes me a while to settle on a particular convention. That I start to notice this problem, and think of ways to standardize my tagging practice, is one of the signs that I’m starting to get a good feel for a particular topic, or for the scope of the project.
- “What do you mean by that?” What’s “cool” or “interesting” to someone else, might not be to me. Likewise, I’ve seen people use tags ironically. This is always a problem in any folksonomy. But in a classroom, this is also a teachable moment, because students frequently assume that their judgments are wholly transparent, and not in need of elucidation. Trying to figure out some inscrutable tag can be a proxy for this process.
Do you use del.icious? Any tips/tricks?