del.icio.us turns three

The social bookmarking service, del.icio.us, turned three years old yesterday.

For some time I have been meaning to discuss this service and how I use it, so the occasion of its third birthday seems like a good stimulus to do that. Because this service is tightly integrated and therefore essentially effortless with Flock, I have relied on it more since I began using Flock than I did prior to then. Any time I mark something as a favorite, it is also added to my del.icio.us bookmarks. It’s true that in Flock you can choose to use Shadows rather than del.icio.us but since I have chosen to use del.icio.us I’ll ignore that fact for the purposes of this discussion.

So what the heck is a social bookmarking service anyway? First and foremost is it a site on the web where the things I bookmark are listed so that when I am away from my own computer, I can find those sites if I wish. But more than that, it is “social” in the sense that you can, if you choose, see the things I’ve bookmarked, and conversely I can see yours, if you also use the service. In fact, I can, and have, set up a network of people whose bookmarked sites I check periodically, and when I see a link they have bookmarked that interests me, I can add it to my bookmarks as well. By using the service like this, I benefit from what others discover and thus extend my “coverage” of all that’s new on the ‘net. It is also easy to recommend a site to someone who has a del.icio.us account by simply using the “for:username” tag, where the username is their username on del.icio.us.

Perhaps the most useful part to me about using del.icio.us is that I can tag a site when I bookmark it with as few or as many different words or combination of words as I think will help me recall it when I search for it later. In addition to all those tags, I can add notes to my bookmarks that permit me to write a narrative description of that bookmark if I choose. I’ve noticed that many people don’t do that, and that’s okay, but I find that writing some brief description only takes a few seconds and can prove quite useful when I look at the bookmark later.

When I visit my del.icio.us page, the most recently bookmarked sites are at the top of the list and in the right hand column all my tags are listed. Those tags can also be listed as a tag cloud, if I choose. The site has a search facility with which I can search for a tag and have all the sites that contain it displayed.

If you are interested in using del.icio.us, I recommend you spend some time reading through the help facility there. Among the things that are covered in that help facility are a few suggestions about ways to use del.icio.us, and one of those is that tagging can help as you research a particular topic. For instance, as a blogger I frequently encounter topics that I might want to blog about. By tagging those sites as “blogfodder” I can later return to them and write a blog post about them if I choose. So as you can see, the tags you apply don’t have to be real words. They can be anything you find useful.

One final thought. In my opinion, there are no right or wrong tags. Tagging web sites isn’t about guessing what other people would use to tag it, because it doesn’t matter how others tag it. The purpose in adding tags is to give you a way to find the site again when you want to return to it. That’s why, when I tag, I add as many tags as come to mind when I bookmark it. Who knows what I’ll be thinking when I try to go back to find the site later? So the more tags I have used, the greater the likelihood I’ll be able to find it.

Whether you choose to use del.icio.us or not, I must say that having used it now for more than a year, I can hardly imagine not having it available to me. So when I say “Happy Birthday” to the service, it isn’t just that I wish them well. It’s that I find their service indispensable to my life online. If you’d like someone else’s perspective on this service, you might enjoy reading my friend Mike Neel’s post called Golden, Blogged and Del.icio.us.

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