Not delicious at all

Canoe 18So, I write a blog post for the first time for ages and one of the key components is about to go West. The news that delicious, Yahoo’s social bookmarking site is to go to the wall has ruined my Christmas, and I’m not the only one. I’m going home to eat humbugs and kick the cat (I haven’t got a cat – but I like cats – I do – really – if I had one I’d buy a cat tent!).

Still no official announcement from Yahoo, but any regular delicious user is already looking around for alternatives. I remember a couple of years ago that I was enjoying synchronising my delicious bookmarks with Ma.gnolia, but that project appears dead in the water. Maybe this would be a good time to resurrect it.

Mike has already given Pinboard a try. Maurice is giving Google Bookmarks a go. The beauty of delicious was that as a team if we all used the same product, we could use feeds to tie everything in together and share what we found interesting (if we felt like it).

It would be a sad day if delicious went to the wall. So in a journey of sentimentality, I’m going to review my first 10 bookmarks on delicious:

  1. Codestore Possibly the best site for Lotus Domino developers. These days very focused on Flex development, but still an excellent resource for all web development techniques
  2. Simplebits Dan Cederholm, a frontend developer from Canada and author of one of the best html books ever: Web Standards Solutions. The site has also had a very nice makeover recently.
  3. Zedzdead Its mine!…and posts are a little thin on the ground these days.
  4. Acerbia Currently inactive, but some posts available from Wayback machine. Fiction and humour from Dave Frew.
  5. A List Apart A web developer’s magazine, full of design and development best practices
  6. Adactio Jeremy Keith, a frontend developer specialising in HTML and javaScript.
  7. Antipixel An excellent blog/photo blog from Jeremy Hedley, a developer working in Japan, now rarely updated, but still some beautiful images.
  8. Bucket Fountain - Brunswick St., LiverpoolBucket Fountain A developer blog from New Zealand, who I followed because Liverpool too, has bucket fountains.
  9. B3TA Funny, irreverent and rude (some NSF)!
  10. 1976 Design Dunstan Orchard’s blog, closed to new entries in 2005, but with the most inspiring banner for many years, and documented in the Colophon.

Dear Santa, forget the Android phone, please can I have my delicious bookmarks forever.

Crowdsourced holiday plans

I’m looking for help.  No, not that sort of help… or that sort… I’d like you, dear readers, to help plan my holiday.  While this might sound entirely selfish I will be using it as an experiment in crowdsourcing:

delegating a task to a large diffuse group, usually without monetary compensation

In this case definitely without monetary compensation!

Here’s the details.  My brother and I fly out to San Francisco at the end of July and have 18 days to travel across the country to New York via lots of hopefully interesting places.  There’s more details over on my personal blog [Edge Hill University is not responsible for the content of external websites!] but I’ll repeat the key bit here and explain how I’m hoping it will work.

Here’s the initial route we came up with:

San Francisco, CA to Laguardia Airport - Google Maps

So: San Francisco, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Las Vegas, NV; Grand Canyon, AZ; Denver, CO; Chicago, IL; Toronto, ON; Boston, MA; New York, NY.

If you’ve been to any of these places, or have heard of good things to see and do, let us know in one of the following ways:

How is this different to the usual way of planning holidays?  You’ll normally ask friends and family who’ve been before for suggestions and things to do and places to visit and my crowdsourcing plan is indeed very similar.  The difference is twofold.

Firstly the range of people I hope to reach out to for ideas is far greater.  Even before I made any real effort to spread the message I had people responding on Twitter with suggestions.  Some of them I’m never met in person but they’re part of my extended personal or professional “network”.

Secondly, by engaging people with the process of planning, I hope to get more people interested in what we’re doing and hence get more and better suggestions with different people’s ideas building on each other.

I’m not going to spam this blog with my holiday plans any more, but I might blog about some of my observations about the crowdsourcing process.  If it all goes well then I may even use the experience as the basis for a BarCamp session at the Institutional Web Management Workshop immediately before I fly out!

New even tastier delicious.com

Some websites like Google become so ingrained in how you use the web that you almost forget they’re there. For me del.icio.us – the social bookmarking service – is one of those sites. Last week, after a very long wait, the brand new version was launched and it’s looking pretty good. The first change you’ll notice is the name – the dots are gone so del.icio.us (probably the most well known site to use the .us TLD) is now delicious.com. The visual changes can be seen in this video:

But that probably doesn’t help if you’ve never come across Delicious before, so what is it and how can it help you? Here’s how they describe themselves:

Delicious is a social bookmarking service that allows users to tag, save, manage and share web pages from a centralized source. With emphasis on the power of the community, Delicious greatly improves how people discover, remember and share on the Internet.

Let’s break that down a bit!

Centralised. Instead of storing bookmarks on your own computer, they are stored on Delicious’ servers so they are all available anywhere you have a connection to the internet.

Tag don’t file. Normally when you save a bookmark you put it in a folder to help you find it later. Actually, if you’re like me, you don’t put it in a folder so you have one big long list of favorites [sic] and can’t find the thing you’re looking for. Delicious is different – instead of putting it in one folder you give it one or more tags. When you come to find a bookmark later you can filter down by tags.

It’s social. This is the key part to a service like Delicious. Social bookmarking sites allow you to be part of a larger community. In a purely selfish way, this saves you time by suggesting tags that other people have used when adding a bookmark but there’s much more you can get out as well. You can build up a network of contacts and see what pages they save. You can browse by tag across your contacts or the whole community. You can recommend a page to other users by tagging it for:username.

For an overview of some of the features of Delicious, check out this video from Common Craft:

To make using Delicious even easier, check out the toolbars available for Firefox and Internet Explorer. They integrate Delicious right into the browser and mean you rarely have to visit the site – it tells you when people in your network have bookmarked pages or recommended you a link.

Another useful feature of Delicious is feeds of everything. Subscribe to what people in your network bookmark, a private feed of the pages people have tagged for:you, or if you’re feeling adventurous, how about a feed of all the bookmarks with a particular tag! This also allows you to pull information into other places such as your blog (we’ve got the latest bookmarks tagged for:ehu_webteam in the sidebar), or into the GO portal.

So sign up, start bookmarking and explorer the community! And if you really want to know what I’m interested in, my username is mikenolan.

Tag me

Tags are being used by more and more websites. They’re everywhere. Look at the top of this post, its been tagged (by me). Look to the sidebar, a tag cloud (more about these later). Chances are if you use any social networking site or web 2.0 site, you’ll have used, seen and interacted with tags.

Our new-look corporate site, extensively uses tagging, specifically in News, Events, Imaging and the eProspectus, but what’s a tag used for? A tag is metadata, a keyword or term associated with or assigned to a piece of information. So tags can be added to any page in a web document and associated with any other pages prieviously tagged with the same tag.

The tags themselves are usually single words, informally and personally chosen. If you’ve signed up for accounts with Flickr, Picasa, delicious, Magnolia or YouTube, to name but a few, you’ve probably added your own tags by now. So is tagging just a way to show similarities between your documents? Not really, tagging data on these sites provides a simple navigation through to your own content, but also hooks into other members’ data by turning tags into links, which aggregate documents similarly tagged.

Tag Clouds

Tag Cloud

Popular tags can be visually represented through tag clouds, also known as a weighted list, with the most popular tags shown larger and bolder. Again the tags are links which drill down to similar content. You could even base an rss feed on a tag to alert visitors to new content so tagged.

Microformats

Microformats logoBy adding rel=”tag” into the links, the link also becomes a microformat. Microformats are a standard way to represent things in HTML, by adding rel-tag we’re standardising the link as a tag. Making the link a microformat allows the reader to find similarly tagged content from a wider source than just the current site. Firefox users can install a fantastic add-on called Operator. Operator recognises microformats on the page and in the case of tags, offers the reader entry points to content similarly tagged on other websites. Sadly there doesn’t seem to be anything similar available for Internet Explorer, yet.

Machine Tags

On the horizon, we have Machine tagging or Triple tagging. Machine tags use a specific syntax to define extra information about the tag, making it more meaningful for interpretation by computer programs. Triple tags comprise three parts: a namespace, a predicate and a value. For example, ehu:news=607This kind of tagging isn’t currently used on the Edge Hill site, but it’s built-in ready to go. Anyone interested can see an implementation on Adactio, any Flickr images, tagged ( where n is representative of his blog post) will be included automatically.adactio:post=n

Adopting Tags

By adopting tags, or creating tags so unique, ensures that all things tagged are related. For example, all news, event and images relating to this year’s Solstice Seminars could be tagged: solstice08. The tag is so unique, items tagged with it would be unlikely to be included out of context. Such unique tags can be promoted like a product, by requesting conference attendees to tag their own online content, on websites and slides etc.

Tagging Best Practices

If you’re about to embark on a journey of tagging for your own sites, it can feel a little daunting. There are, however, some best practices you can use to get started:

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