Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Web 2.0 - Del.icio.us - truly!
Del.icio.us at its heart is a web based site for recording personal bookmarks of websites. But it truly does go beyond that by combining the characteristics of a user-generated search engine with the bookmarking function. A user does not have to log in to search. Searching is done with keywords called TAGS that are attached to each site in the del.icio.us catalog by other users. Unlike google or yahoo del.icio.us has no control over the order of the sites or what searches will bring up which sites, that control rests solely in the hands of del.icio.us' users. Any registered user can TAG any site with any word. When searching del.icio.us by tag the sties are displayed according to how many people tagged them with that word, giving a pretty good indication of whether a site truly matches the description of the tag. Also, because tagging a site requires time and effort, people will tend to only tag valuable sites that they wish to return to again which makes the search lists very very valuable - all the sites are quality sites. So registered users may tag sites to assist in this search function, but each user also has their own personal storage for sites they've tagged. These are basic bookmarks like those found in a browser, but they are able to be organized and sorted through in a number of different ways based on the tags that the user has applied. I was very skeptical at first about this site, I had read about it and it seemed neat, but not terribly useful in day to day life. I will now proudly EAT MY OWN WORDS. I was wrong. There I said it, it happened, we can all move on now. Del.icio.us is actually very user friendly, the tool bar integrates very neatly into firefox and for a number of reasons I believe I will actually make this part of my web usage. But first, on to what I did to learn, then on to more observations: 1) I started by going to the site at http://del.icio.us and reading their tutorial and "learn more" sections to figure out what it really was and how it worked (the clouds are a neat visual representation of tag popularity for any given site, good starting point to learn the system too!) 2) registered and downloaded the firefox tools - very easy and fast! 3) clicked on the popular tags link to see how it worked, started clicking around, decided to try the one on "design" and found a cool site for photoshop brushes. This site was actually very useful and had lots of free brushes that were well designed, I can see why it would be high on peoples lists. I decided to tag it myself (which added it to my bookmarks but also meant that the tags I applied to it were added to and strengthened its own representation in the search engine). It was fun realizing that I was now influencing everyone else's experience on del.icio.us. 4) Then I tried the search feature on del.icio.us and searched for "download-youtube" (spaces represent different tags, so I tried the hyphen) to find a site that would help me download youtube videos onto my computer. No one had used that tag, so I searched for just "youtube." I tried one of the first sites listed which was keepvid.com. I found a youtube video for the band Paramore and began downloading it. The site worked great. I tagged this site too so I could use it later and to give my stamp of approval to it so that others could find it on del.icio.us as well. 5) Del.icio.us had some lists of popular links, found a link to photoshop tutorials on the side – very cool tips . 6) Went to my bookmarks on del.icio.us to play with the controls, excellent options for sorting and calling up bookmarks. Whats nice is that when searching the sites have been essentially reviewed by users (because they were willing to devote time to tagging) so they all seem quality. Also, I can access these bookmarks from any computer in the world, not just from my computers browser. Tagging was fast and simple, so it didn't feel like it was slowing my work pace and there is a toolbar link for the bookmarks as well so that was just as fast as using my browsers dropdown menu. Very very nice! I think this site does have some limited use in a classroom context. It does support some interesting vocabulary work because I was trying to think up synonyms and related words that might lead me or others to the sites I was tagging. I also think its an interesting way for students to search the web because it doesn't rely on googles "how many links to this page" algorithm, but a much more direct peer-reviewed approach. I need to play around on it more, but so far all the links I tried were very very high quality and I like having a web based source for my bookmarks. However I imagine that I'll continue to use google at least some of the time, especially when I need the main site related to something. But to find unique or "small-market" websites with quirky content, this is definitely the way to go. As a teaching tool, I think that the underlying thought process behind this site would make it great as an introduction to computing and web usage for young children. I'm not sure it has a lot of uses for older or more experienced students, but it truly embraces the web 2.0 (ugh, how I hate hate hate that term) mentality so it would be good to build fundamental understanding in new computer users.
Posted by Jason Lustig at 6:42 AM