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Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Web of Social Bookmarking

At its very core, linking websites together is what makes the web the web. I've had my own website since 1996, and like many people, we all had a page dedicated to our favorite links. In 2001, my friend Brian Gongol (and he certainly wasn't alone) went a step further and provided not just a list of links, but rather a stream of updates, whether they be sites of interest or news of the day, each complete with Gongol's thoughtful commentary.

I liked the idea, and with my adoption of Delicious in 2002, I had an easy way to tag, catalog, and comment on links. Almost 900 links later, I'm still using Delicious, but I'm not sure if anybody has noticed. My RSS feed is picked up by FriendFeed, but not many more people pay attention to it. So what are people paying attention to? Twitter and Facebook, that's what. They each provide audiences I'd like to share with, but neither are good enough to make me leave Delicious behind.

Throw Google Reader (my favorite RSS reader) and its sharing capabilities into the mix, and we can start to see the mess I'm getting myself into. Here's a list of each product's strengths and weaknesses:

Delicious: I've been using Delicious since 2002, but it doesn't quite do everything as well as I've hoped.
Pros: Excellent tagging, cataloging, and search capability; good browser integration
Cons: Has networking capabilities, but unfortunately I've never made much use of them; not currently an effective way to reach an audience

Google Reader: I've used Google Reader as my RSS feed reader almost since its inception.
Pros: It's the way I collect most of my "share-worthy" pages; I'm a heavy user of many Google services, and like the integration possibilities
Cons: Inferior tagging and cataloging capability

Twitter: I really like Twitter for sharing my 140-character-or-fewer thoughts, but I'm torn about using it to share links.
Pros: I have an audience on Twitter and have built that audience by sharing links
Cons: Link-shorteners are subject to link-rot; no tagging or cataloging capability; limited room for comments

Facebook: I'm a relatively recent Facebook adopter, and rarely post anything original to Facebook directly. It serves to collect my tweets, pictures from Flickr, YouTube activity, etc.
Pros: Links look great, including pictures, snippet of article, and my comments; reaches an audience of family and friends who wouldn't otherwise follow my links
Cons: No tagging or cataloging; limited audience

I want the continuity and cataloging capability of Delicious, the integration of Google, the potential audience to be gained through Twitter, and the quality bookmarks offered to friends and family offered by Facebook. And I want it without having to save each bookmark four separate times. Both Delicious and Google Reader have implemented integration features in the past month, but we're still far from perfection, as illustrated by this chart:


You can see that no arrow is bi-directional, and Google Reader's integration with the other services is superficial, at best. Maybe there's a tool, setting, or add-on out there that will make this work for me, but so far I haven't had any luck finding it. Oh, all these tools are so great, but all have progress to make before integration really happens.

What I would like is a browser button that does pretty much what the new Delicious feature does: allows me to write a 1000-character note, add tags, and send to Twitter, Google Reader, and Facebook. Choosing a picture like the Facebook links would be nice, and it needs to work every time, unlike the 50-50 odds of working it seems to have now. (I'm sure the Delicious team is working on that, and will be reliable soon.) Then I'll feel like the web of social bookmarking is truly integrated.

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