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Twelve Days of Christmas: Delicious

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It’s the next to last day of this twelve-part series. I hope you’ve been enjoying the variety so far! I was debating whether to post about this service, since my geekier friends have been using it for years, but I checked with a couple of English-teaching friends and they weren’t familiar with it. (I’m in that small, weird “TESOL geek” category, so sometimes my perceptions are a little off.) Delicious, formerly del.icio.us, is a site and service that radically changed my website bookmarking habits in a way that I didn’t even know they needed to be changed. It can also help you discover new sites when search engines aren’t doing the trick.

ee_Book_Flow from openclipart.org

Delicious stores your bookmarks online, so you can access them from any computer, and it backs them up and synchs them, so you can keep them stored the way you’re used to in the browsers of your home and/or work computer(s) if you like having them there. Most importantly for me, they’re organized and findable in a far more useful way than browser-based favorites. When I save a website, it’s not saved into a folder or subfolder the way browsers traditionally have stored bookmarks or favorites. Once I’ve built up a lot of bookmarks, it’s a struggle to remember if I saved a museum I want to go to in Japan someday under Museums or Travel or Japan or Culture; or if I put that video site under ESL or Videos or Time-wasters or … argh! And what if I forget that I already made a folder under Education called TESOL, and later make a folder called ESL? On Delicious, you save a URL with tags, so you can tag this site (for example) with blog tesol esl elt teaching education resources. Sometimes I even tag things with really specific tags like sparetime so I’ll click on it when I get around to it. I can also add a note of description if I want, like “I really want to visit this museum someday, because they have …”

So when you’re using a computer you control, you save and access your links through a browser add-on (ideally). When you’re using any other computer, you save and access them by visiting delicious.com.

There’s a nice Delicious addition to Firefox that I’ve shrunk down to two buttons and re-arranged so that they don’t take up any extra room in my browser (they’re right next to the home, reload, etc. buttons). One lets me click to tag a website and add it to my Delicious. The other brings up a side window pane that lets me find something in my Delicious account. It’s so great to be able to save things with abandon, knowing I’ll be able to dig them up later. The search also lets me look by adding tags together, such as travel+kyoto or recipes+pototoes+korean or esl+activities+verbs+children.

There are two more great features. Sometimes you can’t find something through the usual search engine venues because the terms are too common or there are just too many bad examples of whatever it is online. You can search other users’ Delicious tags, and sometimes come up with some really excellent, useful results that way. Usually, if more users have saved a URL, it’s more likely to be fruitful. (Don’t worry! If you want to save something to your Delicious that you don’t need the whole world to see, just mark it as private.)

The second very useful feature is sharing your bookmarks with other users directly. If you know your friends’ usernames, you can add them to your network and tag links “for” them. If you want to bring a link to my attention, you just tag it for:wintersweet, and the little Delicious icon in my Firefox status bar will let me know someone has marked something for me. (Feel free to connect!) It’s very convenient when all you want to do is share a link with someone, not necessarily start an IM conversation, etc.

Delicious has other good attributes, such as tag bundling and so on, but my advice is to just try it out. It’s the easiest “spring cleaning” you’ll ever do.

(EDIT 2/11/2010: Recently, it seems like a lot of educators have been using Diigo, a very similar service. I really don’t like Diigo. Fore one thing, if you click on a Diigo link, you are in a Diigo frame–and unlike other services that repost things, there’s no big [ X ] to click and escape it, so it took me a while to discover how to get out and simply view the site itself. Profoundly irritating. Delicious links are clean–they just take you to where you want to go. Diigo does have a “slideshow” feature that Delicious doesn’t have, but it doesn’t seem very useful to me. You can use your Yahoo! ID at Delicious if you want, since they were eventually bought by Yahoo!. Now, I guess one reason some educators have gone to Diigo is because of the Yahoo hookup–new Delicious accounts have to get Yahoo! IDs, and apparently many K-12 networks don’t allow Yahoo connections from school, or something, so if they want their students to use the bookmarking system too, they can’t. If you don’t have that limitation, I suggest looking into Delicious. Despite the Yahoo takeover, it’s remained clean and simple and pleasant to use.)

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