August 11, 2010

31 Flavorful Months of

It's been 31 months since Gretchen introduced me to social bookmarking through (now, officially, "Delicious"). Aside from Google Alerts, this is the most important free tool that I use to organize my work. I consider my Delicious toolbar to be another appendage: I need it and use it all the time, and I usually only stop to appreciate it if it's impaired in some way.

When you get really good at tagging it can be seamlessly integrated in your work and can increase your speed and efficiency considerably, all the while creating a nice metadata record of the parts of your daily web traffic that have either caught or demanded your attention. It also acts as a great search engine later for an addled brain that remembers seeing "something" on a certain topic but then forgot about it. (When I was in library school and I would forget where I read something, I used to just ask Gretchen about those info-wisps. She seemed to have an almost clairvoyant sense of my own brain's organization and could usually figure out what I was talking about.) Nowadays, if I spend any time at all on a site, I tag it.

One of the things I like about how it works, or rather, how my work behavior has evolved since I've been using Delicious, is that having tagging fully-integrated with all my online behavior helps me know in a passive, low-effort way what the hot topics have been. Then when someone asks what theme we should focus the next newsletter on, I can contribute meaningfully by saying something like, "Gee, there seem to be a lot of things going on right now with women in transportation." It has also been very interesting to see my tags develop as new topics shape our field. My bookmarks for ARRA, livability, and Mobility Management have grown steadily as our projects and work plans have developed over the past year.

Since I asserted in a recent post that one of my guiding principles is not to complain, I will try to frame my Delicious Dilemmas as questions rather than gripes. One of the things I wish I could do is bundle tags so that, for example, if I tag something "Rogoff" it automatically gets tagged "FTA" as well (but not vice-versa, or this would be a true redundancy...I just want to reflect subset-superset relationships). Is there a way to do that? I have finally learned how to search for tags within tags, but I would also like to have some kind of option to apply them that way, which I realize would require a lot of concentrated set-up time. (Or to search by what the first tag was that I used...yes, I know, this is starting to sound like a love song for actual taxonomies.)

I also wish you could bundle tags to apply to more than one resource while you have all those related windows open. For example, sometimes I follow a story or an issue and I have several windows open that I want to tag with the same ten terms, usually when I am doing research for a staff member and I do administrative as well as topical tags. Is there a way to do this? As a short-term work-around I have adopted a simple copy-and-paste method through Notepad so I can insert a string of terms in the Tags field as soon as the Save-a-Bookmark window opens.

I love my tag cloud. It's the best portrait of what I've been looking at and working on, and it's a good reflection of the strange slice of the transportation world that I am charged with researching. It also reflects the idiosyncrasies of how I think in this place, and how our vocabulary might diverge from a traditional controlled vocabulary. “Recommendations” means something like a GAO report or a policy proposal, whereas “Recommended” is my shorthand for all those links my boss sends me that I deem important but not urgent. Also, I am finally in the habit of using my "Ready Reference" tag for all those publications our staff quote all the time, have taken pains to post in strategic places on our website, but occasionally want to see links to all in one place.

My bookmarking is only marginally "social" although I am starting to use it in that direction, and now that I am very familiar with the "back end" I think I am ready to do more sharing of the "front end" with staff so they can find things they know I have without having to go through me if they don't want to. I have not experimented with Digg or Stumble Upon but maybe I will. (But I have a feeling that that comparison may lead to breaking, or at least bending, my 'Don't complain' principle.)

No comments: