Is Twitter Really Social Bookmarking?

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Is Twitter Really Social Bookmarking?

EBiz MBA recently published a table of the top ranking social bookmarking sites. Right at the top is Twitter, which surprised me, because I don’t think of it as a social bookmarking tool at all. Twitter might be a good place to share links with others, but if you post a link and then 6 months later think, “Hmm! What was that really useful link I posted on Twitter about sharing data between online services?” you’re probably not going to find it. It might also be good for finding recent links that have been posted to the social network, but it doesn’t store them in a way that makes it easy to retrieve them again at a later date. ie months or even years. To me, the key function of social bookmarking is to be able to store and retrieve links wherever (anywhere I can access the internet) and whenever (years down the line). The ability to share those links and find other related links within the social bookmarking service is also useful, but only on top of the bookmarking functions.

Stacks Are Being Removed From Delicious.com

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I know some people abandoned the social bookmarking site delicious.com when it looked like it was shutting down a couple of years ago. At the time I transferred my links to Pinboard like others did, but I kept my delicious.com account. Then AVOS announced they were taking it over. Three cheers for AVOS. 🙂 I did try a few other bookmarking services, but delicious.com worked for me, I liked it (I’ve been with it since 2007) and I stuck with it through the changeover. I seem to remember there were a couple of times it played up in the early days, but I don’t know any free services that haven’t played up once in a while. AVOS have built on the original service (I like what they’ve done) and one really useful addition in particular has been Stacks.

Stacks enable users to pull together links that might not be directly related but can sit together under a theme the users defines. I find stacks particularly useful for bundling links together for presentations and training sessions. I can give them a descriptive title and even more background detail in the stack description field – showing people why I created that stack… what its purpose is. Stacks also have a unique url I can point people to during the presentation/ training. You can also add an image for the stack. It may not have any specific technical function, but visuals are often a greater draw than just text alone. They also give visual clues as to what the stack is about as well.

I do use tags, but the good thing about stacks is that I can quickly add a link to them without worrying that I’m using exactly the same tag I used for a similar item. I don’t put everything I have in stacks – a lot of my links come in via packrati.us or via connections I’ve set up using ifttt.com and can just sit there with catch-all tags. eg “fromTwitter” “fromGoogleReader”. I don’t necessarily want to put them all in stacks, but I know that if I found them interesting enough to tweet or post to Facebook or Google+ or Tumblr in the first place I know I might want to find them again and having them sitting there in delicious.com means I can find them with a little bit of digging later on. However, the items I put in stacks are put there for a purpose. I mentioned the presentations and training, but I also have a few interests that I like to keep specific links bundled together for. Stacks allow me to go to those interests straight away, just by clicking on the stacks link without the need to trawl through my rambling lists of inconsistent tags. NB: As someone with a library cataloguing/classification background I should probably keep better order in my tags, but say, for example, I only very occasionally save a link for some kind of infographic, how am I supposed to remember if I used “vizualisation”, “visualisation”, “vizualisations” or “vizualisations” as the tag for that type of link before? Stacks that aren’t reliant on accurate tags make this easier.

Another great feature of stacks is that other delicious users can follow them. So, when a new link is added to a specific stack they’re informed about it. This is a great feature. You can also follow an individual user, but I would find following a stack more useful – it means I’m only going to see the links I want to see. For example, I’m interested in public libraries, therefore I might follow a stack that focuses on this subject. However, the same user who created the stack might also be interested in and have a stack about sea-food. I really wouldn’t be interested in their stack of sea-food links. It helps you focus on the things you’re interested in, rather than having to sift through things you aren’t. Even if a user doesn’t want to follow a stack, but wants to see if I’m saving links that might be of interest to them, stacks act as a bold pointer on my profile page to areas I’m interested in.

Screenshot of delicious.com bookmarking service stack functionality

I know you can/could use tag-bundles in delicious.com – where you link your related tags together. However, this doesn’t work in the same way as stacks. This relies on the tags bringing links together, rather than being able to decide on the individual links you want to bring together. NB: I say can/could, because I’m still not entirely sure if this was something that was dropped after the takeover by AVOS, or not.

Anyway, my point to the blog post is that delicious.com have decided that even though they acknowledge that their users like the stack functionality and the developers have been impressed by how stacks have been used, they’re getting rid of them! All links in a stack will be converted so that the stack title becomes another tag associated to that link. Along with this, some of the detail (stack title and description) and functionality (no longer able to follow a stack) will be lost during and after the conversion process.

A recent blog post (20 July 2012) on their site said: “We introduced stacks last year as a visually rich way to think about your links and we’ve been blown away by the amazing content you’ve created. But given the upcoming launch of new products from Delicious’ parent company, AVOS, and our focus on simplifying the Delicious site, we realized the value of stacks is limited for our users moving forward. For this reason, we’ve decided to simplify how users organize links on Delicious by consolidating stacks into tags. Users will no longer be able to create stacks on Delicious starting in early August, 2012.”

I can probably live with some of the functionality going, but it’s frustrating. Don’t get me wrong, if stacks hadn’t been introduced I would have still been happy with delicious, but to have this useful functionality taken off me now is a bit of a downer. I really find stacks helpful for the way I work – being able to quickly and easily pull links together anywhere, providing a bit of background detail in the title and description, and allowing users to follow them.

I use very descriptive stack titles and I’m not sure having a stack title converted to a tag such as “Introduction to Web 2.0 & public libraries” or “Mobile Devices/Technology in the Physical Environment (with a specific focus on libraries)” is going to be useful to me and (1) I don’t fancy typing that tag out every time I want to link other urls to it (2) I’m not sure I can convert into a condensed useful tag for myself or others to follow.

And giving such short notice about the changes is a bit of a worry – I was planning to use stacks for a few presentations I’ve got to make in a couple of months time.

I’m also wondering if the statement above means that delicious.com will be treading on the toes of AVOS’ new product if it continued to contain the stack functionality? It’s not going to be so identical is it, that they can’t co-exist, surely? Or are the developers automatically assuming that if people like stacks they will go over to the new product? What if this is the case, but the new product doesn’t do some of the things delicious.com does? Or does it mean that they want to make delicious compatible with the new products and stacks have no place in this compatibility?

Anyway, they’re just idle thoughts.

I do hope that whatever happens with delicious I’m still able to organise my bookmarks in the way that I have  recently found to be extremely useful ie via something that is similar/same as stacks. In the mean-time I’m going to back up my bookmarks and see if the stack information appears in them.

Trailmeme Revamped

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I’ve talked about Trailmeme previously on my blog and during the latter part of this year it went through a bit of a revamp. Trailmeme is a method of organising related web resources in a way that make sense and allows easy navigation through them. It can be used for a variety of purposes – event logging; tutorials; subject resources; mind mapping. The new version looks more polished than the previous one. New features have also been added – you can now create/update a trail in a variety of ways…

  • Advanced create/edit: Access markers you’ve imported into your account; import new markers; add them manually.
  • Quick create: Build a trail manually.
  • Edit Trail Map: Add/edit markers while in the trail map.
  • Bookmarklet: This sits on your toolbar and allows you to add markers whilst browsing the web.

Other features include…

  • Firefox toolbar: Provides the ability to add markers to a trail and search for trails, without needing to visit the Trailmeme website.
  • WordPress plugin: Can be used on self-hosted WordPress blogs as a way to highlight themes covered in a blog or a series of articles.
  • Discussion forum: Could be useful for getting others involved in the development of your trails, or as a way to discuss the ideas raised within the trail.
  • You can also identify if a marker you use has been used on another trail.
  • Social gaming/interaction: Blazer’s Journey. The more active you are on the site, the higher the level you reach.

Image (c) UW Digital Collections / Flickr.

Trailmeme is a lot easier to use since the revamp, whether it’s from the point of view of creating a trail or walking one and I’ve been working on a few new  trails using it. The latest is…

Voices For The Library campaign trail: The starting point for the trail is the VFTL campaign website. By putting this trail together I was attempting to highlight different resources mentioned on the VFTL website. The trail fans out from this website in three spokes – each spoke links to other VFTL web presences; endorsements from other organisations for VFTL; campaigns mentioned on the VFTL website. I’ve had to use intermediary pages for each of the three spokes, as I didn’t want to highlight a particular endorsement, campaign or other web presence from the VFTL website.

Creating a Voices For The Library newspaper with paper.li

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Along with a couple of other people in the Voices For The Library team I tweet from the official account, as well as my own personal Twitter account. As well as highlighting what we are doing in the campaign, we also use the account to highlight links to our followers. These tend to be positive library stories and links to articles about cuts and campaigns. These tweets are spread-out throughout the day and as not everyone sits on Twitter all day, so we can’t guarantee that everyone will see a @ukpling tweet they are interested in. I thought it would be useful to bring all these links together, along with other relevant links from other Twitter users.

There are a number of applications that use Twitter to pull together links you are interested in and present the links in a more readable way, than just performing a standard Twitter search and going through all the shortened links one by one.

I chose to use paper.li, because it allows you to create a daily newspaper page that can be published/tweeted at a preset time. It displays the title and snippet of the item you are linking to, which is better than looking at a shortened url and not knowing whether the link is useful or not. It also displays any photos or videos that have been tweeted.

It’s easy to set up. To get links into your newspaper you can pull them out from Twitter using one of the following methods:

  • Choose a Twitter account (this picks up links from that account and also Twitter users that account is following)
  • Set up a hashtag search
  • Choose a Twitter list
  • Set up a complex search

 You can give your newspaper a name and this will appear at the top of the page. Below this are a number of horizontal tabs, indicating ‘Headlines’, specific subjects extracted from the tweet (eg Education) and any hashtag mentioned in the tweets that contained the links. The paper is also archived, so you can revisit any saved links from the time you set up the newspaper.

 (c) Nationaalarchief/Flickr

I spent some time tinkering with the search methods to get the most appropriate links into the newspaper. By using complexes search containing ‘@ukpling’, people we follow on Twitter, or followers of a list, or even various hashtags, it didn’t work as I wanted it to. These methods pulled in links that weren’t relevant, because other people we follow aren’t solely focussed on library campaigning (even from my own personal account I don’t just tweet about libraries). Hashtags are also used inconsistently, so wouldn’t pick up everything we were after. In the end I set up the simplest search ever. It just contains the word ‘ukpling’. This allowed links to be picked up that were either sent out from our account, or someone sent to us, or mentioned ‘ukpling’ in any way. Sometimes the simplest solution is the best!

It’s set up to publish (tweet) at the same time every day – lunchtime. I just figured people may be more likely to be looking at Twitter at this time and can see all the consolidated links we’ve tweeted over the past day. Our followers can then also retweet our consolidated links to their followers.

You can also embed paper.li into a web page too as a widget.

As I say, there are other applications like paper.li and I played with a few of them, but I just found this to be straightforward and more or less achieves what I want it to.

My only quibbles are that:

  • I’m sure there are other relevant results hiding on Twitter, but at the moment the Twitter search API doesn’t allow you to get at them easily without pulling out irrelevant links too.
  • Sometimes duplicate links appear in paper.li – because more than one person has tweeted them.
  • It would be good to be able to set up your own layout for the newspaper you create.

These are minor things and I’m happy to live with them. Just the fact that we’ve now got something set up to bring these links together in a readable form is very useful in itself.

You can read the daily ‘Voices For The Library Links’ here.

Finding Packrati Popular Library Links

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I’ve been wondering about how I can pull out popular links about libraries from Twitter, for current awareness purposes. I’m talking about the sort of links that people find so interesting they get retweeted. I suppose I could just create a twitter search and look at which links have been retweeted the most, but it’s a pain in the bum to perform the same search all the time and trawl through a load of search results. Plus the fact, I thought it would be interesting to try and do something a bit more techy.

I decided to make use of packrati.us, which is a bookmarking service used to automatically save links you tweet to your delicious.com account. It can also be used for saving links in HistoriousInstapaperPinboard.in, and Diigo accounts too, but I just use it for Twitter. Loads of other people use it too, so I thought I could make use of links that everyone has saved via this method.

(c) National Media Museum/Flickr

By default if a link is saved in delicious.com using packrati.us it saves it with the tag “via:packrati.us“. This gave me a starting point to create relevant RSS feeds to pull into Yahoo Pipes. I then built on it to pull in tags such as “library”, “libraries” and “librarians”.

Delicious is a bit of a nuisance, because it does rank bookmarks, but it doesn’t do it by the number of times a link has been bookmarked. It provides links to popular bookmarks (using some kind of relevance ranking), not necessarily links that have been saved the most. Strangely enough, even though delicious.com users have been asking for ranking by the number of times an item has been saved for a while, this feature hasn’t appeared.

I then:

  • Put the RSS feeds into Yahoo pipes
  • Combined the feeds into one feed
  • Filtered them (so that each link only appeared once in the list)
  • Sorted them by number of times the link appeared in the original RSS feed & date (to get most recent at the top of the list when it’s refreshed)
  • Pulled out keywords from the original Tweet and delicious bookmarks (I just wanted it to give me an idea of the focus of the link. eg literacy; reader development, etc.)
  • Deleted any irrelevant words (‘quot’, which appears in the text if ” is used)
  • Mapped the keywords to the description field.

This is the resulting pipe.

It does what I want it to do, but it would be better if:

  • All packrati links could be pulled out. At the moment I’m relying on people tagging anything they save via packrati with a tag reference to libraries too, so I may be missing out on library links that are popular, but haven’t had an extra tag added. There’s no other way of getting an RSS feed for a search on any keywords. RSS feeds in delicious.com are limited to tag searches.
  • My regex skills aren’t great, so some odd keywords like “RT” and “amp” appear in the description field of the results. I couldn’t get rid of them.
  • The term ‘library’ or ‘libraries’ can also refer to programming code collections, so I might end up with the odd false hit in the results.

As far as I’m concerned they’re not massive issues, but I’d like to get them ironed out if I can.

Anyway, now I don’t have to perform loads of searches every day to find the most popular library links.

Using Trailmeme to document an event

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I created a Trailmeme for the Middlemash event , which was held back in November 2009. There was so much information generated around this event that I wondered if it could be presented in a different sort of way.  The good thing about Trailmeme is that you can connect up related web pages in a way that allows you to branch off in different directions.

So, I’ve used the middlemash blog as a central point and branched off to different presentations, linking individual presentations with web sites mentioned in them eg. Tony Hirst talked about Yahoo Pipes, so I linked to the Yahoo Pipes site (as a marker). Paul Stainthorp & Edith Speller also mentioned Yahoo Pipes, so I also linked to the same marker from their presentations too.

Middlemash Trailmeme

As well as the presentations, I’ve linked back to the Mashed Library ning, wiki, Google map, Twapperkeeper archive (for tweets) and as many blog posts about the event as I could find.

I was hoping to link to photos of the event on Flickr, but Flickr doesn’t like to be embedded in a trailmeme. As an alternative, I could probably set up some kind of intermediary link page (if I wanted to keep it all in the box).

I also thought it would be a good idea to have an intermediary page for all the blogs. Otherwise I would have had to link to one of them and then branch out from there. I created a simple document on Google docs which just said “Here come the Middlemash blogs!!!”, published it as a web page and then linked to all the blogs from there. It’s not very pretty, but it does the job.

I’d be interested to see if people find this a useful way of bringing the event information together from a variety of places?

Going off on a tangent now (and unrelated to Trailmeme)… wouldn’t it be good if you had a video of an event and at certain points in the video you could link to related web pages. eg. In the case of Middlemash we might have Chris Keene talking about Aquabrowser during his presentation and at that point a link pops up to take you to the Aquabrowser site. Maybe this does exist – I remember Tony Hirst talking about captioning video with Twitter feeds, so is this feature similar and already available for people to use???

Following Trails in Trailmeme

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I’ve shown you how you can set up a Trailmeme . Once you’ve done this you can publish your trail and others can start following it.

On the opening screen you can search for public Trailmeme’s by keyword. From this search you’re given a list of Trailmeme’s you can follow. Choose a Trailmeme and start following. You do this by first clicking on one of the markers and you’re taken to the web page this marker represents.

Follow page on Trailmeme

The web page is now broken up into 2 parts.

On the right hand side you get the web page that has been used as the marker (it appears in a frame).

On the left side of the screen you’re given details of that marker and you’re also shown links to/from other markers (indicated by green arrows). If you hover over the links you can see more details about the marker. To move through the trailmeme map click on these links. When moving through the trail, you can offer more than one link in either direction. So, in my example from the Java documentation page I offered a number of links, depending upon how someone might prefer to learn Java ie via forum, book, or blog tutorials.

At this stage it would be good to see why the trailmeme has been set up in a particular way, why a user has linked various web pages together and why specific links have been chosen. For example, I set my Java programming trail up on different levels – an overview to the left, getting more specific methods of learning ( eg books, forum, tutorials) and method/class tutorials on the right. Given all the time in the world I would have provided links to examples for all tutorials, rather than just a few.

I also think that it would be handy if you could highlight parts of web pages to show why a page was chosen to be included in the trail. Some pages may only be relevant because they contain a useful chunk of information, rather than the whole page itself.

Even though pages are linked, you’re not just limited to staying within the pages in the trail. You can also click on links in web pages as normal.

You can also go back to the map overview, which shows how all the pages are linked.

I found Trailmeme a really useful way of linking sites together and even though it’s early days, I can see the potential in using it as a way to provide tutorials linking related resources, a means of providing subject guides and also as a way of mapping an individuals thought trails – from A to B via Z.

The trail I created is here.