A Parable: Links, Bookmarks, Favorites, My dumbass browser, and Web 2.0’s new killer app. (its a firefox extension).

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My longest title ever, yay! (and maybe longest post ever, way too long to read in its entirety). Recent events have compelled me to throw these topics into one long, ranting, and opinionated blog post. Yes I’m talking bookmarks, browsers and using ‘the web’, but hopefully this will speak beyond the distinctions of this tool or that, this browser or that, and into the realm of “why am i using ‘computers’ anyway?, what are the benfits?, and how much time am i wasting figuring all this out?”.  This will be particularly relevant for users (like me) that use multiple computers and have to manage information between them.

It has always seemed to me a large part of the burden in knowledge work, is the amount of time spent working the tools, configuring, setting up, testing, upgrading, importing exporting, and in general managing the technology itself.  This is always secondary to the ‘actual’ work.  I tell myself this is part of my job, to figure these things out and disseminate the information so other people do not have to go through the same  frustrating activities, but I just KNOW there are many office workers out there spending waaay too long deleting old emails, filtering spammers, putting ‘stuff’ in folders, and in general not doing their job. This problem is compounded when you work on several different computers, (home, office, laptop, cafe) and in the case of managing bookmarks (or favorites) becomes most annoying.

I remember the old days (sometime before oct 2004), before social bookmarking tools like  del.icio.us and furl came on the scene (and changed the whole concept of what bookmarks could be and how we could use them), I used a little something called linkagogo. Its still around and now, its social! My original use for this tool was to get over the problem of bookmarks that were stored on one computer, not being accesible from any other.  With linkagogo, I posted all my links “on the web”, and I could reference them from anywhere, from any system. This had an unfortunate side effect of me being much less discerning about what I bookmarked, and led to more time spent managing the sudden increase in bookmark traffic,  but it was fun.

Then they introduced a feature that just blew me away. Some genius figured out a way to synchronize the bookmarks in your browser across different computers.  I believe the projects was called BookmarkSync or Sync2IT. not sure.  The effect was, when I saved a link at work in my toolbar (the fastest and easiest way to bookmark anything) I could go home an lo and behold there was the link, in my browser at home. Right where i left it at work… kinda. Having your entire bookmark collection available online was one thing, but there is a much smaller collection of links that I need to use more regularly, like everyday, several times a day in fact. For instance, links to current projects, webmail clients, my company homepage, favorite music stations etc.  I like having quick access to these links and do not want to go to some website, login, sort through the system till I find the link. I want it right there in my browser. My life was so much better with bookmarksych!  Unfortunatley the party didn’t last long, the system was buggy as all get up, became frustrating to setup, required too much work under the hood, and i seem to recall they wanted money for this service which really turned me off.

The benfits of this capability quickly became overshadowed by the boom in social bookmarking. Now it was the public SHARING that was the important part of saving links. By aggregating the sum totals of what everybody was looking at you could aquire better links for one thing, share them, set up social networks and that was so much fun.  Unfortunatley it did nothing to solve my earlier problem of managing the bookmarks in my browser across different machines. In fact, with these tools my bookmarking REALLY took off, as I could easily bookmark EVERYTHING i saw that was even remotely interesting, and I was confident that is would reside somehwere in my account and could be easily found again should I ever need to.  Like THAT ever happens. I love these tools dont get me wrong, but lets face it, what goes into delicious, very rarely ever comes out again except perhaps as an RSS feed or ‘blog post’ in an aggregator somewhere.

So now getting to the present day, the firefox extension Foxmarks has saved the day! The original functionality I craved is back and it has never been simpler, (or cheaper).  Basically you install the extension, (on each of your computers) set up an account, and the system will continually check the changes to your browsers bookmarks and update the synch file that is stored on their servers.  You will be oh so pleasantly surprised to find changes you make at work to be mirrored on your home machine, almost instantly.  I think I’ve already covered how useful I find this myself, but I am curious of others peoples experiences. Does this sound like a good idea to you?

It seems that moving bookmarks around is not so difficult after all.  Well then why, why, WHY is it such a problem for the big players in the social bookmarking game? (namely del.icio.us and furl ) to provide working import/export funtions? Both of these services claim that you can import and export your bookmarks so easily. And its true, I am able to take furl or delicious bookmarks and export a file that can be imported into my browser. fine.  But what about moving between services? Why does importing into delicious seem to be so horribly busted? It seems almost intentional to me, and maybe this is still something they are working on, but I honestly cant figure out why it would take so long.  Is there no demand from users? Do they not want people to leave one site in favor of another perhaps?

I have tried using the import/export features of both tools in a myriad of ways, using both browsers, and del.icio.us will just not import a bookmark file, wether its generated from a browser, from FURL or from anything. Earlier this year, Scott was going on about how much this sucked, I could not agree more.  Brian recapitulated the problem in march, and although several solutions emerged, they all involved programming and sh*t which I am just not going to do. Jim posted on his recent success in this activity, specifically to move links from FURL to del.icio.us, and it seems like he has just used the default functionality provided by the respective sites.

Final questions:
Have you been able to import a bookmark file into del.icio.us  (ideally taking the tag info with it)?
Do you ever expect to want to do such a thing?
Do you want to stop managing your bookmarks altogether as badly as I do and get on with your work?
Can I get a w00t! w00t! for Foxmarks?
Bueler?… Bueler?…. Bueler?….

2 Replies to “A Parable: Links, Bookmarks, Favorites, My dumbass browser, and Web 2.0’s new killer app. (its a firefox extension).”

  1. So you’ll be happy to hear they finally fixed the import feature on del.icio.us. Brian and I both did manage to get our Furl’d bookmarks into del.icio.us even before this with some help from D’Arcy and an existing 3rd party import script, but now you should just be able to export any bookmarks file (in the classic ‘Netscape’ style).

    Cheers, Scott

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