Saturday, January 06, 2007

Read this Later

Consider my on-line reading of which I do much.

My surfing is organised; I frequent a number of well loved, well respected, established, authoritative sites and blogs but I have bad habits. A lifetime of marking has left me a grazer, I read quickly scanning the screen for information, searching for that relevant section or sentence . When I find it, where once I would have ticked or crossed in red ink, now I bookmark. Sometimes I bookmark in relevant folders but more often than not I just "harvest" the site, adding it to an ever increasing list of favourites to be revisited at some time in the future.

This is a recipe for chaos!
Attempting to revisit a site visited several weeks ago results in a complex trawl through the list or even worse a search back through the history files of my browsers. Perhaps I should just stick to one browser!
Equally frustrating is the discovery within my bookmarks of dead links, what use are they?

At various stages through my surfing history I have attempted to discipline my wayward bookmarking.

I wonder should I use this blog to reference my on-line reading. I could provide a link to what would have been bookmarked together with a commentary as to why I thought it worth saving.
If I dared. A return to blogging in the classical sense.
Two browser windows open, one for the reading, one for the writing. The writing needn't be published immediately, Blogger allows for working in draft form, which could lead to the simultaneous creation of several mini essays or works in progress.

On my desktop, the IE favourites list is littered with folders e.g. multimedia, flash, religion, videos, trivia, work in progress, blogs, university, read this! etc. My Firefox bookmarks list contains more folders, additionally the bookmarks toolbar contains another range of folders. My laptop browsers have more. All these folders contain a host of once and possibly still useful informative links. If only I could organise them!

During the last month I have been revisiting these lists, reorganising them and placing them on Where once I placed information in folders, now I tag it. I believe I am contributing to a folksonomy. (Well I would be if I shared my link). According to wikipedia;

"The process of folksonomic tagging is intended to make a body of information increasingly easier to search, discover, and navigate over time. A well-developed folksonomy is ideally accessible as a shared vocabulary that is both originated by, and familiar to its primary users. Two widely cited examples of websites using folksonomic tagging are Flickr and, although it has been suggested that Flickr is not a good example of folksonomy.

And here lies the problem at the core of the creation of my personally tagged favourites.
What tags to use? How many tags to use? How to bundle my tags? Who are the tags for? Why bother? Right now I doubt that my favourites would be of any use to anyone, let alone me! Would there be any point in my establishing a link to my list here On a Hill?

However I persevere.
I think that to be of use everything should have at least two tags and possibly more. So my list grows. In the short time that I have been developing it, grazing, harvesting and posting I have also been culling.

I can see that as far as bookmarks or favourites are concerned less is definitely more.
Do I really need to bookmark everything?
If I can remember that I've read something, surely I can use Google to find it again.
If I can't remember that I've read it a search of the topic in question will produce it again, won't it?

When I bought my beloved MacBook I resolved to equip the bookmark toolbar with carefully chosen favourites that I visit regularly and a news reader. So the toolbar contains only six folders namely news, university, blogs, ed.blogs, aggregators and me (for quick links to this blog and flickr). If I'm honest I don't find surfing /browsing/grazing with a news reader very satisfying. Compare scanning the front page of Digg (while its still popular), with the front page of popurls.

Now as I browse using the MacBook, I bookmark sites that I might write about here and tag everything else on rather than bookmark it. The problem now is that my "read this later" tag contains so many links I can't remember why I tagged some of them in the first place!
I'm also not really certain that anyone else could possibly be interested in my reading list; but if I discover a colleague with a list I just have to run my eye over it and compare it with mine.

Curiosity, vanity, or the need to see that we are reading similar material?

And then, despite my resolve to moderate my bookmarking, despite my cynicism, despite my knowing, despite my understanding that less is more; as I look at yet another list of bookmarks I see an interesting link, I click, I scan and click again labelling yet another page "Read this Later"



  1. So it is not only me.

    I've been using for 16 months and have found it really useful for drawing my own thoughts together and linking with others in the same area to see what they are reading.

    However like your 'Read this later' Tag I ended up using a 'Readathome' Tag, but at home I end up finding more material and hardly ever getting back to the 'readathome' stuff. I know it is about managing information better, but I haven't yet found any treatment for it.

    My link is what about yours?



  2. In response to public demand I've added a link. Enjoy!