19 May 2008

Do You del.icio.us? (Part Two)

In our first post on del.icio.us, we covered the basics of setting up and getting started with del.icio.us. In this post, I want to talk about some more advanced-level tools that del.icio.us offers which may be of help to genealogists.

Bundling Tags

Tag bundling allows a user to create groupings out of various tags. This allows a user to bring a little organization to what can quickly become and unwieldy list or cloud of tags. If you are like me, and have ongoing research in multiple states, countries, counties, and cities, as well as huge time-spans, your links can mount to gargantuan levels.

To bundle your tags and get the mess under control, go to the Settings page of your del.icio.us profil, the select "Bundle Tags" under the Tags header.

Begin by creating a new bundle name. In this case, I am creating a Genealogy bundle:

Once your bundle is created, you can easily add or remove tags to the bundle by clicking on them. The tags will turn red to show that they are part of the current bundle. Tags that are already part of another bundle are outlined in red:

Note that tags can be part of more than one bundle.

What are the implications here? For one, organization. Below, on the left, is what my tag cloud looks like with bundles hidden. On the right, with bundles showing. As you can see, what was once a mess of words and labels has been organized into easy-to-access conceptual groupings:

Bundling could also be done to group links on a per-project basis, by family surname, or by time-period. The bundles can function much like folders used to do in browser bookmarking, but with the added flexibility of being able to add tags to more than bundle, you are able to organize your information in ways that are most intuitive to you. After all, the bookmarks you make are only as good as your ability to retrieve them later when needed.

Share and Share Alike

In the right-hand sidebar of this blog, beneath the post labels, you can find an example of a "link roll"... a very functional and spiffy way to share links on any website or blog. Link rolls can be designed to show all of your recent bookmarked links, or, as I have done on this blog, you can narrow the links displayed to only those with certain tags.

To create a link roll, go to your profile settings page, then choose "link rolls" underneath the Blogging header. You can make various choices regarding the amount of information you wish to show. To limit listings to items with certain tags, check the box next to "only these tags" and type in the tags you wish to use in the corresponding box.

If you know any CSS, you can tweak some example styling code to make your link roll fit in better with your site or blog's design. Link rolls can really come in handy for genealogy bloggers, as they allow you to provide dynamic content tailored to your particular subject.

Of course, del.icio.us is also designed to function as a social bookmarking site, so you can always share your bookmarks with other researchers in a number of other ways. One exceptional way to share bookmarks is by establishing networks. If you are researching in tandem with another researcher, say on a brick wall, you can share links of interest by joining each other's networks. In this way, all of your posts can be shared with another person, who can view them from their own profile's network page.

You can also create subscriptions, which allow you to subscribe to particular tags. For instance, subscribing to the tag "genealogy" will allow you to see every link posted by every user that has had the genealogy tag applied to it. You can narrow these subscriptions by subscribing only to tags from certain users, which could allow you to track very specific tag research from a colleague, fellow researcher, or friend. Subscriptions are also great ways to find other users researching the same topics as you.

Keeping Fresh

One other great tool worthy of mention is fresh del.icio.us, which automatically crawls your links for dead and defunct sites. The tool is an easy install, and works well, if not quickly. Much like spring-cleaning your house, using fresh delicions can help you get the cobwebs out and rejuvenate your links!

I hope you will give some of these lesser-known del.icio.us tools and functionalities a try, and move beyond simple bookmarking!

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