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March 12, 2006

del.icio.us Tip: You can type delicious.com to get to del.icio.us!

 

You can type delicious.com to get to del.icio.us!


Every time I tell someone about del.icio.us -- one of my top 5 online tools -- they complain about how hard it is to correctly type the address.  It's certainly an innovative name, but it would be hard to call it "catchy" since it's so tough to remember where to put the dots. 

Today my wife asked, "So how do I get to del.icio.us again?"  When I told her how to type it, she added her complaint to the list, and I agree; having to remember precisely how to type it is a deterrent.  We thought to try delicious.com, and it worked!

It's no surprise they'd make this work; they've done an incredible job of imagining ways to use the service, and making del.icio.us flexible enough to accomodate & inspire its users' creativity.  Thanks, del.icio.us Team, for providing an easy way to get to your excellent service! 

March 11, 2006

How and Why to Mix Feeds - My "Elevator Pitch"

A feedmix is a "metafeed" made by combining individual feeds into one:

Metafeed Diagram

  • Feedmixes are to feeds as feed readers are to blogs (and other syndicated content).  By collapsing and reducing the number of information flows we manage, feedmixes can dramatically improve the efficiency with which we consume and distribute information.
  • You don't need to read related feeds one at a time any more than you needed to visit individual sites and blogs.   You probably read more than one feed in areas like Finance, Music, Productivity, Business, Friends, etc.   Wouldn't it be convenient to read all your friends' blogs in a single feed?  Do video clips from Google Video or YouTube really need separate feeds?  Why not read about the latest toys from Engadget and Gizmodo in a "Gadgets" feed?  A good feed mixing service will include the source of each item in the feed, so you don't lose that information by mixing.
  • Feedmixing makes it easy to corral "loosely coupled" content, focus it, and redistribute it as an attention stream.   People tag content on blogs, news sites, social bookmarking sites, wikis, search engines, video & photography blogs, etc.  Using common tags makes it possible find all that related content, even though it exists in totally different systems.  This is considered "loosely coupled" content, and it can be used by an individual, or a loosely coupled community.  Feedmixing is a tool for bringing together and redistributing content you choose from several different sites.

(I originally wrote this "elevator pitch" as an update to my article about feedmixes.)

 

Some of my feedmixes

Not all feeds are ideal for mixing, and there are good reasons you might not want to mix some feeds, even if they're related.  Here are some general examples of feedmixes I've made for myself, with explanations of why I think they're good candidates for mixing:

  • From Friends - A single feed of my friends' various content feeds becomes valuable as more friends start producing more and more feeds:
    • Photos on Flickr - Flickr conveniently mixes all my contacts' photos into a single feed, so in this case I'm actually adding a "pre-mixed" feed to my feedmix.  The fact that all my friends don't use Flickr isn't a problem, since I can add any feed-enabled photosharing site to my mix.
    • Blogs
    • Music playlists
    • Links tagged for me in del.icio.us

I may use this mix to blend a broader "People I Know" mix.  As more people start using feeds, we'll need tools to filter and manage all this content, which will grow in volume as feeds catch on as a way to share information.  It may take a while, but the usage explosion that happened with email and static web content will soon happen with feeds and tagging.
  • References to Me - Blog search engines like Technorati and Google Blog Search offer feeds of blog search results.  These "search feeds" scan for links to my blog, telling me when and where people link to my blog.  There's no reason I need to have more than one feed for these alerts, though it makes sense to use more than one engine in this relatively new area of blog search.
  • Finance - Bankrate publishes several related feeds I want, but I don't need to read them separately, and I can add financial feeds from other sites too:
    • Mortgage news
    • Market trends
    • Savings and investing advice
    • General financial news, analysis, & reports
These are feedmixes I've made for my own use - for ideas on using feedmixes to share and redistribute information, read Marshall Kirkpatrick's excellent article about attention streams.  Leave a comment if you have other ideas for how mixes could be used!

How to make and use a feedmix - 3 quick & easy steps

  1. Mix - Choose a feedmixing service, (some don't even require you to sign up) then copy the addresses of the feeds you want to mix from your feed reader: Select a feed, right-click on its address & select "Copy link location...", and paste it into the mix form.
    • I like Feedblendr so far.  The site has a cool tip; to add to a "blend" of feeds, just put in the address an existing blend, and add the new addess(es).
    • Update: 2007.02 - For really advanced (but easy to use) feedmixing, try the new Yahoo! Pipes.
  2. Burn - FeedBurner is a good "front-end" for a feedmix (as well as individual feeds) that provides several useful benefits, including:
    • Easy to feed address - many feed mixing services just give you a non-descriptive serial number.
    • Feed address stays the same - even if you update your mix and it's address changes, or you change feedmixing services.
    • Several free tools for managing your feed - statistics, "browser-friendliness", routing feeds to email, etc.
    • Insert useful content - You can include a "Post to del.icio.us" link in each feed item, so they're easy to bookmark & share.
    • And more - Take a look at this guide to How and Why To Use FeedBurner; it convinced me!
  3. Subscribe - Add your new feedmix to your feed reader, delete your subscriptions to the individual feeds, and enjoy fewer feeds!
    • It might be interesting to keep an eye on a few individual feeds for a while after including them in a mix, to see what delay (if any) FeedBurner introduces.  I  recommend against using feeds for time-sensitive information -- that's not the point of feeds -- so this is just for academic curiosity.

March 07, 2006

del.icio.us Tip: Use tag intersections to see items that share common tags

What? 

del.icio.us allows you to create tag intersections.  A tag intersection is the list of items tagged with both A and B.  You can use tag intersections to see items that share common tags.

Example: http://del.icio.us/jameselee/cool+video displays all the bookmarks I've tagged both "cool" and "video".  Anything tagged "video", but not "cool", won't show up in the intersection.

This is Wikipedia's example diagram of an intersection in this context:

Intersection Venn Diagram 

Tag intersections are a type of what I call a "tagset", just as in mathematics, an intersection is a type of set.

 

Why?

Tag intersections let you filter information to create specific views and see relationships. 

  • Create useful lists -  of "movies+toWatch", "photography+tips", "solutions+didWork", "books+toRead", "places+toVisit", "places+didVisit", "restaurants+toTry", etc.
  • Create topic-specific feeds - People can create and subscribe to specific (RSS) feeds of your tag intersections "movies+didLike", "restaurants+recommendations", "computer+tips", etc.  You can do this with any del.icio.us tags; your own, others', all.  This is a good way to follow what people are bookmarking on specific topics.

You can use tag intersections to filter your own tags:  http://del.icio.us/jameselee/ideas+tagging or all tags in del.icio.us  http://del.icio.us/tag/ideas+tagging.  (Note that some del.icio.us-wide tag intersections, especially for popular tags such as "cool" and "video" may cause del.icio.us to return a blank page, possibly due to the load required to filter on so many results.)

Some guidance on using tags

Use many single-word tags instead of one multi-word tag.  Tag intersections enable you to narrow your focus when you want to, so you can use more general single-word tags (and most likely end up with fewer overall tags).  The value of intersections increases as you use more tags to describe your bookmarks, something del.icio.us makes it really easy to do.

Compare the 2 tags, "softwaretools" and "hardwaretools" vs. the 4 tags, "software tools" and "hardware tools".  The former uses fewer tags, but they are unnecessarily specific.  The latter case uses more tags, but each can apply to a wider variety of bookmarks.  This approach gives you the option of looking at everything tagged "tools", to see hardware and software tools, as well as things you've tagged "gardening tools" and "car tools".


How?

There are three ways to create tag intersections:

  1. Manually type the tags into the address bar of your browser, e.g.  http://del.icio.us/tag/A+B
  2. Manually type A+B into the breadcrumbs shortcuts on any del.icio.us page.
  3. "Build" them in the del.icio.us interface (which is very powerful, and underrated) by adding related tags:
    • Look on the right side of your del.icio.us page, to see a list of your tags, which you can display as a list or a cloud.  (I recommend a cloud if you have a large number of tags, though list view is useful for seeing the number of items associated with each tag, which helps in this case.)
    • Click on the first tag you want to use to build your intersection; in this example, we'll use "learning".  (The order is not important, so "learning+reference" is the same as "reference+learning", but order can help tag intersections make sense to humans.)
    • Look at the list of related tags that appears next to your list and click on the "+" beside the next tag you want to add to the intersection.  (This list appears only if your first tag contains at least one bookmark that has at least one other tag.):
Example: Building tag intersections

    • You can narrow your filter by adding more tags to the intersection, or broaden it by removing tags:
Example: Building tag intersections 02

Tricks

  • If you frequently use a tag intersection, create a saved search - Try entering your intersection, then tagging the del.icio.us page that displays the results of the tag intersection filter.  (Tagging del.icio.us pages is an idea with a lot of potential, about which I plan to write soon.)  See myTagsets for examples.
Note that many of these concepts apply -- perhaps with some variations -- to any service/software that supports tag intersections.  Flickr is one such service, and there seems to be some discussion on the topic in the Flickr forums.