Tagging bookmarks nonhierarchically

· The Power of Many

In Towards tag-based bookmark management in web browsers?, Tom Coates proposes a bookmark-classification system somewhat similar to the tagging used at Flickr and Delicious:

So since playing with Flickr and working on a little fun project at work on (cough) folksonomies with Mr Webb, I’ve become obsessed with tags and the ways in which they can be used to build better navigational interfaces. Currently I’m interested in how we might use tags for better folder-less bookmark management in web browsers.

The way I see it, most people find the style of bookmark management commonly used in web browsers pretty much totally useless. Once you’ve added the two or three sets of bookmarks that you might use every day the bookmarks section of the web browser swiftly becomes very quickly a wasteland to which links may be consigned and never looked at again. After a while even the simple job of finding a URL that you previously bookmarked becomes so difficult that it is often easier to instead use Google to find the page afresh. Clearly there is something wrong here.

To summarise the problems with current bookmarking systems then, we could say that (1) the process is slow and annoying (2) that it requires us to continually refine and redevelop our taxonomies if we’re going to keep track of everything, (3) that URLs can belong in a number of bins and that (4) we can be left with unmanageably large lists. An ideal system would therefore speed the process up of both bookmarking a site and retrieving it later. An ideal system would try to alleviate the problems of categorisation and would work as an a priori assumption that a URL might wish to be stored in multiple bins. An ideal system would not display all the links by default. An ideal system would, in fact, use tags…

I wonder, though, whether browser-based bookmarks really make sense anymore? I’d just as soon log everything in a web-accessible place, whether self-hosted or in an aggregrated space like Delicious.

Either way, Tom’s ideas are worth paying attention to:

So anyway, there’s a hell of a lot more I could say around this subject and no doubt an awful lot more I could write about it, but I’m conscious of how long this piece is getting and how much attention I’m demanding from people. So I’m just going to swiftly bring this to an end with a few suggestions about how you could move these things forward. Because one of the great things about the tag systems that are used in both Flickr and del.icio.us is that they becoming infinitely more useful when they’re aggregated. There’s any number of ways you could do the same for locally held bookmarks – for a start you could use the social power of Rendezvous to aggregate tags and bookmarks together to create a local taxonomy of URLs which would allow you to say to a friend, “I’ve got a whole bunch of bookmarks on this subject tagged up as social software” and if they were in the room they’d just be able to see them immediately = and perhaps drag them over to their own local bookmarks. And better still – why should this be an action restricted to people physically close to you? Why not socially close? I’m still waiting for someone to explain to me why the social relationships that I have described with iChat aren’t a more implicit part of all of my applications. A social networking system that aggregated all the bookmarks of every mac user you keep in touch with (and built around tags) could create a new and significant form that hybridised concepts of presence and zeitgeist and took the concepts that the folksonomy sites are promoting one stage further.