All You Can Eat Bookmarks

Del.icio.usWhen it comes to social bookmark managers — hosted repositories where your favorite bookmarks mingle with everyone else’s — I’ve been more of a Spurl fan than a devotee. Mostly, I’m responding to Spurl’s generally nicer user interface which, as a designer, I feel compelled to support. For all its spareness though (and indeed, spareness is essential to its appeal, I’m sure) is the one that, undeniably, represents the most potential. Its user base is larger, and its principal author, Joshua Schachter, has just secured a dream investment scenario in which he has agreed to receive funds without giving up control of his own project. You can’t not root for that.

Pros and Cons of Third Party Tools

Below: Hot cocoa. Cocoalicious, the Mac OS X-native desktop client for your account.

Apart from its rosy, near-term fiscal prospects, also has the advantage, thanks to its open architecture, of a rabid user community that has produced a plethora of tools to help users manipulate their own store of bookmarks with greater ease. The deal-clincher for me is Cocoalicious, a very sharp desktop tool for Mac OS X that allows direct, browser-free management of my bookmarks. Spurl has nothing like it, as far as I can tell.


Without this surfeit of third party tools, however, is a relatively poor tool for doing anything other than adding your own bookmarks and free-tagging them in a so-called folksonomy. To import my bookmarks from Spurl, I had to use Loader, a nice free service from Julian Bez that, unfortunately, led me to make some tagging errors during the import process (my own fault). As a result, I needed to delete a ton of bookmarks — a real pain to do directly on the Web site. There may have been a third-party tool to do this too, but I didn’t look hard enough to find one.

Mine, All Mine

Anyway, readers may have noticed that the Elsewhere section of this site is not managed with a social bookmarks service, in spite of its natural suitability for such. Ostensibly, the reason I cite for that is that won’t allow me the fine-grained control over my own links that I prefer, specifically the ability to add star ratings for each.

Just as important, though, is the fact that I don’t feel entirely comfortable with storing content — and I regard those links as content — on anybody else’s server but my own. I use (and before it, Spurl) purely to store bookmarks that I don’t think are appropriate for Elsewhere, bookmarks that I just want to remember for myself, not to share with others.

The Anti-Social Bookmarks Manager

It does pain me a bit to know that Elsewhere is not participating in the great social experiment that is social bookmarking, but I’m a codger when it comes to trusting others with my own content. For an enterprise that is run entirely on free time and my own passion, the content I produce on this site — whether curated links or full-fledged weblog posts — is absolutely the most important resulting asset, and I feel more comfortable with it under my own purview and no one else’s.

  1. Fully agree. I don’t want all my links up for public display or at the mercy of someone else’s server. You know, like “How to Not Be a Nutcase, Part 2” and so on. Some of my links are personal.

    What I would like, and couldn’t find with a cursory search, is an open source version of .mac, specifically the bookmark-syncing part, so my links at work and at home are synced. I wonder if just taping together a plain old version control system (CVS, subversion) and some scripting would work. I bet it would! Another project to add to the pile…

    [FYI: “Forget this information” is wrapping to the next line above this text box. Also the “Email” label is in the second column. And as you’re mentioned UI issues… Safari 1.3, 10.3.9]

  2. I know nothing about as I don’t use it, but wouldn’t there be a way to tag bookmarks “onestar”, “twostar”, “threestar”, and so on and use some PHP magic to parse that into the star images? Doesn’t seem impossible, though, as I said, I’ve never worked with

  3. ToddG: Mac’s bookmark synching feature is definitely one of the most attractive features from that suite; I rely on it heavily. An open-source version of .Mac would be a great idea, and it would save me a nice hundred dollars or so a year.

    Also, thanks for the heads up on my U.I. wonkiness. I heard that Safari 1.3 breaks my comment form. I’ll need to upgrade and try and fix it.

    Samuel: you’re right, that could be done, but not as easily as using Movable Type (as I’ve done for Elsewhere). Breaking out the links into archives and date-stamping the links would be similarly difficult. Plus the links remain on the server.

  4. I save webpages to .pdf, archive them in DevonThink and read them offline. For bookmark syncing, I use BookIt, which works with all my browsers on all my computers. Of course, neither of these things interact with my weblog, though I’m pretty sure it’d be easy to hack something together.

    I find myself reading fewer websites, and I’m reading most of those less and less regularly. I think social bookmarks are a great idea, but in trying to be good about using my spare time for something other than websurfing (and using more of my work time for, well, work), the last thing I need is recommendations for scrumptious content.

  5. You know, you can link your bookmarks using Firefox. It can be so configured to use an FTP server to save your bookmarks file to, and then retrieve that file automatically on every version of firefox that you use.

  6. You forgot – the anti-social bookmark app. It encourages you to slate people that like the same pages as you, but found them later than you did. So elite, so right for the modern web user.

  7. If you wanted, you could use MySQLicious to regularly import your links to your own database – that way you don’t have to worry about someone else having control of your content. You could also choose to display only links that you tag with, for example, PostToElsewhere, on this blog. Of course, there would still be the issue of having your other ‘private links’ available publically on the website itself.

  8. Thanks for the kind words about Cocoalicious. I’ve actually been thinking about adding a star rating feature that would tag posts with asterixes for (e.g. ****) but display them within Cocoalicious as iTunes-style stars.

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