Monday, February 20, 2006

Social bookmarking, del.icio.us, and the info-storm


A form of future shock has become a plague upon my life: so much information, so little time.

I wrote earlier about organizing the flood of information that comes at me from all directions. RSS services like Pageflakes and Writely have streamlined my time spent reading web pages, making every second I spent online count.

I used search engines in my early web surfing days. Google was unknown and Yahoo was still a young company. Altavista was the most powerful search engine in the mid 1990s.

Finding information on anything from Star Trek to Photoshop meant looking through hordes of links, some live, some dead, and many that were just plain useless.

I soon discovered that people were better search engines than machines. My friends and co-workers would E-mail or instant message me links; they knew me and my interests. My filter for the information age become a biological one: live humans who could steer me to information I needed.

Now services like del.icio.us have taken this idea online. I'm new to del.icio.us, which has been available since late 2003. I also use digglicious.com, which blends del.icio.us and digg.com.

I have renewed the excitement of discovery from web surfing so long ago by using these sites, clicking on links that other people have sorted out by interests and topics. I can sit for hours and gather links and information. I find sites I never would have found on a specific search.

What makes these services work are people. People add to their bookmarks what they find worth keeping. The readers of digg.com boost the stories they find worthy.

Digglicious.com I find hypnotic because it updates automatically. Powered by AJAX, the page re-shuffles as new links are added and accessed. It seems alive and thinking, a cross between a search engine and a stock ticker.

As the designers of search engines fine tune their craft, and as those who seek to take on Google rethink how people access information, I find that the most powerful tool we still have for navigating the sea of information we have created...are the users.

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