A few recent projects have reminded me how much value I get from Delicious, a useful service with a funny name (though not as funny as the original del.icio.us). It's a prime example of a social computing tool whose value isn't immediately obvious to newcomers, who probably get lost as soon as it's described as (take your pick) a social tagging, sharing, or bookmarking site. Delicious is increasingly important in my own work, so I decided to share some specifics on using it to find, save and publish information.
- Save bookmarks for my own use.
Let's start with the obvious. Tagging is more effective than filing bookmarks, or at least it's a lot easier to find them later. Remember to back them up to your computer occasionally, though. Free services have been known to shut down.
- Autopost bookmarks to my blog.
Those "links for 1/25/09" posts come from Delicious, which automatically creates a post based on each day's tags. Lists of links with no comments aren't too useful, so I make a point of adding original commentary to almost every item (a trick I learned from the bloggers of RedMonk—thanks, guys). That original content also makes it possible to...
- Use Delicious feeds to build dynamic web sites.
This is one of my favorite RSS tricks: use Feed Informer to place feeds from Delicious on web sites (look for the link—virtually every page on Delicious has a feed). The commentary is already there for the link posts on the blog, so each link has original content to go with it. Delicious offers linkrolls that do the same thing, but Feed Informer offers more editorial control and the ability to manage feed content. The real secret here is that every tag in your account has its own RSS feed, so you're not limited to the everything-you-tag feed.
Tag feeds let me send different content to multiple sites with just one workflow. So, for example, all of my tagged items show up on my vanity site, while subject-specific tags cause items to appear at Social Media Analysis, Managing Social Media or International Affairs. There's no extra work associated with supporting multiple sites—just add the right tag.
If I tag something I don't want to publish, I just check the "Do Not Share" box to keep it private.
- Subscribe to Delicious feeds from interesting people.
I subscribe to the feeds of a few people who pay attention to subjects I care about. When they tag something, there's a good chance it will be useful. If you find yourself following multiple people this way, add them to your network on Delicious and subscribe to that feed. Subscribing to individual user feeds doesn't alert your source that you're following them like the network feature does.
If reading other people's tag list seems like an intrusion, remember that they have the Do Not Share box, too. Delicious users have complete control over how much they share. And if you're tagging items yourself, remember that your shared items really are public.
- Subscribe to tag feeds to find new sources.
This little tip potentially puts every Delicious user to work for you: subscribe to the feed for tags in your field (for example, web analytics). Delicious suggests related tags when you search, so it's easy to find likely keywords. Now, when anyone on Delicious finds an item in your area of interest, you'll find out about it. Sometimes, this leads to the discovery of interesting people, too.
I have all of Delicious finding things for me. How big is your research staff?