delicious v. furl

I’ve been using Delicious for a couple months now, ever since I needed a good way of keeping track of articles that I was researching for the precursor to the paper I discussed below. I had been using my Firefox bookmarks, but every time I didn’t have my laptop on me I kicked myself for not having them online anywhere.

At first I tried both Delicious and the now-defunct(?) Magnolia, looking for a way to bookmark online that mimicked the folder structure of Windows Explorer, Finder, or even the Firefox bookmarking tool. Because I, and everyone ever, is used to organizing files into folders, I really wanted a system that would allow me to organize that way.

I understand, of course, that by tagging (the dominant mode of social bookmarking’s organization) you can achieve the same effect of a folder, as long as you are consistent with applying the same tag to each bookmark that you want to keep together. It just takes a little getting used to not seeing actual tiny folder icons that you click on to open up a list of related files. You (or I do anyway) have to remember that online bookmarking is about more than personal organization–it also enables you to share that information when the time comes, and see what other people have tagged. Personal “folder” organization looks inward and hides your files within. Tagging looks outward, organizing your files in a way that is larger than just you.

What ended up selling me on Delicious was their high-powered Firefox extension. It completely takes over for the bookmarking tool in Firefox, shuffling all your existing bookmarks online, and overwriting the keyboard shortcut (Ctrl- or Cmd-D). Additionally, you can manage your “favorite” tags to appear in an expandable toolbar. This means that you can get rid of your Firefox “Bookmarks Toolbar” in favor of Delicious’s toolbar. You don’t lose any functionality as long as you take the time to set it up, and you don’t lose any browsing area to yet another extension. Thank god I didn’t choose ma.gnolia.

And, so, I happily converted to all online bookmarking, said goodbye to my wish for online folders and went on my way. Until, for this course, I looked at Furl and found that they have those darn folders! Well not exactly, but it’s closer than Delicious.

I’m not about to switch now, I’m in too deep. But it was sort of what I was looking for a while ago. They allow you to not only tag your bookmarks but assign them a more general “topic,” which they adorn with a picture of a little folder. Your bookmarks still display in a long list, but it’s one step closer to a real folder than Delicious or Ma.gnolia had.

That said, I found Furl’s interface to be a bit unwieldy… they use a lot of vocabulary that is unfamiliar in a social software context: “keywords” (instead of tags) “topics” (instead of folders) “clipping” (???). They enable a lot of good collaboration just like Delicious, but there’s just too much going on at once for me. Also, those ads above my bookmarks are just obnoxious. It is a nice alternative for those looking for a service that isn’t owned by Yahoo! But until they come out with a full-service Firefox plugin, I just can’t consider it.

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