In my previous post, Criteria for Evaluating Social Bookmarking Tools, I talked about some of the key features and usability issues I take into consideration when evaluating web-based bookmarking tools. So, which site do I recommend to faculty? That all depends on their needs and level of tech-savvy.
Recommended Tool for Novices: del.icio.us
At the moment, I recommend del.icio.us to novice faculty who I know will view web-based bookmark management as a big leap into the future. It has a pretty small feature set and the most frequently used options are right where you’d expect them to be.
Recommended Tool for More Demanding Users: Furl
For more adept users, I sometimes recommend furl, although I’m not in love with it either. Furl offers three big advantages over del.icio.us:
- You can select multiple bookmarks at a time and perform major changes to all of them at once (change their tags, delete them, make them private or public, etc.) This makes managing a big batch of imported bookmarks MUCH easier.
- You can rate bookmarks with a simple five-star system.
- You can keep archived copies of the sites you bookmark, although I’ve found this feature always sounds better on paper. The first time you try accessing an archived version of a now defunct page with rich media content (Flash, video, or audio), the rich media will probably either be gone or it will be duplicated so that multiple copies of it are embedded on the same page.
Unfortunately, Furl doesn’t offer a groups feature, and neither does BlinkList or most of the other sites I’ve checked out. Keep in mind that I’m talking about groups you create and manage the way an instructor would want to, not “subscription” lists where you get to see every irrelevant link another member added recently or every new bookmark with a particular tag. I also don’t like that Furl doesn’t let you view your tags as a cloud or even as a simple list on the same screen where you view and manage your bookmarks. The Furl interface feels more like a traditional data-management tool than del.icio.us, with everything in neat little rows and columns. This might be comforting for technophobes, but it’s annoying for everyone else.
Recommended Tool for Feature-Hungry Technophiles: Diigo
Diigo has everything I’ve been looking for in a great social bookmarking/collaborative research tool—except ease of use. The tagging system is still buggy (renaming a tag or deleting it can lead to unexpected results), and the interface has some usability issues that I’ve already discussed with one of Diigo’s co-founders. For instance, tag clouds only display the first 18 characters or so of each tag, preferences on how to view your tags revert to default settings every time the page refreshes, etc. Unfortunately, Diigo is still too frustrating to use for me to recommend it to non-tech-savvy educators, but I hope its shortcomings will be resolved soon. If that happens, I’ll become a major Diigo evangelist. If not, I might have to embrace a more bare-bones bookmarking tool like Del.icio.us and search for a separate tool that just handles collaborative research well. Google Notebook is next on my list of tools to check out for that.