After building a first database structure for my Linqurator experiment, I want to import my Delicious bookmark archive into it. That will give me 3900 or so bookmarks in the database structure to play with. Delicious exported as an HTML file with data like url, title, tags, private status, and timestamp added as attributes of a DT statement, with any remarks in a separate DD tag. I now converted that HTML file into CSV. In itself trivial to do with a handful of search and replace actions using ; as separators (not commas as they are separators already between tags, and I need those later too). However there were linefeeds in some of the DD remarks. So I had to hunt those down and delete them, as they otherwise introduce additional lines in the CSV result. I also had to remove quotation marks. Now on to writing the script that adds the bookmarks into the database.

I noticed some of the bookmarks pointed to my own site. A quick search told me I bookmarked my own postings 65 times.

For years I had been an active user of Delicious, the social bookmarking service. I started using it in 2004, a year after its launch, and stopped using it in 2015. By then the service had been repeatedly sold, and much of its useful social features had been deprecated. It’s one of those great services Yahoo bought and then never did anything with. As I describe in a posting on bookmarking strategies last year, Delicious was useful originally because it showed you who else had bookmarked the same thing as you, and with which tags. It allowed me to find other people with similar interests, and especially if they used very different tags than me for a page they would be outside my own communities and networks (as ‘tribes’ will gravitate to a shared idiom). I’d then start following the blogs of those other people, as a way of widening my ‘very large scale antenna array’ of feed reading. Tags were pivots for triangulation. Delicious is one of those tools that were really social software, as opposed to a social media platform with its now too common self-reinforcing toxicity.

The current owner of Delicious is Pinboard, and according to Wikipedia the Delicious site was officially made inactive last August. That became obvious visiting my Delicious profile in the past weeks (on the original de.licio.us url, not the later delicious.com), as it would regularly result in an internal server error. Today I could access my profile.

My delicious profile

I decided to download my Delicious data, 3851 bookmarks.

After several attempts resulting in internal server errors, I ended up on the export screen which has options to include both notes and tags.

Delicious export screen

The resulting download is a HTML file (delicious.html), which after opening at first glance looked disappointing as it did not show tags, nor the date of bookmarking, just the description. Loosing most context would make the list of bookmarks rather useless.

My delicious html export

However, when I took a look at the source of the HTML file, I found that thankfully tags and dates are included as data attributes of the bookmarks. The HTML is nicely marked up wit DT and DD tags too, so it will be no problem to parse this export automatically.

My delicious html export source showing data attributes

My original notion was to import all bookmarks with their tags and notes, as back dated blog entries here. But randomly clicking on a range of links tells me that many of those bookmarks no longer resolve to an active web page, or redirect to some domain squatting spam outfit. So bringing the bookmarks ‘home’ into my site isn’t useful.
As the export includes tags, I can mine the list for bits of utility though. The collection contains a wide variety of open data usage examples I collected over the years, and that is of interest as a historical library, that I could try and match against the internet archives, using the bookmarking dates. Most other stuff is no longer of interest, or was ephemeral to begin with, so I won’t bother bringing that ‘home’. I will add the delicious export to the other exports of Twitter and Facebook on my NAS drive and cloud as archive. I have now removed my profile from the Delicious website (after several attempts to overcome internal server errors, and it is now verifiably gone).

Just quickly jotting some thoughts down about bookmarking, as part of a more general effort of creating an accurate current overview of my information strategies.

Currently I store all my bookmarks in Evernote, by storing the full article or pdf (not just the url, removing the risk of it being unavailable later, or behind a paywall). I sometimes add a brief annotation at the start, and may add one or more tags.

I store bookmarks to Evernote from my browser on the laptop, but also frequently from my mobile, where I pick them out of various timelines.
There are several reasons I store bookmarks.

  • I store predictions people make, to be able to revisit them later, and check on whether they came true or not.
  • I store news paper articles to preserve how certain events were depicted at the time they happened (without the historic reinterpretation that usually follows later)
  • I store pages for later reading (replacing Instapaper)
  • I store bookmarks for sharing in (collated) blogposts, or on Twitter, or to send to a specific person (‘hey, this looks like what you were looking for last week’)
  • I store bookmarks around topics I am currently interested in, as resource for later or current desk research, or for a current project.
  • I store bookmarks as reminders (‘maybe this restaurant is a place to go to sometime when next in Berlin’, ‘possible family trip’, ‘possible interesting conference to attend’)

In the past, when I still used Delicious, when it had a social networking function, I also used bookmarking for discovery of other people. Because social tools work in triangles (as I said in 2006) I would check in Delicious who else had also bookmarked something, and with which tags they did so. The larger the difference in tags (e.g. I’d tag ‘knowledge management’ and they’d tag ‘medication’) or difference in jargon (me ‘complexity’, they ‘wicked_problem’, another ‘intractable’), the likelier someone would be part of different communities than me, but focusing on the same things. Then I’d seek out their blog etc, and start following their rss feeds. It was a good way to find people based on professional interests and extend my informal learning network. A way to diversify my inputs for various topics.

Visualization of my del.icio.us bookmarks
A visualisation of Kars Alfrink’s Delicious bookmarks, based on usage of tags, 2006, CC-BY

Looking at that list of uses, I notice that it is a mixture of things that can be public, things that can be public to some, and things that are just for my eyes. I also know that I don’t like publishing single bookmarks to my blog, unless I have an extended annotation to publish with it (more a reflection or response to a link, than just bookmarking that link). Single bookmarks posted to a blog I experience as cluttering up the timeline (but they could be on a different page perhaps).
The tagging is key as a filing mechanism, and annotation can be a helpful hint to my future self why I stored it, as much as a thought or an association.

When I think of ‘bringing bookmarking home’ in the sense of using only non-silo tools and owning the data myself, several aspects are important:

  • The elements I need to store: URL, date/time stored, full article/pdf, title, tags, notes. Having a full local copy of a page or PDF is a must-have for me, you can’t rely on something being there the next time you look at an URL.
  • The things I want to be able to do with it are mostly a filtering on tags I think (connecting it to one or more persons, interests, projects, channels etc.), and then having different actions/processes tied to that filtering.
  • I’d want to have the bookmarks available offline on my laptop, as well as available for sharing across devices.
  • It would be great if there was something that would allow the social networking type of bookmarking I described, or make it possible in decentralised fashion

When I look at some of the available open source bookmarking tools that I can self-host I notice that mostly the ability to save full pages/documents and the offline functionality are missing elements. So maybe I should try and glue together something from different building blocks found elsewhere.

What do you use for bookmarking? How do you use bookmarks?