Friday, September 30, 2011

(Or: Simplicity and Alternatives)

A couple of months ago, I purchased a smart phone for two main reasons: My old cell phone was decrepit, and I wanted something that was more useful (and professional-looking) for business. I have been continually amazed ever since by how useful it has been, and in how many areas of my life, including blogging.

I certainly wouldn't browse the Internet very much on a smart phone if I had viable alternatives, but so much of my time is currently occupied by taking care of our daughter that if I didn't have a way to do this while she is not-quite-feeding/not-quite-sleeping/not-really-in-the-mood-to-play, or catnapping in my lap, I'd have had to even further reduce my blogging output -- or stop altogether -- long ago. Like so many other things I do with my phone, one of the things most integral to the usefulness of searching for material on the web has been the ability to easily save my output for later, when I have both hands, my full focus, a decent chunk of time, and a "real" computer. For keeping track of web links for later use, be it for blogging, networking, or work-related research, the social bookmarking site, Delicious, had been invaluable. I was a latecomer to the site, adopting it only when I started to notice how much I was using the phone to browse the web. The simplicity of entering and categorizing links is what I liked about the site.

With its recent, botched re-launch -- which seems to have broken the APIs relied upon by any related mobile phone app I can find -- the Delicious site is much less convenient to use for adding new bookmarks now. (Currently, I'm pasting URLs into a to-do list application and adding them to Delicious later. This is tedious, and wastes precious moments of computer time.) On top of this, the process of using a browser pointed at the full site to add or edit bookmarks is now less convenient. These, and other changes, like the heavily-promoted "stacks" ("playlists for the Web") have me echoing ZDNet's Violet Blue, in wondering, "[D]id anyone at AVOS actually use Delicious?"

I want to keep track of content I have found. It should be easy to add, easy to categorize and annotate, and easy to find again. That's all I want. I should at least be able to easily avoid all the new bells and whistles. Who knows? Maybe a graphics-heavy, Yahoo!-like destination site will grab a bigger audience. I won't be part of that audience, though, because if I wanted a television set or an image gallery, I wouldn't be visiting a site whose stated purpose is to organize information.

My own advice to the people at AVOS would be to suck it up, like the folks at Sitemeter did a few years ago, and roll back to its old system. It is less flashy, but its great appeal, at least to me, was its simplicity. That's what I wish they would do, but looking at the site is discouraging, in that the new ownership seem too bedazzled by what they've come up with to listen. So, I'm exporting my bookmarks and looking for alternatives to Delicious, in the likely event that the new proprietors continue to fail to see simplicity for the gem it really is.

Your suggestions, gentle readers, are welcome!

-- CAV


Anonymous said...

I use springpad ( for keeping and categorizing any links I find.

You can use notebooks to categorize things, tags to further label and search for things.

If it's just something I want to read later and I'm not sure I want to put in my "filing cabinet" I use instapaper. I like the interface more on that site for a top-down (almost queue-like) approach to a workflow. Then anything I might want to file I send over the springpad after for long term storage.

seven2521 said...

Take a look at Not free, but cheap. And simple.

Gus Van Horn said...


Pinboard was, as of writing, my leading candidate.


This is new to me. thanks for mentioning it.


HaynesBE said...

Thanks for posting. I have been using Delicious for over a year and with their change can not figure out how to access all my old tags. I sent them a rather irate email and have only received an automated, "we'll get back to you when we have time."

I will check out the recommendations, but in the mean time, can you tell me how I can retrieve my old tags? The problem is, I don't remember what the exact tag names were. I relied on the alphabetical list that used to be on the right side of the screen to remind me. I have a lot of research stored by this system which I currently have no way to access.
I guess one lesson is--don't count on a single system.

Gus Van Horn said...

Regarding accessing your tags: Some of mine seem to have disappeared, but I can still find the tagged links by entering them into the search bar manually.

Regarding how to export: Go here -- You may need to be logged on to see the page. -- and make sure the boxes for "include my tags" and "include my notes" are checked. You'll get an HTML file named delicious.html by default.

To use this file right away, using software most people are likely to be have/be familiar with: If you open the file in a browser, you'll see post titles as links, followed by any notes you might have taken. To find tags, you can use "view source" and then, if you use Firefox, anyway, hit CTRL+F in the source viewer to run a search for the tag you want. Hit "Highlight All" to see all of a kind. Obviously, there are better ways. If you use Linux (or a Mac, or Windows with Cygwin installed), you can use grep on the raw HTML file, save the results, and view just those in a browser. All messy, I know, but this is what Delicious was saving us from -- until they unilaterally decided to become an entertainment hub.

Any replacement I choose will (1) allow me to import my Delicious bookmarks, (2) allow me to export all my bookmarks for backup, and (3) have a good mobile phone app version, or at least a web site that isn't a pain to use on a mobile phone.

Jason Gritman said...

I've replaced Delicious a couple months ago with Evernote. Evernote creates a text clipping with the link you save, so you have the content available even when a internet connection is unavailable.

Evernote has lot of other applications to. For example, I use it for my shopping lists before I head to the store and I store all of my meeting minutes/brainstorming sessions from work in there.

I haven't imported in my old Delicious bookmarks into Evernote yet. After running a quick Google search, it looks like a few people have figured out some ways to do that though.

Narayan said...

You might enjoy instapaper even more than pinboard and they have good mobile apps, allow exporting articles in the form of ebooks, etc..

Gus Van Horn said...


Evernote's a fine service, and i use it for other things, but I decided not to use it for bookmarks.


Yes. I may fool with Instapaper, which I'll note Anon mentioned, but I failed to notice when I replied to his comment earlier.

Thank you both for youyr suggestions!