Tips for Using Delicious In (Doctoral) Research

delicious stickers

del.icio.us is one of my most daily visited sites. Recently, I read a great post on the delicious blog about librarians and teachers using delicious more and more in their schools. This is an idea I think is fabulous and so I thought I might spell out a few ways I go about using this social bookmarking site for my doctoral research. I’ve been using delicious for at least a couple years now and have more than 3,300 websites bookmarked on my delicious page and a ridiculous amount of tags to go along with all those sites ((Actually, I’ve slowly begun to delete and rename tags but it is an extremely tedious process, read: almost a complete waste of time. Unfortunately, delicious, up to this point, only allows its users to edit tags one by one, there is no batch edit feature; nor is there, so far as I know, any 3 party app setup to help maintain tags, just create them.)). I use it for my blogging, I use it to send articles to friends, and most importantly I use it for my current research. I now find it indispensable in my daily schoolwork routine.

Starting

Delicious at its very core is a site that stores websites you’ve bookmarked online, so you can get at them from any computer, but that’s just the beginning. For those of you who don’t really know much about delicious but are interested in setting it up, you can check out my presentation on what it is, why to use it and how to setup an account, or you can watch the far more clever video “how to explain delicious to your parents (also see their help page). Basically, what you need to know is if you are doing any kind of research where you use the web frequently you’ll find delicious very helpful.

Some Simple Tips

  1. Okay, so I’m doing my research generally in the areas of cultural studies, theology, Quakerism, and philosophy. These are my general topics of interest which help frame at least one set of tags. Most often when I find an interesting website, blog post, audio interview, video of a lecture, etc it will have one of those areas as a tag. Then you need to get a little more detailed. If the article is by, or about, one of your key conversation partners then use his or her last name as a tag. Then ask yourself, is it an article, a audio clip, a video, a biography, an interview, news about him or her, etc? Use any of those keywords as a tag. Finally, you may want to consider a more technical tag, one that people in your line of research use. This will help others find your bookmarks as well (remember delicious is a social website, which in this case means you can benefit from the hard work others have put in and vice versa. So things from my area might be: ecclesiology, postmodernism, modernity, structuralism, deconstruction, etc. So, let’s say for example, I find an interview of Slajov Žižek, one of my “conversation partners,” on Democracy Now. I’ll bookmark that site (I use a little safari shortcut and Pukka for this) and tag it: zizek, interview, audio, politics. Write a quick summary in the notes section and I’m all done.
  2. In all this you really only need three or four good tags. Also you want to keep using the same tags over and over again, only create a new tag if it’s one you know you’ll be using a lot of. This will help keep you from having the insurmountable pile of tags that I have.
  3. Another tip is try and use one-word tags as much as possible, so instead of having a tag like alasdair-macintyre, just do macintyre. It’s simple, to the point, and keeps things from getting cluttered. Another way to do this is the way a good friend of mine organizes his tags. He has a real simple tactic for creating more category-like tags. Let’s say he finds an article on Quakers and the bible, instead of having two separate tags “quaker” and “bible” he does “quaker.bible” thus creating a kind of tag within a bundle approach. quaker.bible acts as one tag, but it helps to narrow things down further. I think this can be a helpful approach if you want to differentiate between, say, “philosophy” and “philsophy.continental.” This way all your philosophy tags show up together, but then you can also see a little split in terms of specific types of content. But you don’t have to do it this way, you could just do two separate tags (what I do about 99% of the time, and then use delicious’ “related tags” feature).
  4. Of course, make use of the notes feature. Whether you just copy and paste a section from the page your bookmarking into your notes section, or you do your own summary, this will help you later (trust me!)
  5. I can see that once I get closer to writing my dissertation, I will actually use more specific tags for things I find useful to my research. You could easily tag something chapter1, section.one, appendixA, diagram, etc.
  6. When it comes to teaching, and most PhD students have at least some of this to do, you can use delicious to work on your lectures, just create a tag for that particular lecture and gather your data. Or if you do a lot of online grading (we use blogs for our class assignments) you can use a tag such as “feedback” or “question” to keep track of what students are suggesting and then of course, send your advisor the link to that tag.
  7. When it comes to searching for your tags later, I normally bypass the delicious search box (because it seems so slow!) and just use apple-f in safari which brings up the browser search. Start typing in the name of the tag or whatever you’re looking for and more than likely you’ll be able to find it super quick.
  8. Keep a little directory/manual in a sticky note on your computer to help remind you of the tags you’re utilizing. Here’s a few of mine I keep in a sticky, the name of the tag comes first and how I use it follows:
      research:

    • booklist – possible books to purchase or find in the library, or use this as a replacement for amazon wishlists.
    • theory – books or articles on the use of theory
    • vocabulary – quick access to important definitions with short summaries
    • toread – I need to these articles very soon
    • author – key thinker in my area of study
    • recommended – a book, author, or site recommended to me by someone else
    • random:

    • Blog-box – possible blog topics
    • Dress-Down (Friday) – Links I like to share
    • Wishlist – Well why not?
    • commenting – for sites I’ve recently commented on and would like to check back on
    • rss tags:

    • trapeze – tied to my tumblr account
    • quakerquaker – tied to quakerquaker.org
    • mp3 – loads in newsfire for audio/ipod integration
    • commenting – (nf) quick access to comments on other blogs

Advanced: Feeding Delicious and DevonThink

Finally, a couple words about some advanced usage. First, one of the most brilliant things about delicious is that every tag has an rss feed! I simply love it. Whether it is one of your own tags, or one for the entire delicious community, having feeds tied to tags can simplify searching for you. You can use a feed reader like google reader, bloglines, newsfire, etc to let you know everytime someone has found a site and tagged it with something you’re interested in. So I’m subscribed to http://del.icio.us/tag/zizek for instance. I use the MacOSX (free) rss reader newsfire as my main reader but also as my little research assistant. In newsfire not only can you create a little handy-dandy folder for all your delicious research (I also have some automated google blog searches going on in there) but newsfire is searchable view spotlight which brings your info super accessible.
Using Delicious with Newsfire

Here’s a little DevonThink tip. Say, I find a site in newsfire I really like, I can open it in my external browser hit apple-3 in safari which is tied to my “archive” shortcut. This lets me archive that page in DevonThink using a little bookmarklet that comes with that program. This makes that page searchable within my DT research database and very helpful down the road when I’m working on my papers. Here’s what it looks like visually:

Global Spiral __ Article

And then once it’s imported into Devonthink.

Global Spiral :: Article

Another quick word about subscribing to tags. Using newsfire (or whatever reader you like) I am also subscribed to some of my own tags such as, mp3 and commenting. I’ve done this so that getting back to the sites I’ve commented on earlier is quickly accessible from my desktop. Anything I tag mp3 will be quickly available for download into itunes via newsfire.

And one last (feed) suggestion is to create a tumblr account (or something similar) for a kind of “research scrapbook.” The nice thing about tumblr is that you can have it subscribe to one of your delicious tags and it will also import your notes a long with the link. This is nice if you’re trying to actually generate some content while you go along in your research.

And lastly, I suggest getting the official delicious firefox plugin if you’re used to that browser or if you’re like me and dig Safari I highly recommend Pukka (only for mac). And find other tools here.

I look forward to hearing how you use delicious and what some of your favorite tips are!

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Published by

Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

28 thoughts on “Tips for Using Delicious In (Doctoral) Research”

  1. Thanks for the post. Any idea why the NY Times doesn’t have the handy delicious button on their articles any more? It disappeared sometime last week, I think.

  2. wess. as a relatively new delicious user, i find this very helpful. i hopped over to your presentation, but the links to the files were dead. just thought i’d let you know. at any rate, thanks for posting.

  3. Hi Wess: thanks for pointing to my del.icio.us! I’m the one with the “quaker.bible” syntax. I actually started that because of a Firefox plug-in I used years ago (Foxylicious, maybe?), before Del.icio.us added “bundles” which group tags together. The plug-in would sync Del.icou.us and use the period to create folders (the same idea is used by Folders4Gmail).

    I find I bookmark things more often that I search for them. I rarely look through my Del.icio.us bookmarks (which now number 2532). I do search for them, having a keyword search set up in Firefox that uses Del.icio.us’ search (yes it’s kind of slow).

    It’s been awhile since they added anything that blew me away. I hope they get back to the cutting edge soon.

  4. @Martin – have you had a chance to look at the preview of delicious? It’s pretty good, the redeisgn is really nice and they have added a couple features but, not that will blow you away (yet).

    @Doug – thanks for the link. I wasn’t aware of the plugin, but I just downloaded it and will put it to good use. I have a question – do you know if it’s possible given the delicious API to create a batch-edit for tags (delete, rename, create) within an app like yours? I can’t find any application that’s done this and am wondering if people just aren’t interested in the feature, or it’s not possible. If it’s possible, well then, now we’re talking!

    Thanks again.

  5. Wess:
    That’s a useful post. It really is applicable beyond del.icio.us.

    Did you say del.icio.us search is too slow? Want a fast search? Want search that lets you do AND OR and NOT, as well as phrase searches and wildcard searches? Tired of multi.word.tag.hacks.like.this? Want to share a set of links with just a specific set of people?
    Worried about Delicious scaling issues?
    etc.
    etc.
    You should have a look at these:
    http://blog.simpy.com/blojsom/blog/2008/01/18/10-Reasons-for-Simpy-vs-del-icio-us.html
    http://blog.simpy.com/blojsom/blog/2008/03/14/Delicious-2-0-Delayed-Scaling-Problems.html

  6. Wess, thanks for the librarian props–you realize you’re describing subject categories (and sub-categories) with your “quaker.bible” tags (and tags are just folksonomies anyway), working your way toward a controlled vocabulary which groups your world mnemonically. Hey, did I just bust out my English degree alongside my MLIS?! 😉 Rock on with your inner-librarian!

  7. Chad – thanks for the little English degree enlightenment – you’re right about the folksonomies – i guess it would be interesting to look at people’s delicious pages as a means to get to know them a little better.

    Also, thanks for letting me know I had an inner-librarian! Woot!

  8. I appreciate the shout out on Pukka!

    Here’s the API general info: http://del.icio.us/help/api/

    It looks like you can easily rename tags: http://del.icio.us/help/api/tags

    My guess on the absence of create & delete is that you can’t create a tag (at least on del.icio.us) in isolation — it has to exist attached to a post. Once all posts under a tag are deleted, the tag disappears. Similarly, my guess is they don’t do delete, at least not on version 1.0 because deleting a tag would require modifying every bookmark using that tag directly — potentially hundreds or thousands of record hits for one API call. That’s my guess anyway.

  9. Wess, thanks, thanks and thanks again. I had not used delicious in the past, but as a result of this post I am starting. It is going to be a great help for my dmin research, just wish I had been using it for the past year (instead of the 200 traditional bookmarks that I have!). Thanks!

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  11. Great tips. You’re using exactly the same tools as I do: del.icio.us, NewsFire and DEVONthink. I have been looking for a way to integrate them though.

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