Smart Bookmark Management

Did you ever say bad words when you could not find something on the internet that you had found before, but don’t know where it is now? So did I.

This is how I am currently managing my bookmarks in a smart way with the help of simple tools and simple principles.

Are you ready to learn how to surf smart?

Surf SmartPhoto by: abnelphoto.com

Description of my smart bookmark management system

Goal:

Easily accessed, low-maintenance bookmark library with fast and easy to use search. Library has no duplicates and is backed up and accessible from all computers and all browsers.

This is a rather lengthy post so I have split it into five parts.

  • Part 1: Organisation
  • Part 2: Synchronisation and back-up
  • Part 3: Exploring and Searching
  • Part 4: Sharing
  • Summary and Final thoughts

Part 1: Should I organise with tags or folders?

About tags

Tags are superior to folder structure, because you can assign multiple tags to a single bookmark. In other words, one bookmark can belong to multiple categories without having to have a copy of the same bookmark in multiple folders. This is the most important pro of the tag method.

You have to be very careful when creating tags not to mess up the search capability. Hence the following short list of rules.

Tagging rules:

  1. Use singular nouns (tutorial, not tutorials)
  2. Use only small capital letters
  3. Each bookmark should have three different kind of tags:
    • Page Category
    • Personal Function
    • Subject(s)
  4. Periodically review and consolidate your tags. You don’t need both “finance” and “money“.

About folders

Carefully constructed folder names will help you find your bookmarks very quickly. You can use tags together with the folder structure. This way you can cherry-pick the pros of both methods.

Folder rules:

  1. Each bookmark should be located only in one folder.
  2. Use one level of folders only, no nested folders.
  3. Try to keep the number of folders small

My tags and folders

I have one folder

By default all new bookmarks end up in the root folder. If I am in a hurry or not sure if I want to keep the bookmark, I will leave it there. If I am cleaning up the root folder or know that this bookmark is a keeper, I will tag it and move it in a folder named “tagged“.

Each of my bookmark has at least one tag from Page Category

  • article (general article, on blog, wikipedia or any site)
  • blog
  • forum
  • gallery (photos)
  • login (login page)
  • news
  • review
  • search
  • shopping (e-shops and real shops)
  • social (social networking sites)
  • tutorial

Each of my bookmark has at least one tag from Personal Function

  • *1star
  • *acq (or *tuttu in Finnish)
  • *archived
  • *frequent
  • *inspiration (or *pruju in Finnish)
  • *own (or *oma in Finnish)
  • *past
  • *to-buy (Use together with occasion “birthday” and person’s name “Mom“. To be extra powerful, add “*past” for things already bought)
  • *to-do

Each of my bookmark has at least one tag from Tags by Subject

  • blogging
  • business
  • dance
  • entertainment
  • entrepreneur
  • expat
  • finance
  • gtd
  • job
  • music
  • nerdy
  • personal
  • photography
  • professional
  • self-improvement
  • society-politics-history
  • style (and design)
  • tool
  • travel
  • video
  • names of all countries I have been living or travelling in the past, present and future
  • names of all languages I have been studying in the past, present and future
  • names of all acquintances who have been bookmarked for some reason

Some example searches with my tags

  • *search, job, norway (the job portal I used before)
  • *own, health, article (the article I found when looking up cure for my sore throat)
  • *past, hostel, moscow (someone asked in which hostel I stayed in Moscow)
  • *search, flight (flight search engines I have found to be better than the others)
  • article, nerdy, *1star (how did I install  XYZ last year)
  • travel, blog, *own (the comment I wrote on some travel blog)
  • www, style, *inspiration (good looking sites that contain elements I might want to use somewhere)

Summary on tags

Tags and folders are there to help you find a specific bookmark quickly. Modern browsers index all the information and perform search operations effectively. Thus, it is not necessary to create too specific and too many tags for your bookmarks.

Using tags is not so easy at the beginning, and requires some discipline; the biggest risk is to end up with hundreds of tags, many of which are duplicates of each other, with a slightly different spelling (i.e. travel vs traveling, partner vs partners, work vs Work). In this situation, tags are worthless, as they do not help to find the information.

Part 2: How to synchronize and back-up my bookmarks?

XmarksXmarks is the free tool of my choice for backing up my bookmarks as well as syncronising them across platforms (Windows, Linux, Mac) and browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer). Premium version syncs with smartphones as well. At the time of writing (04/2011) iPhone, Android and Blackberry are supported.

You need to download the browser plug-in, set up an account and then your bookmarks (folder structure and tags) are synced to cloud. Your bookmarks are also accessible from the cloud on your online account.

Xmarks online account has also a duplicate finder tool, which is very handy if you are cleaning up your old bookmarks instead of starting from the blank slate.

Part 3: Exploring and searching my bookmarks

Firefox plugin TagSieve is superior when it comes to easy-to-use UI and search function.

Tags can be accessed from the very handy sidebar or bookmarks menu. Tag management, duplicate finding, merging of tags etc. is done with Firefox native bookmark manager.

tagsieve-all-bookmarks-tags

TagSieve sidebar with all bookmarks and tags visible.

tagsieve-windows-tag-cloud-list

Searching tag “windows”. Autocomplete and results in cloud and list views. More frequent tags use bigger font in the cloud view.

tagsieve-windows-search-bookmarkname

Searching “windows” in the bookmark name NOT tags.

tagsieve-two-tag-search

Searching for bookmarks tagged “windows” and “tutorial”.

Part 4: Social bookmarking

Services such as Youtube, Vimeo, Flickr, Picasa, Facebook, Twitter, Livemocha, Busuu are all about being social and sharing your life online in true Web 2.0 style.

If you like some material you have found on the internet, you might want to

  • come back to it in the future (bookmark it)
  • tell your friends about it (share it)

If you find something so valuable and useful that YOU want to come back to it in the future, don’t you think someone else might also find it valuable?

Why should I share my bookmarks?

Search engines rank pages according to how many people link to it. In the modern world nobody reaches for the printed encyclopedia anymore. They just type the keywords or question into Google or Wikipedia and hope to find the answer.

There is so much bullshit, mediocre information and marketing material online fighting for the surfers attention and clicks that sometimes it is very difficult and frustrating to find the exact, valid and current information. And when you do find the answer, you want to bookmark it to be sure not to lose it.

All who think Google is the ultimate answer, try this exercise, in which I have not yet succeeded:

  • Find a list of all laptops/netbooks/tablet-PCs/smartphones which have 3.5 mm audio-out jack with mini-Toslink for optical S/PDIF sound output to home entertainment system. Macbook Pro has one. Good luck. And let me know if you find it.

online_communities_2_largeMap of the internet by: Xkcd

Sharing bookmarks will help you and others to penetrate the surface of the biased marketing material or similar pseudo-information and to navigate the noise of answerless discussions and repeating blog posts and to find the needle in the haystack.

“The real valuable information is hidden somewhere behind the stormy and treacherous Internet Ocean. Searching within the shared bookmarks is like having a look at the world map before setting your sails for the unmapped world.”

– Elmo Ensio

Explorer, philosopher, adventurer and a huge nerd.

How to share my bookmarks?

For sharing bookmarks most known social bookmarking services are Xmarks, Diigo, Delicious, Digg, Bookmarksync, Reddit, and Stumbleupon.

Currently, I am using Diigo and Xmarks. In both services, my bookmarks in the Diigo cloud can be set to private or public, one folder or bookmark at a time.

In Diigo, you can highlight, capture, annotate and comment sites as you bookmark. And you can create lists and groups. The biggest advantage is that you can search for a tag both in your and in all Diigo users bookmark library.

A short summary

Security

  • Bookmarks are synchronised to the cloud automatically
  • Non-proprietary format of saving bookmarks, easy to import/export

Score 4/5

Ease-of-use

  • Bookmarks are accessible from all browsers and computers
  • Fast and intuitive search of bookmarks
  • Performance of 1951 bookmarks in 224 unique tags is very very good

Score 4/5

Drawbacks

  • Took some time to take a chaos of bookmarks into this new system
  • Duplicates and broken bookmarks needs to be checked for periodically
  • Lacks the feeling of “overview and control” that folder structure brought

Total score 3/5

Final thoughts

Why don’t you use Firefox Sync and/or Delicious?

Software is a tool for getting things done. I have set up my system using my choice of tools, which works for me. I don’t see any advantage in switching to something else just because they also get the job done.

Don’t you use more time tagging than making folders?

No. I use less time tagging my bookmarks than deciding into which folder the bookmark belongs. I had a rather complex folder structure for years.

Too much information, I am confused. How should I start reorganising my bookmarks?

First, reduce your bookmarks. Go through all your bookmarks and delete the ones you have not visited in the last 1 year.

Secondly, think of your own tags for “Personal Function” and “Subject” or use my system. No need to be perfect in the beginning, just follow the tagging rules mentioned above.

Third, set up a Xmarks account. You do want to take advantage of your fine bookmarks on all computers you use. And it serves as a back-up as well.

Fourth, make a folder “tagged” and move bookmarks there as you get them tagged. This way you know how much of the work is left. Tag all new bookmarks as you create them and the old ones whenever you have time.

Or you can delete all your bookmarks and start from scratch. This way the crap accumulated over the years is eliminated for sure.

Is it worth the trouble?

For me, yes. Your mileage may vary.

Related articles:

Osomac: Reference article Tags vs. Folders

Youtube: Social bookmarking in plain English

Youtube: Search Engine Optimisation tutorial

Elmoensio: How do I protect my digital assets

If you like this post, please bookmark and share.

posted: 11 May 2
under: Tech