Whither My Bookmarks

Submitted by Blake on Wed, 12/15/2004 - 15:56

Seeing Walt mention he'd removed Orkut (or is it Okrut? I can never remember) made me think maybe I need some new tools. Not a day goes by when I don't think to myself, where the hell did I read that? Where's that link? It seems like every day now I wish I had bookmarked something I had read a few months back. When I need to find a story, or piece of supporting information and I can't get it back I realize that even in the age of Google some things are still hard to find. A quote I used in class said "We are looking for concepts but forced to search for words." I think of that every time I can't find something. I can usually remember bits and pieces of what I read, it's usually enough to find it again thanks to "everything being findable," but it's really frustrating when I can't find something I just know I've read and it would be a perfect link for a story I'm posting. I'm a librarian damnit, I should be able to find anything (or at least that's what my wife tells me) The trouble is I can only remember a few bits and pieces, just a part of the concept, and when I search I am limited to searching for keywords.

My bookmarks haven't been updated in months, I haven't touched my furl account in weeks, and though I us it, my links page needs a rewrite. The web contains at least one copy of my "original" bookmark file (extra credit to anyone who can find it), that is the file I started to assemble when I first started surfing the web in earnest back around 1995 or 6, via AOL & at school. I remember that file growing like weed for years. It was a collection, I carefully organized it, maintained it and used it. It wasn't a collection like a curio cabinet full of those stupid weepy eyed porcelain dolls, it was a collection I used every day, I was proud of it. It was more like a library collection than a collection of dolls, but I treated it about the same. It was a source of pride to be shared with all that happened to wander into my home. At some point, maybe in mid 2001 or 2002 I stopped collecting links. Up to that point I felt there was a shortage of links, like I needed to get all I could, and keep them safe. I felt like I'd never find my way back, like the web was a completely unavigable back water and without my trusty bookmarks I'd be lost. It was my feeble attempt at bring order to the chaos that is the web. This seems to be a common trait in the librarian profession. But then, at some point I started to think, it seems, there was no more shortage, I felt like I could find everything again. Maybe it was blogs, or Google, but the web got much smaller for me. The web was less a frontier to explored and more of an old friend I knew too well. What I knew was plenty, what I've collected was good enough. But like any good librarian I don't really believe that's good enough, I just don't seem to be able to do anything about it. I guess that's what blogs are all about, saving links and bringing some kind of order to the web, but they're just not the same as a good, updated, bookmarks file. What about using those bots and agents to go out and find me things?

I'd probably never use anything that promises to bring me more to read. How much more do I need? How many more links, how many more stories, how many more ideas can I handle? I think the answer to that is almost none. When I win the lottery and I'm able to work on LISNews/Host full time I'll need a few agents, a couple bots, and several dozen email alerts, but right now, I've got all I can handle. I can't even bare to add another link to my bookmarks file, it just seems like too much. To make matters worse, I have one computer I use all day at work, and one I use all night at home (yes, I spend every waking hour in front of a computer).

What I do like is the ability to very selectively monitor certain ideas in certain areas for changes. Take, for example, a news search for LISNews. I like to know when, if ever, LISNews comes up in newspapers, TV, magazines, and other major media outlets. What I wouldn't want to monitor would be how often the word library turns up. RSS seems like a good option here, but I just don't care about that many sites for it to be really useful.

So what would happen if I did allow an agent to go out and intelligently gather more for me. More sites, more news, more of everything. In theory, I'd allow that agent to learn, and grow, and collect more than I ever knew I could be interested in. Something like opencola, where it tells me about what I don't know, and didn't even know I would be interested in. So now what? In theory I've got the ability to learn about everything that might interest me. Does anyone with a full time job have time for such things? I can't digest the information I find now, I can't even imagine adding to the current amount, even if it's perfectly suited to my interests.

The goal of an intelligent agent should not be more, but rather less. I want fewer stories to read, fewer sites to visit. From less I want more.