This animated explanation, sans narrative, of how the website formerly known as del.icio.us morphed into delicious.com, its current incarnation, shows the evolution of one UI into another and illustrates some ways to use the newly-evolved interface to a catchy little tune to boot.
The video is worth watching for the entertainment value alone although it is also is somewhat instructive. It seems most entertaining to me when viewed full screen so I recommend you watch it that way by clicking on the icon with the four outward facing arrows in the lower right corner of the video’s window.
Pressing Esc returns you to your normal viewing mode.
I first became acquainted with what is now called Delicious.com when I learned of it during the course of my initial experimentation with Flock. My first bookmark on Delicious was on February 6, 2006, but that was 1214 bookmarked locations ago. So if nothing else, I’m grateful to Flock for getting me together with my good friend Delicious. It has been a rewarding friendship for me.
If you search back through this blog or check the categories listing in the sidebar for the word “Flock,” you’ll find lots of references. That’s because I began beta testing it (almost alpha testing it) several years ago. There were many things I liked about it back then that are still present in the latest version and may even have undergone improvements that aren’t necessarily visible in the interface.
I downloaded version 2.5 from the Flock website yesterday, after being reminded by Daryl Houston that it now had a tight integration with Twitter.
It is ironic that I ceased using Flock because it was moving to integrate services that, at the time, I wasn’t ready to embrace. I’ll admit that my point of view at the time was that they were essentially trivial and a waste of time. I’m not yet entirely certain that previous assessment isn’t accurate, but as I have begun to participate in both Facebook and Twitter, I have found each of them has its legitimate and helpful uses, so I decided to give Flock a second look. Going back to try Flock again is like remarrying your ex-wife; it feels strange at first, but maybe some of the old joy will be augmented by as yet undiscovered new joys.
I have set Flock as my default browser for this trial which begins today and will, for the most part, run for at least a month. Like President Obama and his attempt to quit smoking, I may from time to time resort to old habits for expediency or if I’m under unusual stress, but I’ll do my best to achieve what I want to do in Flock first. We’ll see whether 30 days will be enough to establish a new habit.
My first impressions upon returning to Flock are very positive and pleasant. I have used this blogging tool before. There is an uploading tool for pictures to whatever service you use, which in my case is Flickr. And that uploader was always one of my favorite features. It seems to be just as convenient and reliable as before. Flock integrates a lot of tools that someone who is active online in posting to or commenting on blogs and forums and the like, can use and will find to be very handy. One of the early questions about Flock, which is built on the foundation of Firefox, is whether the integration of all these tools is better than customization and choice, meaning just the Firefox browser onto which you can add just those pieces of functionality that you want. I suppose there are those who are still debating that. For now, I am back to trying Flock because of the integration it offers. I am anxious to know how convenient I find those features and whether at the bottom line, I am more productive online because of them.
If you are interested in experimenting with a new browser (Yes, Virginia, you are permitted have more than one browser on your computer at the same time. The Geek Gods have authorized it. In fact, you may have as many as you like, particularly if you are trying them out), then check out Flock and we can compare notes in our comments.
This morning I discovered through my RSS feeds that version 0.9 of Flock was available for download, so I downloaded and installed it. I am writing this post using its blog editor. My initial impressions of the user interface are generally positive as it is quite different than it was when I last used it. I have taken a hiatus from using each of the intervening versions since I ceased using it on October 30, 2006. I’ll spend the day experimenting with this version and see how I like it. I’ll update this post later in the day with my reactions.
In what I suppose will come as a shock to some who think of me as a ”SuperFan” of Flock, I’m announcing that during the last week I have decided to change my default browser to Firefox 2.0, just as Tish is getting on the Flock bandwagon. The primary reason for the change, in my case, is speed or the relative lack of it in Flock. It may be just my system or it may be that because Flock aspires to do so much, it will always be slower than FF, but whatever the reason, there is enough of a speed difference that the extra effort required to make this change seems justified.
Last week when I noticed the difference in the speed of the two browsers, I pulled up Process Explorer and checked the properties of both browsers side-by-side, and this is what I saw.
For those really interested, clicking the image above will open a larger version of it that I hope you’ll be able to read clearly. (Update: After posting this I notice that the “expanded view” of the graphic above displays at the same size as what is within the post. Here is a larger display of it.) The memory usage in Flock seems to be almost twice as much as in Firefox. In all fairness to Flock, it must be acknowledged that it is at version 0.7 or thereabouts whereas Firefox is at version 2.0. I’m sure I’ll be testing each version of Flock as it comes out, so the change I’ve made is not necessarily permanent, but for now you can color me as primarily a Firefox user.
So what “extra effort” you may ask yourself is required to duplicate all the functions that Flock makes available in its default installation when one chooses to use Firefox instead? Well, that’s an interesting story to me. In many ways, I think it says some positive things about Flock that there is a lot of things that I must activate to recreate its built-in functions, and there are some things that I can’t duplicate in Firefox at all.
First, let me describe the things I am able to duplicate.
Since I used Flock’s built-in “My News” to track the RSS feeds that I follow, I’ve opened a Bloglines account and am systematically adding the feeds to it that I previously followed in Flock. This would be a lot easier to do if Flock had a capability that Mike Neel has been requesting for a while — the ability to export the feeds from Flock to an OPML file. But it doesn’t yet have that ability (see Update #2 below for a correction), so I’m having to go through the feeds one at a time and subscribe to them in Bloglines. Fortunately, Bloglines offers a widget that you can add to your Bookmark Toolbar so that you can subscribe to a feed easily. I’ve also set my Bloglines account as one of the two Home pages that open when I open Firefox, so that provides the same function as Flock’s notification that a feed has been updated.
I’ve had to add a del.icio.us widget to my Bookmark Toolbar so that I can tag items for my del.icio.us account, whereas when I “starred” a favorite in Flock, that gave me the option to do both things at once. That is a feature that I’ll welcome being able to get back when Flock improves its speed and I return to it as my default browser, because the way Flock stores favorites gives me a capability that I can’t recreate in Firefox. But I’ll say more about that later when I discuss what I can’t duplicate in Firefox.
Flock has a built-in blog editor that Erwan Loisant is working to improve. However, I have already begun experimenting with a number of the other blog editors that are available. At the moment I am using Windows Live Writer for this post, and that is the editor I usually use when I want to add a graphic to the post anyway. WLW gives some additional capabilities for formatting the graphic at the time it is added, so I prefer it for that function. I’ve also installed Performancing into Firefox, and I use that for quick posts directly from the browser. And on those rare occasions when I want to post a podcast, I use the Write panel in my WordPress installation so that I have access to the podPress add-in that I have installed there. I don’t think it is likely that any one of these various blog editors will ever have all the features that are unique to the others, so I am content with having a number of tools to perform the specific task I want to accomplish.
Flock’s integration with Flickr is sweet, and I prefer its uploading capability to either the Flickr Uploadr or the web interface at Flickr. However, I can subscribe in Bloglines to the RSS feeds for those of my Flickr contacts that I want to stay informed of when they update their photostream. So in one sense I can duplicate Flock’s notification that one of my contacts has uploaded a new photo. However, one feature isn’t available by doing that. In Bloglines, I can only see the Public photos that my son uploads, not those that are designated as available to only Family and Friends. However, I can live with that limitation because when I visit Flickr, I can see that other group of pictures.
And finally to draw this epic post to a conclusion, let me say that the thing I can’t duplicate in Firefox that I miss most from Flock is the ability to easily change which collection displays in my browser in the place where the Bookmark Toolbar is displayed in Firefox. I have used the “collections” feature in Flock extensively, and I really liked being able to display across the top of my browser the links in the different collections so that they are easily accessible while surfing.
I look forward to Flock’s further development and the improvements I hope for in its performance. You haven’t lost me as a SuperFan Flock. I just need a little time away to play for a while in the fast lane.
Update #2: Daryl points out to me in a comment to this post that Flock does indeed have the ability to export news feeds to an OPML file. And upon looking more closely, I did discover that ability. Thanks, Daryl. Sorry to have inaccurately criticized Flock regarding a feature that was already there. I guess it lends support to your frequent comments about the importance of discoverability.
For some time I have been meaning to discuss this service and how I use it, so the occasion of its third birthday seems like a good stimulus to do that. Because this service is tightly integrated and therefore essentially effortless with Flock, I have relied on it more since I began using Flock than I did prior to then. Any time I mark something as a favorite, it is also added to my del.icio.us bookmarks. It’s true that in Flock you can choose to use Shadows rather than del.icio.us but since I have chosen to use del.icio.us I’ll ignore that fact for the purposes of this discussion.
So what the heck is a social bookmarking service anyway? First and foremost is it a site on the web where the things I bookmark are listed so that when I am away from my own computer, I can find those sites if I wish. But more than that, it is “social” in the sense that you can, if you choose, see the things I’ve bookmarked, and conversely I can see yours, if you also use the service. In fact, I can, and have, set up a network of people whose bookmarked sites I check periodically, and when I see a link they have bookmarked that interests me, I can add it to my bookmarks as well. By using the service like this, I benefit from what others discover and thus extend my “coverage” of all that’s new on the ‘net. It is also easy to recommend a site to someone who has a del.icio.us account by simply using the “for:username” tag, where the username is their username on del.icio.us.
Perhaps the most useful part to me about using del.icio.us is that I can tag a site when I bookmark it with as few or as many different words or combination of words as I think will help me recall it when I search for it later. In addition to all those tags, I can add notes to my bookmarks that permit me to write a narrative description of that bookmark if I choose. I’ve noticed that many people don’t do that, and that’s okay, but I find that writing some brief description only takes a few seconds and can prove quite useful when I look at the bookmark later.
When I visit my del.icio.us page, the most recently bookmarked sites are at the top of the list and in the right hand column all my tags are listed. Those tags can also be listed as a tag cloud, if I choose. The site has a search facility with which I can search for a tag and have all the sites that contain it displayed.
If you are interested in using del.icio.us, I recommend you spend some time reading through the help facility there. Among the things that are covered in that help facility are a few suggestions about ways to usedel.icio.us, and one of those is that tagging can help as you research a particular topic. For instance, as a blogger I frequently encounter topics that I might want to blog about. By tagging those sites as “blogfodder” I can later return to them and write a blog post about them if I choose. So as you can see, the tags you apply don’t have to be real words. They can be anything you find useful.
One final thought. In my opinion, there are no right or wrong tags. Tagging web sites isn’t about guessing what other people would use to tag it, because it doesn’t matter how others tag it. The purpose in adding tags is to give you a way to find the site again when you want to return to it. That’s why, when I tag, I add as many tags as come to mind when I bookmark it. Who knows what I’ll be thinking when I try to go back to find the site later? So the more tags I have used, the greater the likelihood I’ll be able to find it.
Whether you choose to use del.icio.us or not, I must say that having used it now for more than a year, I can hardly imagine not having it available to me. So when I say “Happy Birthday” to the service, it isn’t just that I wish them well. It’s that I find their service indispensable to my life online. If you’d like someone else’s perspective on this service, you might enjoy reading my friend Mike Neel’s post called Golden, Blogged and Del.icio.us.
The title of this post might be the headline if the Knoxville News Sentinel chose to cover the August 23rd meeting at 7:00 PM in South Knoxville of the nascent Knox Bloggers group. Bloggers, after all, are a solitary breed, eschewing as they do associating even with editors, so the secondary goal of determining whether to meet on a monthly basis is a bit like skiing uphill. Still the first gathering could prove interesting enough to warrant a return engagement. It, I suppose, remains to be seen.
An initial invitation has gone out to a magnificent seven bloggers in the area, and the group is open to others attending. If you have an interest in attending this first (and possibly one-time) event, just drop me an email, and I’ll be glad to supply directions.
The agenda for this first gathering will be to discuss some tools and techniques bloggers use and maybe learn something from each other that we didn’t already know. Mike Neel will discuss using Flickr and Picasa Web for photo sharing and how to get photos to your blog. Daryl Houston, a local employee of Flock, will discuss Flock in all its wondrous amazement and glory. And yours truly will discuss how to do a video blog, the tools to make the video and how to share it. We expect the discussion to be lively and wide-ranging if prior gatherings of portions of this group are any indication.
Thanks to my friend, Shannon, I now have another computer (I still have the old one too), and the new one is running Ubuntu 6.06. So my absence from posting for a while is at least in part because I have been on “educational leave.” If the truth be known, I’ve been quite busy on the Internet lately learning a lot of different things, but I just haven’t been posting here. So I am due for some serious “catch up” posts in the next few days, because I’ve been exploring some things that were very interesting, at least to me.
I do want to make one comment of appreciation to Brent Roos for the invaluable assistance he provided when he described how to Install Flock on Ubuntu back on July 24, 2006. Like almost everything else, if you know how, it’s simple but if you don’t, it’s an unsolvable mystery. I was able to follow Brent’s instructions and, thanks to the ability to copy and paste, get the package installed. So now I’ll be able to compare how Flock runs on Linux with the experiences I’ve already had running it on Windows XP.
I’ll also point out that because of this new install of Flock, I revisited the Flock Start Page that has a nice set of videos that illustrate some of its features. I like those and think they will help new users grasp some of the things Flock has to offer. But for now, I’ll close this and get back to my studies.
Daryl and Mike and I met back on March 22 for the first Flock Meetup here in Knoxville. Last night we were joined at the second Meetup by Dave and Gabriel, so our numbers are growing. For about 2 hours we discussed where Flock is now and where it is headed. The new direction seems to be one that leads back to Flock’s roots. As Daryl explained it, originally there was a focus on correlating what you and your friends were doing online, what sites you were finding interesting and sharing links and news with each other. The metaphor, apparently, was that as people aggregated their interests, they would all “flock” to the same areas of interest. I’ve posted a picture of the group on my Flickr site. As an aside, I might point out that I was with four young men who ranged in age from one half to almost one third my age, but despite that I didn’t feel out of place at all.
As has been the practice at these meetups, we rambled widely across a number of topics. Mike continued to play the role of the skeptic about Flock, saying he’ll begin using it full time when it meets some of his needs more specifically. Gabriel was quiet and contributed a few comments but mostly observed. Dave, who says he isn’t a blogger, contributed a number of comments and asked some useful questions. Daryl, in something of a Scoblesque stance, honestly admitted that there were things (the blog editor and the collections manager) that he didn’t like about the way Flock was constructed, and I, in my usual “fan mode,” continue to be a staunch supporter of the browser, illustrating I suppose my gullibility.
All of us learned something, I think, which made the evening worthwhile. Daryl got the benefit of the feedback that we all gave about our experience of using Flock. Dave and Mike learned that in Flock (as in Firefox) if you have multiple pages open when you go to Tools > Options > General and click “Use Current pages” that you can have more than one home page that opens each time you open your browser. Both Mike and Dave were delighted to learn this because in Mike’s case he discovered that he could open his two standard always-opened first web sites (Bloglines and Gmail), and Dave because he had been perplexed because Flock kept opening four pages when it started and he couldn’t figure out why. I learned that you can drag a URL from the address bar and drop it on top of the Home page button and that doing so will set that URL as your home page. Because he didn’t say much, I can’t say for sure what Gabriel learned, but I imagine he picked up something he could use. Oh, and I think Dave began to appreciate that you don’t have to be a blogger to benefit from using del.icio.us.
I really appreciate opportunities such as this to sit around with some knowledgeable geeks because I enjoy learning how other people approach using the tools available to access information on the Internet and make use of it. While I don’t always adopt their practices, I think it is valuable to expand my horizons and learn. No matter how comfortable I am with my own way of doing things, there are always more ways to interact with the Internet than I know and being in a group like this helps to remind me of that. One of the benefits of this kind of group is that it is small enough that you can ask your questions and share your knowledge with others without getting lost in the mass of humanity that is so common in PC Users Groups.
It was a very pleasant evening, and I’m sure that if there is a third Knoxville Flock Meetup I’ll be there.
I’ve just received notice from Daryl that due to some scheduling issues, he has had to change the date of the Flock meetup from Thursday to Wednesday, July 26, 2006. It will be at the same place and time, however.
Daryl has finalized the plans for next week’s Flock Meetup. Unless some unforeseen circumstance prevents it, we will meet at Barnes and Noble at 7:00 PM on Thursday, July 27, 2006. There is a Starbuck’s in the bookstore that has coffee and things to eat, so if you are hungry and/or thirsty bring money. Otherwise, it won’t cost you anything to attend. I plan to be there and I’d like to invite you to come too. If you have a laptop, you are welcome to bring it along because wifi is available. And if you are also lucky enough to have a friend too, you are welcome to bring him or her with you. You can get the most recent version (0.7.3) of the Flock beta at the Flock download site. The whole event will be informal so it should be fun as well as educational. I hope to see you there.