Taking tags to the top

deliciousWhen it comes to new media, I’m often just ahead of the curve (joined Facebook in late 2004, Twitter in early 2008). But when it comes to social bookmarking of the likes facilitated by Delicious, I never grasped the purpose.

My loss.

Having just now discovered Delicious and started putting it to good use, the web has suddenly become a more manageable, easier-to-navigate place. The bottomless pit of information online, hard to wrap by brain around at first, is given order by the self-made categories created through the abundant use of tags.

Let’s back up for those unfamiliar with the program. It’s a web-based tool that like Twitter is deceptively simple. You sign up for a free account and download an application to embed into your web browser. Everytime you visit a site, you click the icon on your browser and enter a few tags (one word descriptions of the content). Then save.

That’s it.

What comes next is where Delicious proves its worth. My classmate Linda Misiura has already given a ringing endorsement more eloquent and enthusiastic than I can muster. So instead I’ll give you a few reasons why bookmarking pays practical dividends.

1. It preserves the best of the web: We all come across hundreds of websites we enjoy over the course of the year, 90 percent of which we’ll never be able to find again. But tag those sites with Delicious, and you can recall them in seconds to enjoy or share.

2. It keeps us from overlooking something useful: Links providing information related to our jobs or hobbies often pile up on busy days. Instead of ignoring them because there’s no time, we can quickly tag them instead. If their subject matter is needed for a task at a later date, we’ll know where to find them.

3. It’s a search alternative to Google: Using Delicious isn’t a solo act. The site is storing the tags of others, and searching those tags is a great way to find new sites on an obscure topic. You can even subscribe to a tag and get regular updates every time it’s applied.

4. It’s a more efficient way to share information: Do you have friends that clog up your Twitter or Facebook feeds with endless steams of links. What if they all used Delicious instead? The program has a social networking component, so you can see what your friends are tagging on the subjects you want to learn about.

5. It expands the way we seek knowledge online: It doesn’t take much tagging before it becomes a habit. At that point, you’re not just reading websites, you’re categorizing them. It’s one thing to consume content, it’s quite another to recognize key themes and unique perspectives within a broader discussion. Tagging is a wonderful exercise to build the mental muscles needed for the job.

Want to learn more? Check out my Delicious page and click on the sites I’ve tagged with “delicious.” Each offers a distinct take on how tags make navigating the web all the more gratifying.

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