delicious tip of the day

In keeping with my apparent schedule of one post per month, here's one for this month.

There's not a whole lot of documentation on del.iciou.us about how to use the site or what all you can do with it (not that it needs much... the interface is simple enough to use). Yes, there is some API documentation, but I can't find any user documentation anywhere. This may or may not be covered in the mailing list archives, I don't know. I just stumbled upon it myself.

del.iciou.us is a great service if you haven't discovered it already. For those that haven't, you might think it's some sort of free-form Metafilter. But it's not. It's a permalink warehouse basically. And it's totally open. Create an account, post links. You can optionally associate your links with a set of tags. And the tags are what make del.iciou.us so incredibly useful.

A tag is simply a way to associate the link with a name. That name can be anything. On del.icio.us, they are typically short, lowercase words. It might be a category that means something to you. It might be the name of a person (although tag names cannot have a space in them, so you'll have to ProperCase that or something).

del.icio.us lets you see all the links posted by everyone. In fact, there is no way to post private links right now. Those links pile up pretty quick and they cover all kinds of subjects. If you want to view the links associated with a particular tag, like "design", you can use a address like this:

        http://del.icio.us/tag/design

Listing the links that I (or you, if you substitute your username for mine) have posted to the "design" tag is easy too:

        http://del.icio.us/bschoate/design

That's pretty powerful by itself. But what if you are just interested in the links that cover CSS design. You could look for the "css" tag:

        http://del.icio.us/tag/css

Okay... still a lot of links. What about the ones that list both "css" and "design"? Well, you can do that too!

        http://del.icio.us/tag/css+design

The "+" symbol in a address there becomes a space. Since a space can't be used in a tag, it makes for a good delimiter. I tried that syntax on a whim and it works beautifully.

Unfortunately, I haven't found a way to request links with "css" OR "design". I would hope that will be added too eventually. Perhaps like this:

        http://del.icio.us/tag/css,design

or

        http://del.icio.us/tag/css;design

And who knows? Maybe you can exclude tags eventually...

        http://del.icio.us/tag/design+-interior

or perhaps like this:

        http://del.icio.us/tag/design+!interior

Meaning, list all links with the tag "design" but not with the tag "interior".

While I'm wishing, I wish DIU supported quoted tags that allowed a space. That would let me associate proper first and last names of people with links. I suppose I could do it with a hyphen instead or just mash the names together, but I'd rather not. Flickr lets you tag images with spaces in the tag name since they support quoted tags.

After writing this whole thing up, I noticed that when you view a particular user's tags, you get a list of "related" tags that you can add to the existing view to further filter the list. This reveals the use of the "+" operator, but they don't list those related tags when viewing them at the global level. So just tweak the URL yourself if you want to filter those tags.

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8 Comments

Lalitree said:

I'm also fond of the del.icio.us inbox feature--subscribe to a friend's links or all of the links from a certain tag (say I want to see whenever anyone tags something "css"), and it all shows up on my inbox page. Really useful.

Eric Abell said:

I have recently started to use del.icio.us and have just completed a subset of my existing bookmarks under Safari. I would agree that this is a very useful tool, especially with things like del.icio.us2Safari.

I have noticed some strange behavior with the Search command. When executed from the page, it doesn't seem to want to retrieve bookmarks that I have added that match the search keyword. It seems like this would be similar to searching tag names...

Has anyone else experienced this?

joshua said:

Agreed, I am working on adding more operators. However, narrowing queries seemed like the most important thing to do.

I'm not sure how the UI should look for OR and NOT, since I am not happy with just the one operator as it is...

There needs to be a lot more documentation all around. I'm working on it.

Jim Menard said:

Eric, I just asked a similar question about searching on the mailing list. Joshua wrote in reply,

"I store the stemmed version of the word.

"Use 'tag:ioc' to search for tags. I'll get 'user:username' working soon, too."

ollie said:

I had a stab at a GUI for a del.icio.us client application that provides the option of 'NOT' filtering.

del.icio.us mockup

yuval said:

It would also be VERY helpful to provide a way to import a current bookmarks list (am I missing some obvious way to do it ? ) - e.g. the bookmarks html from Mozilla ...

Ole Begemann said:

Hi Brad, there's a typo in your link to del.icio.us (one u too many).

Sam Newman said:

There is a big problem with allowing NOT and OR style queries - performance. As Joshua said at the recent Future Of Web Apps summit in London, tags don't map very well to relational databases. A NOT query could be hell - it'd require full table scans for each request, which isn't going to scale very well.

Another interesting point he raised - very few people use more than one tag for querying (about 1 in 20 IIRC) - which leads me to believe there are a lot of people using del.icio.us in (what I would regard) as a sub-optimal fashion. Still, if it works for them...

Given that I suspect even fewer people would use more advanced queries like NOT's and OR's - the cost of optimizing the system for such a small number of users would probably be pobhibitive.

Joshua's podcast of the talk is online: http://www.carsonworkshops.com/summit/. The most interesting part of the talk for me was the fact that he has a very clear vision of what del.icio.us is, and most importantly what it is not - using these criteria it's been easier for him to push back on user requests which may well of bloated the system.

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This article was published on October 6, 2004 2:48 PM.

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