Sunday, July 15, 2007


I have 2,284 internet bookmarks. Imagine a book in which you had 2,284 bookmarks. Completely useless. Might as well pull them all out.

Because of my bookmark mountain, I am rather well informed about bookmarking software. I have long since abandoned the favourites in the pull down list from my browser (imagine 2,284 of those!) and have gone on a merry go round of more advanced web based bookmarking tools. I started on, moved to spurl, dabbled but decided not to get into bed with furl and ma.gnolia, moved to blinklist and eventually returned to

All of these are social bookmarking services, but I am completely uninterested in being sociable when I am bookmarking. As you may appreciate, I have enough problems dealing with my own great bookmarking lake without piping in other people`s contributions. My interest in all these services is simply that they offer advanced filing and tagging tools that let me navigate the swamp.

And yet none of them are quite good enough. My mountain/lake/swamp keeps expanding and my ability to use all of that accumulated net knowledge keeps contracting. In fact, I hardly ever revisit any of the sites in my list except in a desperate effort to prune things back. One obvious solution occurs: completely dump the lot of them. In fact, completely dump the whole idea of bookmarking. Live in the present, man! And use that funny thing you have installed in your own brain. Memory, I think they call it.

Well, it might come to that, but it goes against the grain. I am one of those people who files the cockroaches he's smashed. It also seems a bit of a shame. I have come across so much interesting information on the net. Wouldn't it be great to really be able to store and access it again in the future.

So I got to thinking what is it that is missing from current bookmarking technologies. The human brain stores huge amounts of information somewhat less reliably than these bookmarking sites but there is something about human memory that means that this is not a futile habit: serendipity/loose connections/randomness. Although we do use card filing systems for certain limited types of information, we access our memory often by very odd trains of thought: I might be thinking about making a pina colada for my wife, jump to the thought that my dad dislikes pineapple and coconut, and remember that I want to talk to him some more about our family history. That makes all of the huge wodges of info in my head worth keeping.

Could this be done with my bookmark swamp?

Two ideas, one simple, one a bit more complex:

1. Every time I open my browser, a tab (not my homepage but a second opened page) randomly opens from my bookmarks. (There should be a little cross in the top right that I can click to remove it from my bookmarks if the page turns out not that interesting on a second look.)

2. Every page I visit in my day to day web browsing, could be cross referenced with the sites in my bookmarks. Basically, the social bookmarking site would pick up the tags most commonly ascribed by other users to the site I have just arrived at and cross reference them with any of my bookmarks with the same tags and then display in a very inconspicuous manner, out of the main browsing window or in a tiny transparent overlay in the top right of the window, one or two of these bookmark's headlines and links. This, for the first time for me, would find something useful to do with the social aspects of the social bookmarking sites I use.

The photo is by Anne Mari

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