A year with Diigo

I’ve just finished exporting my bookmarks from Diigo and will be moving back to Delicious to keep my bookmarks. I’m not thrilled by this, but I think it works out better for me in the long run.

I’m leaving Diigo only reluctantly, after a year of using it in classes and on my own. I still love it, but more in concept than in practice. The concept, if you aren’t aware, is that with the Diigo toolbar, you can highlight and annotate any web page. Yes, there are other ways to do this, but I liked this functionality as a small extension to the existing bookmarking that can be done on Delicious and similar systems. When they acquired Furl, I was even more excited. I always though Furl was under-appreciated as a service.

It seemed particularly well suited to education. How great to be able to comment at the sentence-fragment-level of a student’s blog post. Think of the conversations that can be built up around annotating a reading together. And in fact I’ve used it for three courses, and really built one course around Diigo. When you submitted an assignment: you used Diigo to tag. When you had questions about a lecture: more Diigo.

What was outstanding in theory just hasn’t made it to practice. And the annoying part is that it really isn’t something major. It’s nothing that I could point at and say: fix this and it would be perfect. It’s the little things. Sometimes, when you do a whole lot of comments on a single page, the page loads can be really bogged down. Sometimes, when you highlight a section to make a comment, the highlighted section “jumps.” It seems like there are a lot of clicks needed to do just about anything. And, though I am generally tolerant of such things, the issue of plurals and odd English constructions on the site could be annoying. Sometimes the internal pagers didn’t quite work on groups.

But most of all, it fails the KISS test. Especially for a new student asked to use the service, the site itself can quickly become confusing. How do you find your own bookmarks? A group? How do you know when you are participating in a forum for a group or bookmarking something for it? Who can read your bookmark? When are you making a comment on a page? A general note for the page? A note on a specific piece of highlighting? It is a simple tool that has been split into a Swiss Army knife of applications and approaches. There is nothing wrong with some extendability and making tools do more, but the core functionality should be simple and clear, particularly to the first time user. And this is especially important in an educational setting, where you want students to be learning about the subject matter, not spending time fighting with a tool.

Delicious works fine for much of what I need to do. It’s a single-use tool, but it is quickly clear how it works. The folksonomies that emerge from Delicious can be complex, and there are interesting ways the tool can be employed, but the tool itself is simple, obvious, and doesn’t take up a lot of space on my computer, my bandwidth, or in my head.

I still have a Diigo account, and I’ll probably circle back to see how things have changed, but the toolbar is gone, and it won’t be showing up on syllabi anytime soon.

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4 Comments

  1. Pat Daddona
    Posted 9/9/2009 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    I thought Diigo worked well in “Search Engine Society.” I haven’t got the hang of Delicious yet.

  2. jason
    Posted 9/12/2009 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    I lasted a week with Diigo. I’m not a fan of delicious, but it works pretty fast and doesn’t mess up my other viewing. Diigo was too busy for me.

  3. Posted 10/21/2009 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    I couldn’t agree more. Seems like Diigo kept adding more and more features, to the point where it just became a hassle to use. I think they need to simplify their product to its core essence (social highlighting?). Most students and teachers will not put up with the current aggravations.

  4. Posted 12/3/2009 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    What about MemCatch (www.memcatch.com)? Allows for the aggregation/webclipping side of things like these other apps, but focuses on the sharing of this knowledge across social networks. It just launched last month, so fairly new to the scene and only web based. But the iPhone app, desktop client (for all platforms), and integration with Twitter, LinkedIn, & Facebook are coming out in the next couple months. It also doesn’t stop at web clippings, will soon include: email integration (syncs with emails and lets you flag the ones you want to keep directly to your knowledge base), learning management system integration (for students), and RSS feed integration.

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