Monday, 19 April 2010

"Use tags for school" article needs work

Just read an article on "how to use Delicious to organize your student life" which included the pretty obvious but expanded on steps:
  1. Sign up
  2. Tag everything
  3. Bundle it up
along with tips under the headings:
  • What should you bookmark?
  • Building on your records
  • How to keep track of all the tags?

Some of this info is pretty basic and is obviously meant for someone at least close to a first time user but when I read through it I had some issues.

  1. "Tag everything". This may hold many people back. This is absolutely a vital part of using a tool like (along with the almost equally important rule of 'tag consistently and as much as you can') but I would think that most people would balk at the sound of this. I don't think that most people 'get' the need to do this so perhaps the author could have stressed this a little more.
  2. "...find the book in Google Books and bookmark the link..." Not even close to everything is in Google Books so I'm not sure why the author used it as the one example. Perhaps there's a bias? What about Amazon, LibraryThing, Wikipedia, WorldCat, or your local public and/or academic library's catalog (this last one is not always permanently linkable although it's getting better). These are all much more comprehensive (especially as far as your course syllabus is concerned) book lists than Google Books. Although none of them have complete access to the full text online, they all have benefits that Google Books doesn't have.
  3. "...(along with any reasons why it was cited). Ensure you note which pages were given to you as readings and why." I assume this is meant to be written in the notes or description field. This is a good idea although this field can only have so much text and since each URL is allowed only one record, if you tag a site that you will use outside of the class it's "for" as well, your use of this text box may conflict.
  4. The article is suggesting bookmarking a potentially large number of URLs for each course. This may get a little messy when you're trying to find one in a pile of 50 or more URLs. tagging with something in addition to your course tag should be mentioned. (It does this in a rather subtle way when it says "Don’t forget to use the class code tag and any relevant tags to indicate class topic, course topic, section in coursework, related essays, etc." but I'm not sure this is strong enough or explicit enough to get the point across.

Finally, the one big failing of using in this way is that it relies on the fact that there is an online presence for whatever you want to include in your tracking/record of your course materials. What if the professor does not have any web site with his/her information (increasingly rare but still out there) but hands you a piece of paper with all the relevant info on it? The article should bring up this situation.

Overall, there is some great information for the noob in this article, but it could be made better. What do you think? Have any tips that should be added to a "cheat sheet" like this?

[ Thanks to "How To Use Delicious To Organize Your Student Life" from ]

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