I wrote last week about the power of social bookmarking sites to promote interesting Web content and to potentially drive a lot of traffic. But they’re also anexcellent personal productivity tool. This week I’ll describe a couple of tricks that I use to shave hours each month off the process of organizing information and publishing it on blogs and websites. The publishing features are some of the least understood and most useful services that bookmarking sites offer.
There are more than 50 social bookmarking sites on the Internet, including such popular brands as Feed Me Links, Linkroll, Ma.gnolia and Clipmarks. A good list is here. Most share a common set of features: You can quickly save and annotate Web pages, share them with others and subscribe to new entries. Most offer some added value on top of those basic functions, such as page previews, e-mail and ratings. All the services that I’ve found are free.
I use two sites that each excel at different things. For basic bookmarking and sharing, del.icio.us has the largest audience and the best browser integration. I can bookmark any page to del.icio.us by hitting a control key combination, entering tags (the autocomplete feature is a nice touch here) and then hitting enter. There are no mouse movements required (I’m a keyboard junkie) and the process is fast and simple.
What I don’t like about del.icio.us is its 255-character limit on annotations. That’s because I like to attach comments about the articles I read and upload them to my blog. There isn’t much you can say in 255 characters. Diigo plugs that gap. It’s a bit clumsier to use, but I can annotate to my heart’s content. Any annotations that I choose to make public are shared with other Diigo users who visit that page. I can also highlight passages and attach sticky notes to sections of the page that others can see.
The real value that I get out of both of these tools, though, is in publishing. I maintain three blogs and two Web sites, so I’m posting new material all the time. Web-based content management systems are slow and awkward to use, so I like to prepare and pre-format as much content as possible before logging on to the server.
For example, on my site’s speaking page, the list of recent appearances is nothing more than a bookmark list from del.icio.us. So are the “Latest News” and “Recent Articles” sections in the two sidebars. All I have to do to update those lists is to add or modify my del.icio.us tags. My site simply grabs the latest feed and displays those entries.
Diigo has cool tools for posting to a blog. When I read something interesting online, I bookmark it with Diigo and write my description and commentary in the annotation box. I attach the appropriate tags and save. When I’m ready to post to my blog, I simply check the boxes next to the relevant bookmarks and Diigo automatically produces a page consisting of every bookmark I’ve selected, along with my annotations. I can edit the entries in the site’s simple editor and then copy and paste the whole thing into my content management system. Here’s an example of what the final output looks like.
Both del.icio.us and Diigo also offer you the option to tell them to post certain bookmarks and annotations automatically to your blog on a daily schedule. There’s no logging in to your content management system and the whole process is transparent. You can read instructions on how to do this on Diigo’s tools page or del.icio.us’ settings page. Here’s an example of what the finished product looks like.
I personally think del.icio.us does a better job of auto-posting, but I still can’t get around that 255-character limit. Given a choice between writing more briefly or settling for a little less than the optimum format, I’ll stick with Diigo.