Only connect? No. And get off my lawn.

John’s post on his experiences with the FireFox 3 plugin provided me with one of those OMG moments that happen every so often, mainly when I realise that I’m still a fundamentally web 1.0 person in an increasingly 2.0 world.

My problem with the whole social sharing aspect of delicious is that I actually find delicious rather useful just for me, and began using it as a personal repository of links long before I ever really considered the knowledge sharing aspect.  I regularly switch between three different computers, so having an online set of bookmarks seemed like a very good idea.  It does run a bit too slowly to use it for links that I can remember myself or find with a little effort, but as a place to store links to ‘interesting stuff’ it seemed ideal.  It never occurred to me that anyone would actually look at what I’d been linking, so when someone casually mentioned that they’d read a link I’d tagged I felt rather as though someone had been rummaging through my drawers, raising a sardonic eyebrow here and there and sneering at my much loved Bagpuss socks.  Reading John’s comment that ‘I spend a few minutes each morning looking at what my network has been bookmarking’ reinspired that uncomfortable feeling and created an overwhelming desire to tag loads of (possibly NSFW/offensive) Spore porn to discourage further reading (is it actually possible to troll one’s own delicious page?).

In all honesty, my delicious page isn’t all that useful, even to me, mainly because I could really have put a lot more effort into tagging things in a more meaningful way.  The tags are, in their own way, impressive: they’re so random, generic and inconsistent that they’re actually effectively useless for finding anything – if I want to find something I’m certain I’ve added I’ve resorted to just scrolling through the entire list clicking on possible candidates rather than try to work out which of a screed of undescriptive tags I’ve used.  Although they’re not quite as bad as ‘important‘ or ‘me‘, they’re really not too far off it; combined with creative use of synonyms and avoidance of the ‘description’ and ‘notes’ fields in the tag form, I’ve managed to create a set of bookmarks in which it’s virtually impossible to find anything and which becomes less and less useful and useable the more I add to it.  Go me.

If I’d thought about it in advance, of course, I’d have created separate accounts for work links and personal interest links – except that they’re frequently the same thing, so perhaps I should have two accounts and just duplicate the vast majority of entries?  Perhaps I should have a separate account for each topic I’m interested in? – but then, that completely undermines the point of tagging entries in the first place.  I’ve always felt fairly sheltered from the clashing of different areas of my life as I’m not on FaceBook, but my cunning use of the same ‘anonymous’ handle on delicious, Skype, Twitter, PMOG, Digg, Flickr, FriendFeed (which is a sad and lonely experience when no one you know is on it) and just about everywhere I went has proven to be not the best idea if I’m going to get touchy about people coming across my collection of links on how to play a mage well in World of Warcraft, or that hilarious Craigslist sex baiting prank.

Although I realise it doesn’t sound like it, I do think that the social aspects of tools such as delicious are incredibly useful.  I’ve added links to delicious pages tagged QTI and eassessment (but should it have been e-assessment?) to our assessment domain page, and have found some invaluable resources because of other people’s tagging (similarly, I had more responses to posting details about SURF’s book on Twitter than I did from my blog post on it).  I could make my non-work delicious tags private, but that would mean that they weren’t available to non-work people who would find them useful.  For me, John’s post highlights the increasingly pressing need to be able to define the communities with which we engage rather than being defined by them, the need to respect these different personae, and to reconceptualise the walled garden as user-centric and user-defined rather than something that is imposed on us by disinterested parties for the sake of technological and commercial convenience.

7 thoughts on “Only connect? No. And get off my lawn.

  1. Rowin

    You can make any of your bookmarks private (tick ‘do not share’) to prevent sharing them with others, keeping them private and avoiding the need for a ‘private’ and ‘public’ account.

    I’ll be your friend on FriendFeed :-)

  2. I think a lot of people use Delicious the way you do — it’s designed to be useful to the individual, with the social part as a great thing that happens when so many individuals make their bookmarks public. (I think Livejournal has a useful way of helping people handle personas, with “friends locking” + custom filters, but it’s appropriate to Livejournal and maybe not to any other web service.) In any case, it’s fun to read about people’s delicious experiences first-hand; thanks for writing this down.

  3. I have a friend! :D

    I thought about making non-work bookmarks private, but then they’re not available for the non-work people I’d want to share them with – not like there’s anything I’m ashamed of or anything :) I just don’t think loads of links about warcraft are really what my work colleagues would be interested in!

  4. Ah, I see what you mean. You can still share private bookmarks with specific people (‘for:person’) but you would need to do it for every person (or can you do it for a network?).

  5. Thanks Britta for the Livejournal tip – I’ll look into it as it sounds like it could be really promising for my needs.

    Neil – interesting suggestion about sharing links with a network, if that was possible it could be really useful.

  6. Or at least we would try not to be too interested in how to level Mages in WoW – ;)
    {still resisting a return to Azeroth}

    there are definitely circumstances in which I’m not sure the various communities I’m part of would understand each other, but online tools do offer an interesting reflection on identity and personae.

    the more tools join up the more the way we think about the our online identity should change. I agree that part of the challenge is for people to realize that some of what is publicly available belongs to another part of our life, but I’m not sure to what extent we should be aiming to separate these identities.

    I think part of the tension I feel here is there is a delicate balance between keeping parts of our life (e.g. work and family) distinct and beginning to lose our something of our identity. I’ve seen this most acutely discussed in various theological discussions about the sacred/ secular ‘divide’. The key example there being that people have one set of behaviour on a day of worship (typically Friday, Saturday or Sunday) and a different set of behaviours the rest of the week – and that there’s something quite wrong with that (on both counts).

    For online identity I’m increasingly coming to the conclusion that I’d like to have one online identity that should mirror one offline identity and that people who know me online shouldn’t be surprised if they interacted with me offline (and vice versa). I guess, in my mind, the challenge is not to have different distinct identities (walled gardens) but different levels of disclosure (a labyrinth?) that means I’m not telling everyone everything about me all at once…

  7. Pingback: Rowin’s blog » Blog Archive » Happy median

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