I used to use Yahoo Bookmarks which maintains a list of Web sites that I could access from any computer. This was a nice idea but I found I didn’t use (or maintain) the bookmarks regularly and the links gradually fell into a state of disrepair. For my most frequently accessed Web sites, I would simply type the start of the address into the browser and simply let auto-complete do its work which was quicker.
A couple of weeks ago, Yahoo launched My Web which overhauled the bookmarks functionality and added the ability to save a copy of the Web page so that the referenced content was preserved in the event that the Web site was subsequently moved or deleted. However, My Web still uses a hierarchical system of folders to store the bookmarks. For example, the Manchester United home page would typically be stored in a folder named ‘Sport-Football-Manchester United’.
Then I discovered social bookmarking (Furl, del.ico.us, spurl) which also saves the state of the Web page and maintains a personal, searchable archive (just like My Web). However, the key difference with Furl (et al) is that all Web pages for all users are stored on a central server. For any Web page, Furl can then quickly display similar, related, associated pages which have also been stored by different Furl users. This is what those Web 2.0 people call ‘social bookmarking’.
Another difference is that Furl’ed pages does not use a hierarchical structure. Instead, stored pages are simply associated with various tags. So, in the earlier example, the Manchester United home page might be tagged as ‘Sport’, ‘Football’ and ‘Manchester’. Note that, unlike My Web, the bookmarked Furl page can be associated with multiple categories. Tagging is the key to effective searching with Furl.
This feature is really useful. For example, I am currently interested in using Microsoft OneNote as a single repository to store information, emails, jottings, to do lists, articles, and even Outlook notes. OneNote has a couple of disadvantages; it uses a proprietary format and is a commercial product. So I searched SourceForge and Freshmeat for an OpenSource alternative without much success. Then I discovered KeyNote which looked promising but wasn’t much different from using outline mode in Emacs.
Then I stumbled across EverNote and, using Furl, immediately got directed towards some more interesting Web based organiser applications like BackPack, JotSpot and possibly even TiddlyWiki all of which immediately get furled.
Another subtle way that Furl affected my usage was that previously I might stumble across a Web site of interest but could not be bothered to file it as (subconsciously) I didn’t want to clutter up my nicely organized bookmarks. With Furl, I tended to add the Web site regardless and simply tag the page as ‘Of interest’.
Another possible use for Furl is to capture ideas for blogs. When you see a Web site of interest, simply tag it as ‘Ideas for Blog’ together with a short comment.