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Marshall's Web Tool Blog

Training and Consulting in New Tools for Effective Web Use

This site is an archive of posts that I hope you will find useful. Please visit my new site at Marshallk.com.

Furl: Tips on Use

When I began this blog I was very excited to run syndicated content on the right side bar, especially obscure but interesting RSS feeds from sources like the del.icio.us tag: wiki feed. That was fun, but I've replaced those feeds on the bottom of the sidebar with streams of what audio files or podcasts I'm listening to, what I'm bookmarking about RSS (feed syndication) and about Search. My bookmark categories are all from my Furl archive, a valuable but under-accessed content stream that is updated far more often than this blog.

I intend to post soon a large piece of writing about how to get the most out of Furl, but for now I thought I'd just post a few things.

Screen shot from Better Days Blog

Furl is a social bookmarking tool, which means you can see other peoples' bookmarks as well as your own. Marking certain categories private is possible, thankfully. It also saves a cached screen shot of what a page looked like when you Furled it (wow), and lets you do many other things as well.

A few things to think about when using Furl:
  • Furl doesn't use the word "tag" like nearly everyone else does. When you chose a topic or multiple topics to save a URL under, that's the Furl equivalent of a Tag - not the keywords field as far as I can tell.
  • Technorati Tag searches are awesome! They search blog posts, flickr photos, delicious tags and Furl topics.
  • Furl is called a Social Bookmarking tool for a reason, so try to contribute to our collective knowledge base with your Topic title choices. For some mysterious and probably technical reason, the world of folksonomic tags operates under a standard of single word tags. So, if you do a multi-word topic then what you save is way less likely to be discovered by someone else. I want to discover things from your Furl archives! Multi-word topics are not the end of the world (they are discoverable by Technorati, but I believe users are much less likely to try looking for multi-word tag searches.) After wikiwax and OneLook, Technorati Tag searches are the first place I go to do research on any topic. Revision: My friend Justin points out that it is better to be found less often with more value to those who are looking specifically for what you are Furling than it is to be found often by people looking for other things in the same general catagory. Point taken: I was thinking from a promotional point of view and one stuck in a world where Social Bookmark users are still relatively few. Let's think big and into the future!
  • Please check the title field before you save something in Furl. If it is blank, has only the website title and not the article title, or is otherwise indecipherable -- then it's not a very social bookmark. You may need to type a few words up there so the rest of us know what it is if we come across it in a search, or if we've subscribed to your feed.
  • The "clipping" field is filled with anything that was highlighted when you clicked Furl. This can save everyone time by showing us the best part of an article from it's Furl bookmark page, without having to go to the original page itself and read the whole article.
  • Furl recommends other users' archives that you might be interested in because of their similarity to what you've saved in your archive. I've taken a few minutes to examine these recommendations by looking first at the last week or so of each person's archive and then at their topic/category titles and number of items filed under each topic. That gives me a good idea if this person is Furling things I want to see. I've subscribed to probably 10 people by email and it is one of the richest content streams I have access to. I'd say that when scanning the headlines I probably click on 40% of them and reFurl as much as 25%. That seems awfully relevant to me.
  • Finally, if you click subscribe to other peoples' archives, I am told that this will effect what else you are recommended to look at by Furl. Some people don't like this. If, for example, you were most interested in music, but your brother (totally hypothetical situation) Furled a huge number of strange web tool links every day, you'd be bummed to find nothing but links to more web tools in your recommendations from Furl - instead of recommendations to music you really want to discover. This problem can be solved by either 1) subscribing only to the most relevant topics of someone else's archive feed, or only those they rank a 4 or 5, or 2) just grab the RSS feed link to their archive and read it through your aggregator instead.
You can check out my whole Furl archive here. Some great examples of very well organized Furl archives that I was recommended by Furl because of our common interests are those of Darlene Fichter, Amy Gahran, and millette.

Remember, social bookmarking is cool because we do it together! Who's in it with us? Nobody but tech nerds? Then searching our collective database isn't going to bring results for anybody but more tech nerds; so let's evangelize to lots of different groups about Social Bookmarking so that all of us can share lots of knowledge with each other. Del.icio.us is a very popular alternative, but it has far fewer built in functions and the User Interface is so bare that I think many non-super-nerds are likely to be intimidated away from full use of it.

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