Thursday, April 24, 2014

Why is Bookmarking Getting HARDER!?

Why do I feel like bookmarking is getting harder?  You would think that creating an easy to use interface to save, backup, retrieve, search, and browse bookmarks would be a problem that was solved a decade ago, wouldn't you?  But here it is 2014 and not only do I feel like bookmarking links has stagnated, I feel like it's actually going backwards.

I am a bookmark junky.  I admit it.  I have over a thousand bookmarks.  That many bookmarks is useless unless they are organized, sortable, and searchable so that I can find what I need.  And I need it across multiple devices and browsers.   The solution I've been using is an old, but still useful one: bookmarks

When delicious  first came out it was brilliant.  First of all it gave a FREE place to store your bookmarks online so that you weren't out of syn across multiple browsers.  The second innovation was replacing stodgy hierarchical folders with tags.  (Another innovation was sharing and early "social networking" but that's not important to this)

Now that the information was tagged and stored in the cloud, one still needed a user interface to browse, search, and find the bookmarks when you needed them.  Things didn't really improve right away on the U.I front.  Delicious had a website interface, but it wasn't(and still isn't) the fastest way to go.  Other programs and add-ons would take your list of bookmarks and arrange them just like your browser does.  It would take each of your "tags" and treat it like a folder with all your arrange them, it just made all your labels a "folder".

But then came... the delicious firefox add-on.  This add-on was the epitome of bookmarking User Interface.  It was fast, easy to use, and makes finding my obscure bookmarks fast, easy, and accurate.  More on the brilliance of this add-on later.

Delicious was king of cloud bookmarking, but then I it stagnated as other sites came along and innovated new features.  Features like grabbing a screenshot of a bookmark, or grabbing a copy of the whole page.  Others would remember how far down you had scrolled.  The whole time though, Delicious just stayed the same.  Why did Delicious stagnate?  I don't know.  Maybe it was yahoo's fault?  Maybe it the underlying technology that kept it from being further improved, I don't know.

But even as others got better bookmarks, none (in my not so humble opinion) ever created as great a U.I. as the official Delicious Firefox add-on.  Therefore, over the years, I have continued to use the Delicious service despite the stagnation.  I have remained content with it even though the add-on has also stagnated because it's still the best U.I. I have found.
But disaster struck.  Yahoo sold the Delicious service to AVOS.  At first, I was overjoyed at the news.  I thought that it might mean they would start investing in improving the add-ons(like maybe a Chrome add-on that's as good as the firefox one), and start making the bookmarks better.  They even took the existing add-on and rebranded it in the mozilla store.  Unfortunately, my experience with Delicious since AVOS took over has been a fucking nightmare.

One of the first things AVOS did was change the add-on to a web-based pile of shit.  I clung to the old add-on like a cat trapped in a tree.  I installed the old version and just kept using it.  But then AVOS started mucking around with API and it quit working.  Fortunately, some heroic netizen saved the old add-on and somehow modified it to keep working.

But, this month, my luck has finally run out.  I can't find the old version anywhere, and AVOS has mucked around with the API again.  This time by launching a new website.   My old add-on is dead, it'll never add, update, or remove a delicious bookmark again.  And the new "service" that AVOS offers really is a piece of shit.

So what was so great about the old one?  I'll show you.  This is a picture of the add-on.
Delicious firefox plugin picture

The first thing that I like is that I can choose to always display my bookmarks in a sidebar.  Since most websites limit their width and I work on a widescreen, I lose no website real estate by having it there.  So it's always there that I can quickly go to it when I need something that I know I'd already found before.  But if I did want it to go away I could use either ctrl+b or click the "x" on the window.

The second thing is the separation of the Tag list from the bookmark list.  I can select a tag, and below it displayed the bookmarks under that tag.  This is far different from the traditional stodgy tree view where the bookmarks are inserted into the tag tree and it actually makes it more difficult to find other tags.

The third thing is the 1 layer of nested labels.  As you can see I have 3 sites under the tag "SQL", but 1 of the sites also has the tab "join" and another the tag "Programming" so that if I'm browsing for something I can further narrow down my search.

The fourth thing is the Search.  I can Search just Tags or tags and bookmarks.  And the search checks the bookmark URL, title, and description for matches.

The fifth thing is choosing how the tags and bookmarks are sorted in the display.  I can do oldest to newest, most frequently used, etc... and I can quickly change the option within the interface without opening a cludgy "options" page.

The sixth thing is the easy add bookmark integration.  There is a button that pulls up a new popup window to add the current page to a bookmark.  If text on the page is highlighted, it automatically adds it to the description page, it recommends tags for the page(if any) and also an easy check box to make the bookmark public or private.

Finally, the auto saving of the site's "favicon" is a great visual indicator when looking for a specific bookmark, and gives my eyes something to look at besides text.
New P.O.S. Delicious Firefox service
The new integration isn't technically an "add-on" it is a "service" so I was able to leave the old one on for comparison sakes.  If you're like me, you took one look at the AVOS delicious "service" and said "What. The. Fuck. AVOS?"

Going down the list of things that I liked and compare.  First, It is a sidebar so that's good.(I don't care if it's on the left or right)

The second thing is that tags and bookmarks are separated.  I can choose a tag, but they are in a weird "word cloud" format that I have trouble looking at.  Also hard to look at is the giant text of the bookmark titles make it so that I can't easily scan the titles.  Oh and there is a bunch of junk at the top of the widgit so that I have to scroll half way down just to see the tags and bookmarks.  So this is mostly(but not totally messed up)

Third thing, no nested labels so that's completely busted.  Fourth, the Search option I have to scroll up and I can't choose just tags - so that's completely busted.  Fifth, can't sort tags or bookmarks - completely busted.  Sixth, the "add bookmark" feature is a clunky interface and it doesn't insert my highlights into the text - mostly busted.  Finally, no favicons.

The awfulness doesn't end there.  The "settings" button just takes me to a page where I can update my profile.  At the bottom it has a link for feedback(oh AVOS, don't even go there!  Maybe I'll send them a link to this post.)

I was DONE with Delicious when this happened and was going to finally make the move to google bookmarks since it had the most add-ons.  You know what I discovered, while it's add-ons (both for firefox and Chrome) are better than the new AVOS ones, they are all the old stodgy treeviews.  None of them are as streamlined as the old official Delicious firefox add-on.  None!  (if you find one, please let me know because it'll save me a TON of work)
So here is what I'm going to do dear readers.  I am taking matters into my own hands.  I am going to write a google Chrome Add-on for delicious bookmarks that works like the old Delicious Firefox Add-on.

I'm going to start with a Chrome Add-on since I've been meaning to move to it.  I'll have the U.I. work with Delicious first since that's where my bookmarks are still being held.  I am just going to recreate the features of the old one first.  Once that is up and ready I'll release it to the world and hopefully will get some feedback.

After that, my pipe dream would be to add some features to it.  I'd also like to make it work with google bookmarks since I don't think AVOS and delicious will be around for much longer.  And finally, maybe make a firefox add-on so that I can easily switch between the two browsers.

If you have an idea what to call my new add-on, leave me a comment.  Right now I'm leaning towards "Easy Bookmarks" with the tagline: "bookmarking done right".  But I bet some reader will come up with a better name.

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