I am not convinced that this is an efficient
resource discovery technique, but the features of Furl have
certainly caught my attention. In a nutshell, Furl lets you bookmark
pages to the Furl site, annotate the bookmark, and assign keywords
("controlled vocabulary" to us librarians) to the bookmark. Furl not
only stores that information in your "My
Archive" area of its site, but it also
archives a copy of the page as it exists when you bookmark the page.
Whoa! That means you can, in essence, build your own mini version of
Machine. While the personalization features of MyYahoo, MyJeeves
and other search engines offer some annotated-bookmark features,
these are generally tied to marking pages found through a Web search
results page, and none of the my-[search engine] archives the full
text of the page being bookmarked.
can you do with your "Furled" pages? You can run a search of your
bookmarks, which actually goes out and searches the current version
of all the bookmarked pages, not just your annotations of that page.
Work with me here: What that means is that
you can build your own searchable version of the Web, or at least
that corner of it that you are particularly interested in. (If the
search terms don't appear in any of your Furled pages, Furl returns
the first 300 search results from a LookSmart Web search.)
You can also choose to search the universe of Furled pages – not
just your own, but those of all other Furl
members. The search results page shows the links to Furled pages and
a snippet showing your search term in context, the number of other
Furl members who have Furled the page (an interesting indication of
the relative influence of that page), and a link that lets you add
that page to your own Furled bookmarks. One more click and you can
see comments people made when they furled the page;
it's a potentially useful perspective into
what other Furl members are thinking. Interestingly, the results of
an entire-Furl search are relevance-ranked based on PeopleRank (note
the similarity in naming to Google's PageRank). The more Furl
members that Furled the page, the higher its PeopleRank.
What Do I
Use Furl For?
Later Reading. I see a thought-provoking article
and think, "hmm, looks interesting, but I'm not going to have time
to read it in the next few weeks. It's likely to disappear from this
newspaper's site before then. Rather than print it off, I'll just
Furl it and read the archived copy later."
I am conducting Web research and want to save a large
collection of white papers, reports or other resources. While I can
save them to my own computer, I want a copy on another server that I
know is backed up daily.
I see a Web site that I know I will need to use in a month or
two. My short-term memory isn't what it used to be; I would rather
Furl it, with a long note reminding myself of why I care about this,
than try to find it a month from now.
Backup. I am preparing for a
presentation that includes demonstrations of Web sites. While I can
build an HTML page of the URLs I want to show, loading the bookmarks
on Furl ensures that, even if the site I want to show is down, I can
show the archived page from my Furl collection. I can even filter my
Furled bookmarks by topic; for a recent presentation, I loaded all
my bookmarks into Furl and tagged them with a topic name of
"Melbourne 2005". When I started my talk, I just filtered the
bookmarks for that topic and the attendees never had to see my other
Sharing. I want to share my
personal view of the Web with others. While I could always set up a
blog, a different approach is to let my friends and colleagues
subscribe to an RSS feed of the Furled bookmarks (and my associated
annotations) I chose to make publicly available.
I can think of a number of other uses for Furl, but I encourage you
to head over there and try it out yourself. One suggestion, though:
While you can set the default so that your
Furled bookmarks are marked private, play nice and publicly bookmark
the resources you value and that do not violate confidentiality (or
disclose anything to competitors). For example, if your
company is considering entering a new market, it would be best not
to disclose the bookmarks pertaining to that market. For other
bookmarks, though, share them with others. The continuing value of
Furl is not only in its personal Web features,
but in the shared knowledgebase and recommendation system of the
social bookmarking network.
Note that another
social bookmarking service that has gotten some good reviews lately
is del.icio.us. It
offers some nice features if you are interested in seeing what other
people have bookmarked, including an RSS feed of bookmarks added to
del.icio.us on a specific topic. However, as Joshua Schachter, the
creator of del.icio.us concedes, "This system is pre-pre-alpha; many
features have yet to be added. Additionally, many, many bugs remain.
Please be careful." (That sounds like those signs you see in gift
stores: you break it, you buy it!)
objection to del.icio.us is that there is no straightforward way to
keep your bookmarks private. The strong default is to share your
bookmarks and their associated "tags" with other subscribers. While
I understand that this is the way that a social bookmarking system
grows, to virtually require that all bookmarks be public reduces the
system's usefulness for many researchers. If Schachter adds the
ability to set the user default to private, rather than public,
bookmarks, and if Del.icio.us gets past pre-pre-alpha, it would be a
real competitor to Furl.
© 2005 Mary Ellen Bates all rights reserved.