Tell Me About Diigo
How many of you made the switch from Windows 3.11 (or WFW 3.1) to Windows 95? Come on.. I know there’s more of a couple of you that have. What was one of the biggest difference between the two OSs? Better network drivers? Improved memory management? Unified driver model?
I would hazard to say that one of the biggest differences was the ability to do most operations in the OS in more than one way. Sure, now we take it for granted; but back then it was huge. There were a lot more right-click context menus. The control panel was completely overhauled. For the first time in Windows, you were able to tasks such as changing your background image either from the control panel or directly from a right-click on the desktop.
Keep this in mind as we explore Diigo, the web bookmarking research tool and community. As I researched it for this review, I got the same feeling of having multiple paths to a goal. The developers tried very hard to let you use the service the way that best fits your workflow. And that isn’t a bad thing!
It’s an understatement to say that Diigo has a lot of features. In fact, it’s so feature-packed that it’s hard to summarize accurately. But, I think using an iceberg as an analogy is apt here: It all starts with bookmarking and annotation. But what Diigo wraps around that core functionality is its true strength.
Here’s a few of the features that Diigo provides just for signing up:
- Web bookmarking, including importing and auto-exporting to other bookmarking services
- Annotations via highlighting and floating sticky notes
- Manage saved bookmarks and web annotations using tags, list, or plain text search
- Huge number of content sharing options, including groups, shared lists, sticky note discussions, automated blog postings, a quick send-to-blog feature and email support
- A unique toolbar that enables Diigo features for Internet Explorer, Firefox and Flock. A sophisticated bookmarklet for other browsers like Safari, Opera and Maxthon. The Safari bookmarklet seems to work well with Google’s Chrome.
- A variety of widgets for use on a blog site including linkrolls, tagrolls, and a convenient add button
- An informational sidebar that can be opened within a browser with the Diigo toolbar installed
- Enhanced right-click menus within the browser
- A cached-page slide show feature
- An open API
I’ll group these features in to functional categories as I go in-depth: toolbar, information gathering, social features, importing/exporting and sharing.
All the magic with Diigo begins with a free download and install of the Diigo Toolbar. Unlike browser toolbars of questionable usefulness, the Diigo toolbar enables all of Diigo’s research and reference features tightly within the browser. Everything is customizable, from what tools you want to see on the toolbar to what menu options you want visible when you right-click on a highlighted portion of text.
The toolbar enables not only web page highlighting and URL bookmarking, but also exposes other folks’ public sticky notes, as well as their page descriptions and tags if you have the sidebar turned on. Also from the toolbar, you can access all the different areas of the Diigo web site, such as the dashboard, books, lists, groups and friends’ pages.
Alternatively, you can use a bookmarklet that Diigo provides to highlight and bookmark web pages. However, the Diigolet does not have all the capabilities of the toolbar, and it only lasts until you go to a new web page URL, after which you will have to select the bookmarklet again.
If you are having problems with the Diigolet, you can use the “Post to Diigo” bookmarklet which is a simple redirect to the Diigo bookmark page pre-populated with your current page’s information.
The toolbar also allows you to enable keyboard accelerators for toggling the sidebar, making a bookmark or quick bookmark, and creating a floating note.
There are a number of ways to get a bookmark or annotation into Diigo. The quickest is on the Diigo My Bookmarks page, on the right is a quick-entry text box for adding a bookmark URL. This will bring you to a web version of the normal Diigo tagging page.
By far the most common and recommended way of bookmarking and annotating is via the Diigo toolbar or Diigolet. In this mode you would browse the internet as usual, and when you get to a page you would like to bookmark, simply click the bookmark button. This will bring up a bookmark pop-up window where you can add a description and tags to your bookmark, as well as some social options such as sharing the bookmark with groups, lists, or specific other friends. You can also e-mail the bookmarklet.
All of the above is actually optional – if you click on the book icon, the Diigo toolbar will send the bookmark to the server as ‘unread’ and with no tags. If your process involves you reviewing your bookmarks later, this can be a handy feature.
If you prefer to use Diigo more as a clipping tool, you have the ability to highlight sections of web pages, and the page with the edits will automatically be sent to Diigo’s servers. Think of this like using a yellow highlighter on a reference text – but the location and text you highlight is instantly searchable and reference-able. For example, if you read a lot of articles with notable quotes, you can easily highlight the quote and you immediately get the text and where you found it stored on the server.
Highlights can also be tagged once they are stored on the server. However, in order to do this you either have to click on the bookmark button and add tags, or follow up when you visit your bookmarks on Diigo bookmark list web page.
Using the comment button allows you to add a floating sticky note to the current web page. Once the sticky note is in place, it will show up as a yellow “dialog bubble” that shows you the number of comments that have been left. If you set your comment to be public, other Diigo users will see the comment when they visit the same URL and will have the ability to respond to it.
Both highlighting and commenting are considered as “annotations” in Diigo. If you highlight multiple sections of the same page, each highlight region is considered a single annotation, as is each comment.
A final note about combining highlight and comment: If you select a web site region, and then select highlight and comment from the highlight pull-down menu, your comment will pop-up whenever your hover the mouse pointer over any of the highlighted text. Also, the highlight color is blue instead of yellow. You can attach a comment this way at a later time as well, just select add sticky note from the pop-up menu when hovering over a highlighted area.
Also, keep in mind that adding a note to highlighted text depends on the text remaining the same on the URL you are referencing. If you want to leave a comment on a frequently-updated URL (like CNN) if you create the floating sticky note outside of any highlights, it will remain there even if the text of the page completely changes.
The send button is fairly self-explanatory on the surface. This is a multi-purpose dialog that allows you to email a bookmark to any email address, or one of your colleagues on Diigo, a group, or just to leave a note without specifically sending it to anyone.
However, if you use the pull-down menu on the send button, you will notice you can also send the annotations to a pre-configured blog, Twitter, or Facebook! Very handy if you are more invested in one of those other social tools for sharing information with your friends or colleagues. If you select any of these options, you will be taken to a service-specific Diigo page where you can set up access to the service before sending.
There are a few more options that the Diigo toolbar allows. First, you can enable a customizable search window that defaults to Google. However, it also allows searching for key terms across dozens of different services. You can also get to this selection by highlighting a term on a web page and right-clicking on it, then using the search web menu tree to select the service to search in.
To the right of all of that are some default ‘filters’ that you can click on to get views on your list of bookmarks and annotations on Diigo. The two defaults are recent and unread, which are fairly self-explanatory. If you click on the Add a Filter button, you can create a new filter that combines a type of filter with a list of tags to narrow down the list.
Setting up a combination of tags and filters can be very handy if you want to segregate your annotations in a particular way. Of course, you can use lists or groups for this, but that is the beauty of Diigo – there are always multiple ways of achieving a certain result – it is entirely up to you how you achieve those results.
I’ve touched on some of the social aspects Diigo enables (if you wish to use them) in the previous section. However, there are a lot so I will attempt to give a comprehensive overview of what is available. It all starts with friends!
Diigo, like pretty much every social-enabled web application, allows you to connect with other people on the service. This works pretty much how you expect, you can allow Diigo to peek at your address book on one of a number of different web email platforms, or import a contact list from a standalone email application. You can also let it look at your instant messenger account. It also knows what people have already registered for the service, so there is a way of only asking to connect to friends and not spam everyone in your contact list.
Once folks are added as friends, you can add them to contact lists that you maintain. This is great if you have different ‘sets’ of friends whom you might want to send different types of links or annotations to. For example, you could group them into real life friends, Facebook friends, and social media friends. Your real life friends might not be interested in your social media links, but they might be interested in LOLcats.
Once in a contact list, when annotating, you can choose to email the link or send it on Diigo. Your login has its own mailbox on the site to keep track of annotations that others send to you.
I wanted to make a note here and say that there are a couple of types of lists in Diigo. Here I have been talking about contact lists, but there is also the concept of bookmark lists which we will get to in the next section.
Beside direct adding of contacts as described above, Diigo has a number of ways to find new people you may not know personally. These are grouped under the heading of Meet People on the Diigo web site. From here, there are a number of helpful tools you can use to explore Diigo’s social network:
- People Like Me – This will analyze your recent bookmarks and annotations, and list people based on similarity. When I tried this, no one listed was higher than 6% compatible. I am guessing this could vary widely depending on what and how often you annotate web pages.
- New To Diigo – Pretty self-explanatory, this gives you a list of the newest registered Diigo users.
- Featured People – This shows you Diigo users who have been featured for some reason. This is a new feature and consequently not well-documented, however, I believe Diigo employees will ‘feature’ particularly active or interesting users. Consequently, these may be interesting folks to follow.
- Search People – This gives you the ability to search under a number of different criteria for Diigo users. You can find everyone who uses a specific set of tags, by name, if they have bookmarked a particular URL or web site, and even (under advanced search) for people who have filled out their user profile categories such as industry, language, region or and city, or any combination of these.
Import and Export
Diigo tries to support many ways to import and export your data. You can import bookmarks from many services such as Delicious, Magnolia, Simpy and Furl, and you can export your Diigo data into formats such as: IE bookmark, Netscape bookmark, RSS format, CSV format, and Delicious.
In addition, you can import directly from your browser’s local bookmarks either via the toolbar or by uploading the file you generated from your browser by exporting your bookmarks. You can also enable auto-synchronization of bookmarks to Delicious, Magnolia, Simpy, and/or your local browser via the Diigo toolbar.
Diigo has a rich, somewhat bewildering range of ways to share your bookmarks with your friends and others on Diigo. There are bookmark lists, groups, site communities and tag communities. Each of these formats presents a different way to share organize and share information, and not only bookmarks and annotations (although those are usually the primary focus). Also, there is a rich message center and even a wall a la Facebook!
- Bookmark Lists – This is the simplest form of sharing. You can easily create any sort of list you want, and give it any name you want. You can make this list public or private, assign it a description and tags, and control which direction the list is updated (ascending or descending by date). Your public lists can be viewed by anyone and you can hand out a special URL for people to view it even if they don’t have a Diigo login. Even though they can be made public, what other people can do with them is limited. This is the most like other online bookmark utilities like Delicious.
- Groups – This is Diigo’s version of a knowledge portal. Groups can be created under a number of different categories, and you can invite people to your group if you create one. Newly-created groups go in to the portal menu for others to find and join. Group members can add annotations, make comments on same and create discussion threads within the group forum. Bookmarks can also be ‘thumbed’ if they are particularly relevant or noteworthy. This is a powerful social feature of Diigo and the best one if you are working within a research or study group which requires discussion and sharing of resources.
- Site Communities – This is an auto-generated list of bookmarks centered around particular web sites, like Wikipedia (community) or ReadWriteWeb (community). Not only can you see what (public) annotations are being created for these sites, but also any bookmark comments and other Diigo users that have bookmarked a URL for that site.
- Tag Communities – Similar to site communities, this takes any tag or combination of tags and gives you a custom list of all public annotations that have been tagged similarly. It also suggests ‘related tags’ in case you are not finding a particular bit of information with your current tag search. This is a very powerful tool for honing in on web sites that share the same sort of information, based on the tags that Diigo users use.
- Message Center – This is similar to a site-based mail utility, where you can send your friends, contact lists, anybody or nobody a message. You also have available a number of ‘views’ on to your saved messages and notes. If you starred any bookmarks in a group or community, those will show up here as well. Also, if you created a note to nobody either on an external site or from within the message center, this will also show up here under the notes tab, as well as any annotations you have made.
- Wall – If you want to scribble something on another Diigo user’s comment wall, you can do it here. This is found at the bottom of the Diigo user’s profile page. This works almost identically to Facebook’s wall.. if you are logged in, leave a message and go.
Other Miscellaneous Tidbits
- Linkrolls and Tagrolls are great if you want to give your Diigo profile more visibility, and provide readers of your blog or site with a convenient way to find you.
- Most pages on Diigo that has a list of annotations will also have a play webslides and a (on your lists mostly) RSS output button on the upper-right-hand side of the page. This is handy if someone has made a ‘tour’ containing a number of URLs and/or annotations and they are best viewed in order. RSS output, of course, is handy if you want to see updates to a particular list in a feed reader.
- Public bookmark lists can be sent via Diigo message or email to an individual or list, or it can be published on any of dozens of different sharing sites.
- There is a great, comprehensive help site here: Diigo Help Center
Diigo is easy to get started with, and hides a huge amount of flexibility and functionality. To get the most out of this utility, it is not necessary to use all of its features, but it is definitely good to familiarize yourself with everything that it can do, in case you may need that functionality at a certain point in the future.
Diigo tries to be very open with the ability to import and export data from a variety of sources, going so far as to offer auto-syncing back to the browser and other popular bookmarking sites. You can also set up automated compilation postings of your Diigo activities to your blog daily or weekly.
Diigo groups, in my opinion, is a game-changer in the area of online annotation utilities. Groups bring a community portal with message forum support directly in the application, with the focus being the bookmarks and annotations. For certain groups of people, say for librarians or researchers, I think Diigo groups will be a big hit.
One feature that other sites such as Magnolia, furl and Iterasi have that Diigo is somewhat lacking in is making a ‘snapshot’ of a web page when a bookmark or annotation is created. Thumbnail views seem to be non-existant and cached pages are only created in certain specific cases. If you are a visually-oriented person that can quickly identify a site by its ‘look,’ this is one feature that would be good to have.
Diigo also can overwhelm the first-time user. However, I believe this is why they bill the utility as a ‘research tool’ .. there is a lot of functionality and not much of it is fluff. As I was researching Diigo for this article, it really started to click together with me and there isn’t as much overlap in the functionality as I initially thought.
My advice would be to start off treating it like Delicious and move in to the other features slowly. Use the help center and this document as a guide to how to use Diigo to its fullest.
Bottom line? Diigo presents a stunning amount of functionality for the low, low price of free! Definitely recommended.
Categorised as: Review