Posted by: 2stepsback | November 1, 2006

Tagging

A tag is a (relevant) keyword or term associated with or assigned to a piece of information (like picture, article, or video clip), thus describing the item and allowing keyword-based classification of information it is applied to.
Tag_(metadata) at Wikipedia

In this article, I’ll introduce you to social bookmarking and show you how to use it to add information about your favorite links on your web site or blog. There are several popular social bookmarking sites – del.icio.us, digg, ma.gnolia, blinklist, simpy, blogmemes, reddit and a lot more. A few are meant for specific audiences, like BandBuzzer and Aardvark for musicians. However, I’ll stick to del.icio.us since I use it extensively every day. You may find one of the others to be more to your liking or suited to your web site.

What is del.icio.us?
del.icio.us is now three years old and was acquired by Yahoo! some time ago. It is basically a place on the web to store and share your bookmarks, but with a few more useful features. The social/collaborative feature makes it very powerful and important for everyone, whether or not signed up with del.icio.us. For a webmaster, it is better to sign up, as it offers more features. We will soon see how. Signing up is totally free.

How it works:
The central concepts of del.icio.us are:
You …
1. share your bookmarks so that everyone else can see what you searched for and found relevant.
2. assign appropriate keywords, known as ‘tags’ to each link. These are the words that you think will be what others (or yourself at a later point in time) will use to look for information that the link contains. This is the crucial “social” aspect which is the driving force behind the success of social bookmarking – the user does the classification and ranking, as against a complex AI program in a traditional search engine.
3. write a compulsory description which explains in plain english (any text can be entered – it needn’t be grammatical or have correct spelling) what the entered link is about. You also have the option of entering notes which is a way of adding your comments or views about the link.
Most importantly,
4. To make this collection of infomation useful, del.icio.us provides a search engine which searches your bookmarks via both the tags, and full text search of descriptions and notes that you’ve provided.

Without signing up
As an anonymous user, you can use del.icio.us’s search engine and get links to web sites having information you are looking for. In effect, del.icio.us is an alternative way of searching the web. To use the search without signing up just navigate to http://del.icio.us and type the words you want to search for, into the search box on the right top corner and click the Search button.

Benefits for webmasters
However, if you sign up, you get access to a lot of additional features. Once you have a decent collection of links to share (this generally happens over a period of days, not hours or minutes, unless you import bookmarks into del.icio.us from your browser), you can generate what are known as ‘link rolls’ and ‘tag rolls’, which are snippets of HTML/Javascript code which you can insert in your blog or web site HTML. Note that if your web site draws heavy traffic, you MUST inform del.icio.us clearly before using their API to generate content. They have a throttling policy in place which will not allow you to abuse or overload their services.

Using del.icio.us link collections
Since del is essentially a service centered around managing bookmarks, it will allow you to add a variety of link collections to your site. But for any other functionality – like displaying a thumbnail collection of your favorite web sites, or showing maps that are related to some of your content, etc., you will have to play around with other APIs like Google Maps/Yahoo UI/GData/etc., mix them with del.icio.us, and writing some decent glue code in your server-side scripting language (PHP/Perl/JSP/Ruby/other) for your specific purposes.

For example, a very basic application would be to obtain results from del.icio.us and fetch all those pages from their respective servers and cache them. Then, show them in IFrames on your single page which thus gives the latest popular information that everyone’s looking at, at one place – your web page.

SEO note
One very important thing that you should know is that all search engines regularly crawl del.icio.us as it is a very high-traffic site. Getting your link listed on del.icio.us is a sure way of making it into Google’s listing. However, manipulating your Page Rank is NOT possible. For that, your web site needs to have good content on your site and at least a decent-sized audience.

del.icio.us link rolls, tag rolls, RSS and HTML APIs

Link rolls
When you log in to your del.icio.us account, click on the Settings link on the right top of the page. The page explains the various settings for your account and gives simple descriptions of available APIs. Go to the “Link rolls” page. IMG – LINKROLLS. As you can see, a number of “Display Options” are available to show a collection of the latest links from your link collection onto your site. As you try out various combinations of number of links, showing/hiding tags and notes, bullets, sorting, etc., the preview appears on the right and the html code for the shown preview appears in the text box above. All you have to do is copy and paste the code into your blog or web page. If you want to customize the colors for your links and tags, a styling tutorial is also provided.

Tag rolls
A similar screen IMG – TAGROLLS is available for display of your del.icio.us tags on your blog or web page. It allows you to change the font size and colors for the tags, the tag count (the number of links marked with that tag) and whether to show your tags sorted alphabetically or by frequency.

RSS
While making link rolls you saw an option to include an “RSS” image button onto your link collection. Choosing this button creates an RSS news feed out of the links that result out of your chosen option. Visitors to your blog or site can then “subscribe” to these feeds. When you choose the del.icio.us RSS button as an icon to show in your link roll, a link is generated pointing to a URL which will later, generate the information you entered for each link in RSS format, on-the-fly. This RSS feed will have the latest content of your link description as present in your del.icio.us account at any time. You do not have to store anything separately.

Networking and Network Badges
del.icio.us has a very important feature called networking. It is a means of keeping track of the links being tagged and stored by other del.icio.us users who you think have very useful bookmarks. From your del.icio.us account, you can at any time view the latest links that users whom you have networked to (in proper jargon, “are a fan of”), have stored. This also works the other way round. If you have a collection of links, any other user can add you to his/her network and from then on, (s)he will be able to see your bookmarks and tags. Finally, if you feel that some user must see a particular link that you have found, you can tag it as being specially marked for that user to see by using the “for:username” tag.
The screens where you generate the HTML code for link and tag rolls also contain an option to generate the message “I am username on del.icio.us” and “Add me to your network”. If you select those options, the code to copy-paste into your HTML will now include code to display those messages as links to your page, so that users can add you to their del.icio.us account.
You can also get the same code by going to the link on the Settings screen which says Network Badges.

Direct URL entry:

To visit the del.icio.us page of any particular user or list all bookmarks on any particular tag, you can simply enter the username or tag or both, to respectively get the del.icio.us page for that user or that tag or that user’s list of bookmarks marked with that tag.
For example:

Now let’s look at combination searches: Let’s say you want to find bookmarks about PHP frameworks. This needs us to show those that are marked with both tags ‘PHP’ and ‘framework’. That is done by:
http://del.icio.us/tag/PHP+framework - [http://del.icio.us/tag/TAGNAME1+TAGNAME2+.....]
As time progresses, your collection will run into thousands of bookmarks. Then, you will need to use filtering extensively. So, to get all PHP frameworks that are open source, you will need:
http://del.icio.us/tag/PHP+framework+open+source

Note that all these will bring up a del.icio.us page, not an XML feed / text stream / etc. So, the best place to use these would be either as links to the del.icio.us page or using an iframe embedded in your web page. You could also fetch the page into your web application, then, using your server-side language, you could parse out the links and generate content using APIs from other sites (for doing other things), to show on your web application.

RSS Feed for a chosen search:
If you take a careful look at the bottom of any of these result pages, you will find a small RSS button that allows you to subscribe to the feed which will be generated as a result of searching for the terms you specified. It should be easy to parse this url, and store it for later use to help in implementing the functionality that you want on your web site.

HTML Feed API:
del.icio.us also provides a public HTML API for extracting data from their huge link database. The official help page lists all APIs provided. So, for example, if you want to display the latest bookmarks on del.icio.us stored by user ‘joshua’ to the tag ‘music’, you will have to request http://del.icio.us/html/joshua/music

Let’s break up the url into its parts:
http://del.icio.us is the basic url for del.icio.us
/html tells del.icio.us that you want an HTML feed
/joshua tells del.icio.us that you want an HTML feed of joshua’a bookmarks – at the moment only tags (of all users) are not allowed -i.e., Only a single user’s tags are allowed.
/music tells del.icio.us that you want only those of joshua’s bookmarks that are marked with the tag ‘music’.

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