Tag Archives: tags

How Delicious it was

The words from Big yellow taxi come to mind

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone

That’s how it’s suddenly hit me with the news about Yahoo terminating the popular social bookmarking  site, Delicious. I haven’t felt this disappointed since Ning stopped free service. Delicious was one of the first Web 2.0 tools I used and raved about to other people. Not only an extremely efficient way to save links and render them searchable via tagging, but also a very transparent way to follow what other people are reading and saving.

I’m slow off the mark with this post; so many people have already tweeted and blogged their despair but it’s taking a while to settle in. At first I thought, oh well, I still have Diigo. And actually, I’ve been sending my links to Delicious via Diigo for some time since it’s so easy to use Diigo’s bookmarklet for recording essential information, and since, like others, I’ve used the automatic Diigo to Delicious function.

But then today I decided to have a look at my Delicious and realised how easy it is to see what people in your network are reading and saving. The beauty of Delicious is in the Network. Not only can I see what someone in my network is reading and saving, I can see an alphabetical listing of their tags, their tag bundles and their lists. This means I have an insight into the way their thinking, what’s important to them, the direction they’re taking.

And now I’m lamenting not using Delicious as well as I should have. Why didn’t I use tag bundles or make lists? Typical that I’d want to start now that Delicious is on its last legs.

Seriously, many people have written about the demise of Delicious with informative alternatives. I like Anne Mirtschin’s post. Anne’s not a whinger like me; she’s a postive, forward thinking person who remains open to future possibilities.

Just the other day, when Anne read on Twitter that @ggrosseck and I were wondering if we could trust cloud applications, if we  should stop promoting Web 2.0 tools to colleagues, Anne responded with her characteristically unwavering conviction:

“Never any guarantee on the future of any Web 2.0 but will always be alternative”.

Wise words, Anne, very true.

Good luck, everyone, in exporting your Delicious bookmarks and finding alternatives.

Back to Wordle

Further to my previous posts about Wordle (here, here, and here), I discovered in Box of Tricks excellent uses of Wordle by different teachers. One teacher used Wordle for a pre-reading strategy, and made two wordles from two different newspaper articles on the theme they were studying. Each student, armed with dictionaries, had to guess the gist of one of the two, then explain to the other student what they thought the article was about. The teacher supplemented this with further vocabulary discussion, displaying the Wordle on the interactive whiteboard. Finally, students looked at the full-text articles. The teacher saw the value of Wordle, ‘not only as a text analysis tool, but also as a tool to elicit speaking and creative writing’.

A class of 5-7 year olds used Wordle as a visual voting tool. They brainstormed a list of words following an excursion, then voted on the ones they felt were most significant. The size of the most popular words was very obvious in the Wordle.

Wordle has been discovered to be useful in different areas of the curriculum, eg. Visual art, Maths (representing data), English (vocabulary and spelling), brainstorming a topic or theme as an introduction or reflection tool, and eLearning/ICT (presenting information).

Some excellent pedagogical reasons for using Wordle were raised:
– Wordle’s visual attractiveness can make a dull text analysis task more attractive, motivating students to complete the task;
– By capturing the gist of a text, it helps pupils focus on the vocabulary, register and grammar in a simple and engaging way;
– its electronic form enables it to be adapted to different media, eg. paper, blogs, interactive whiteboards, etc.

Nick Peachey, on his blog, outlined how Wordle is useful for language teachers:
Revision of texts: students could look at the Wordle and try to remember and reconstruct the text;
Students can make predictions based on the Wordle of the text they are about to study; they could check the meaning of vocabulary before reading the text;
a Wordle could be a prompt for reconstruction of a dialogue;
Students could examine a Wordle made from a short poem, and write a poem of their own from the Wordle, then compare their poem with the original;
A Wordle could be made from different text genres, and students could guess the genre and give reasons for their decision;
Wordles could be made from different poems, and students could guess the poet from the Wordle;
Students could make Wordles from a text they write introducing themselves to the class; these could be displayed, and students could try to guess the person from the Wordle; or they could exchange Wordles and use them to introduce each other;
A research topic could be introduced by a Wordle, and students’ pre-knowledge could be tested by asking how they think the word is related to the topic; after further research is carried out, the Wordle could be used as a prompt for an oral presentation;
Wordles based on topics to be studied could be displayed at home for revision of vocabulary;

Above all, most teachers really appreciated the simplicity and versatility of Wordle. I’m amazed at the number of pedagogical uses people have discovered for this simple, attractive tool.

Very much like Wordle, another tag cloud application: TagCrowd

Just when you thought that Wordle was the be-all-and-end-all of the word tag cloud, along comes TagCrowd.com The tag cloud above is generated using Senator John McCain’s statement regarding the continuing Wall Street saga and the US government’s $85 billion bailout of AIG. The result is a handy visualisation of the most frequently used words in the speech. These word visualisations were found on The Online NewsHour in a post entitled ‘McCain pushes regulation, Obama blames failed economic philosophy in AIG statements.’

Here is Barack Obama’s reaction in a word cloud:

How is Tagcrowd different from Wordle? Both applications require the user to enter text, url or file for cloud generation. But whereas with Wordle, fonts, layouts and colour schemes can be tweaked, TagCrowd has more options for greater manipulation. The user has control of things, such as setting a maximum number of words to show in the cloud, setting a minimum frequency (not showing infrequent words), showing frequencies or not (word count next to word), ignoring words from a stoplist (ie. customised list of words to be removed), grouping similar words (eg. learned, learns, learning), ignoring common English words (eg. and, of, me), and other options. TagCrowd also allows the user to print a full-screen version of the tag cloud.

TagCrowd is more specific about the possible uses of the tag cloud:
‘When we look at a text cloud, we see not only an informative, beautiful image that communicates much in a single glance, we see a whole new perspective on text.’

There are some good suggestions for TagCrowd’s applications: topic summaries for speeches and text; a blog tool or website analysis for search engine optimisation; visual analysis of survey data; help for writers and students in reflecting on their work; and others.

I put in my blog url, and the result seems to have captured the front page:

Wait a second, which life is this?

While thinking about how problematic Second Life can be, I came across a phrase by Alex Iskold in a post he wrote last year on the ReadWriteWeb site, ‘our inevitable digital future’, and it got me thinking. We can kick or turn away as much as we like, but the future will still be digital. Iskold coins the term ‘Digital Life’, defining it as ‘a collective of the virtual world technologies that are bringing life to the digital realm’. He also points out that the core of Second Life is social, unlike virtual world video games which are quests. Digital Life, according to Iskold, is a set of technologies that aims to put a digital realm on top of our reality. He compares this to ‘magical glasses that overlay digital information on top of real-world scenes as you walk around. The closest modern version of this technology is Google Earth, a detailed 3D visualisation of the earth’. This application tags and annotates our physical world with digital tags which, according to Iskold, makes our world much richer.

It’s natural for us to sometimes resist change or, at least, to be uncomfortable about it. I suppose it’s a basic survival instinct, testing the waters before jumping in. But I think that, over time, we will be able to see more practical and inspirational applications of Digital Life. The bigger picture is yet to become clear for us. I agree with Iskold – life is becoming more digital and digital is becoming more alive.

#16 Taste test

ellie eat icecream

Originally uploaded by Liquang

It’s a bit like piggybacking. Del.icio.us, that is. I jump on the back of a person I revere, a person whose blogs, wikis, professional guidance I’ve been following, and suddenly I’ve hit the jackpot! Somehow I’ve managed to legally ‘steal’ someone else’s hard work, time and mental journeys. Of course, I also develop my own social bookmarking links on Del.icio.us. It’s all fair. Although I have to warn those who think my Del.icio.us links are worth ‘stealing’ that my path to bookmarking is slightly crooked, and that they’ll be plunged into a randomness that only I can decifer.Tagging is magical. As far as I’m concerned, it’s like waving a magic wand. It has freed the outdated subject heading, that hallowed entity that demands strict adherence to its unflinching laws. I started using Furl before I tried Del.icio.us, but it doesn’t bring up previously generated tags for you to grab like Del.icio.us does. Like many new Web 2.0 applications, Del.icio.us can be pulled out of the hat of any computer; the memory stick is redundant (no viruses!)One more thing, before you fall asleep – if you customise the del.icio.us URL, eg. http://del.icio.us/tag/wiki, you’ll get a combined view of the most recent links tagged with the last word, in this case, “wiki”. I think I’ll play around with that for a while… 

#12 Google docs

Some Questions Can’t Be Answered by Google

Originally uploaded by Mykl Roventine

The unmistakable beauty of Google Docs is that they can be saved and accessed on any computer. It seems that all good things are free-floating. We’re no longer anchored to one harbour. That goes for del.icio.us, furl, librarything and others I can’t think of at the moment.
I played with a google doc, created a folder, was able to see ‘all revisions’ made and how long ago, compared different versions of the document. The ‘sharing’ aspect is cool. This is the meat in the Web 2.0 sandwich, the networking aspect. I had the option to invite people either as collaborators or as viewers. I could even give my ‘collaborators’ permission to invite other collaborators. A socialnetworking army! I feel so powerful!
Lastly, you get the option of saving the document in different formats: html, open document (what the…), pdf, rtf (what the…), text, word – have a look for yourself.
Zohowriter was similar, and enabled me to save folders as tags, ensuring easier location and access. Inserting images is apparently easy, and you can post it to your blog. You can also make a draft post. The ‘add comments’ feature is useful for teacher/student interaction.

#7 Librarything

My Book – Bound Edge

Originally uploaded by kate e. did

I’ve been ‘cataloguing’ my books on Librarything for a while now. It appeals to my sense of order and love of storing data neatly. If I’m looking for book information for a talk, instead of looking through masses of separate word documents in folders saved all over the place, there it all is in one spot. Each book is instantly recognisable by the book cover – you can choose the exact cover you have in your library – and at a glance you can peruse for genre or keyword by looking at the tags. Bibliographic information is there. Two things I particularly like is that you can find out what others think about the book (social data – click on the icon of two peope under ‘shared’ on the right) and put in your own synopsis or review. Usually I choose one or more reviews from journals or blogs or whatever, and copy them in. Not sure if that’s a problem with copyright, but it’s just so that I’ve got everything at hand when I need to talk about a book. The comments by others is a good alternative to the more formal reviews of journals. Down to earth. It’s a place where you’re allowed to say you couldn’t stand the book.