or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Library Subject Guides using Diigo

   March 17th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Diigo logoFor awhile now, I've been using the library's Delicious account to create dynamic subject guides on the library's website.

However, now that Yahoo support of Delicious is uncertain*, I thought I'd create a Plan B - using a similar service, Diigo. I set up a Diigo account for the library, and tested how well their linkrolls worked, compared to what I was used to with Delicious. Below are the steps to do this, and the results.

  1. Export Delicious bookmarks
    Log into Delicious, go to Settings > Export / Backup Bookmarks
    It's good to periodically create a backup of all your data on third party servers, anyway
  2. Create a Diigo account
    Easy enough - and they are definitely catering to the Delicious defectors - I saw "how to import your Delicious bookmarks" links almost every page. They also have a Transition from Delicious to Diigo FAQ
  3. Import your bookmarks to Diigo
    Browse to the file you saved, and click Import. After doing this, you'll probably get a "processing" message, and you'll receive an email once the upload is complete and your bookmarks are ready
  4. Create a Diigo Linkroll
    Tools > More Tools... (bottom of the toolbar on the left) > Enhanced Linkrolls

    • I like to uncheck "Icon" and leave "Title" blank
    • Enter the tags you'd like to pull for this linkroll - or more than one tag, if you're using a structured vocabulary like I am. Click the "Retrieve" button to preview on the right
    • Be sure "Show Descriptions" is checked, so your Notes/annotations will be displayed
    • "Count" is how many to display. I prefer more than what they seem to allow, so later in the code I always edit this to count=100 (or more, if you need it)
    • "Style" options seem to be: Standard = no bullets, Simple = bullets, Customized lets you make some changes to colors and fonts

    Lastly, click the "Create Script" button, and you'll see the code in a little box at the bottom. Now you can simply copy/paste that code into your website where you'd like the linkroll to appear.

    By default, every linkroll has kind of an annoying (I think) RSS image at the end of the list. To get rid of this, you can include this code (thanks to Ryan):

    #diigo_linkroll img {display: none;}

Side-by-side comparison
Just for the fun of it, here's what the same "consumer health resources" linkroll looks like (with a little formatting) from both Delicious and Diigo. Below those is the linkroll code itself. Also, check out the live examples of these linkrolls embedded in the library's website:


See live example


See live example

<script type="text/javascript" src="http://del.icio.us/feeds/js/chelmsfordlibrary/consumer+health+subjectguide?title=&sort=alpha&count=100&extended"></script>
<noscript><a href="http://del.icio.us/chelmsfordlibrary/consumer+health+subjectguide">my del.icio.us</a></noscript>
<div id="diigo_linkroll" ><script type="text/javascript" src="http://www.diigo.com/roll2/linkrolls?v=3&username=chelmsfordlib&count=100&style=customize&icon=false&desc=1&l_type=0&i_fam=Arial,sans-serif&i_color=000000&i_size=14&i_bold=true&i_italic=false&i_underline=false&title=&tags=subjectguide%20consumer%20health" ></script></div>

Comparison results
Personally, I like the look of the Delicious linkroll better. My problem with Diigo linkrolls is that they don't seem as flexible as Delicious - for instance, there is no sort option (alphabetical, chronological, etc). Diigo also doesn't seem to offer the failsafe <noscript> tag, for browsers that don't have javascript enabled. Plus, you can't see their CSS styles, so you can't customize as much. I don't like that I can't seem to change the size of the description text, and that it forces a blank line between the description and the title for each bookmark. Because of that, I think you can get an all-around cleaner and tighter look with Delicious.

But, that said, the Diigo linkroll isn't totally unworkable either - just less flexible for control freaks like me. Of course, there are more bookmarking alternatives too.

Oh yeah, the bookmarklet
One reason Delicious is so great for library subject guides is its bookmarklet and toolbar buttons - they let you and your coworkers bookmark websites on the fly, from any computer (where they are installed). Diigo has a toolbar and bookmarklet too - and like with Delicious, I prefer the bookmarklet. For me, this is a must for any bookmarking service.

As a result of this test, I'm not rushing to switch over to Diigo. It'll work if Delicious disappears tomorrow, but I'm still going to test out a few of the other options, to see if I can find one I like a little better. But in the meantime, I feel good that I do have a very workable Plan B in place, just in case.

Update 3/27/11:
I just noticed something interesting - and troubling - about Diigo: they apparently have a "decency" filter that will automatically mark private bookmarks with "questionable" tags - for instance, porn- and illicit substance-related tags. This is a problem for me, not least because the PDRHealth website listed above keeps getting switched to "Private," and hence doesn't display in my Diigo linkroll, because it is tagged "drugs" and "drug." Others found that breast cancer websites tagged with "breast" - and similar scenarios - also automatically get removed from linkrolls. I haven't found a list of taboo tags, so it's just trial and error at this point (my testing shows that "drugs" is okay, but "drug" is not). This is another example why filtering, both here in Diigo and porn filters for computers in general, do not and will not work.

Also, it seems Diigo takes about 5-10 minutes for changes to show up in my embedded linkrolls, which is a fairly decent response time (although I think Delicious was a little quicker, more like 0-5 minutes).


*Read about this from the point of view of a Pinboard developer (a not-free Delicious alternative) - very interesting.

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The Dilemma with Delicious

   December 21st, 2010 Brian Herzog

Leaked Yahoo Slide Showing Delicious SunsetYou probably heard last week that someone leaked that Yahoo was planning on shutting down Delicious - but then later said it will be maintained until a good home could be found.

When I first read this, two things struck me:

  1. This is very bad, considering my library website's subject guides rely on Delicious, plus I've been telling people for years to convert to Delicious
  2. This isn't so bad, because the demise of Bloglines was announced and averted

So, for the time being, I'm not panicking - but it is a perfect reminder that we need to face the realities of third-party tools with eyes wide open. You can integrate anything you want into your website, but remember it may go away at any time. David Lee King has a great post on this (and gwern0's comment is spot-on).

What is a librarian to to? Our options are:

I'm going to be doing a little bit of all of these. Since there is no imminent deadline, I'm going to ignore all of this until after the holidays. Then, I'll backup my bookmarks and start looking at alternatives in case migration becomes necessary. I had been wondering if there was a host-your-own option, so I'm happy to see that. However, although it would be nice to have control myself, I like the shared aspect of these tools. Not to mention I'd be responsible for the maintenance, and there is always the danger of getting stuck in yet another information silo.

If we do have to move, right now I'm leaning towards Diigo because it seems to match most closely the Delicious features I use - namely, linkrolls and a bookmarklet (or toolbar). I haven't investigated very far, but it also looks like importing Delicious links will be easy.

This is just life on the web - nothing is permanent and nothing is irreplaceable. However, the initial "sunset" announcement struck me like a bad Christmas present.

Speaking of which: as usual, I'll be visiting my family for the week of Christmas, and so won't be posting. Because driving this time of year is always weather-dependent, I've been playing with Weather.com's Travel Weather Summary - you type in points along your route and the times you'll be passing through, and it tells you if you'll hit snow there. It's neat, but the interface could be slicker. I've never used it before, so we'll see how accurate it is, and if it's reliable enough to embark on a two-hour detour.

Happy holidays to everyone.

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