Hack 9. Use del.icio.us to Keep Up with Google Maps

Other people want to help you keep up with Google Maps (and anything else)!

What would you say to a world-wide community of people who spend a great deal of effort to maintain a chaotic but powerful set of links to most of the most interesting material that is available on the Web? How about "thank you" and welcome to http://del.icio.us/?

Quoting from http://del.icio.us/doc/about, Joshua Schacter created del.icio.us as a:

…social bookmarks manager. It allows you to easily add sites you like to your personal collection of links, to categorize those sites with keywords, and to share your collection not only between your own browsers and machines, but also with others.

One key to the service is that your collection of links is intrinsically shared with others. So you can use del.icio.us to manage your own bookmarks, or you can just browse other people's links. Once you create an account by going to http://del.icio.us/register and picking a username and password, you can use the service to bookmark your own links.

A major part of the power of del.icio.us comes from the ability to tag your links. A tag is just a bit of text that you feel categorizes the link. Figure 1-24 shows a page of links that I tagged with the gmaps tag.

Figure 1-24. del.icio.us posts about Google Maps

Since all bookmarks on del.ico.us are shared, you can look at other sites that people have tagged with the same tags. So if you wanted to see all of the sites tagged with gmaps, you can click on "gmaps from all users" or go directly to this url: http://del.icio.us/tag/gmaps. Or to see the sites tagged with gmap, try http://del.icio.us/tag/gmap. Other people use googlemaps and google_maps, so you can get to those with http://del.icio.us/tag/googlemaps and http://del.icio.us/tag/google_maps.

Once you've looked at other people's links, you will want to create your own. Joshua provided some nifty little bookmarklets that you can drag onto your bookmark toolbar. When you find a page you want to remember, you just click on this bookmarklet in your own toolbar. This will bring up a form like that shown in Figure 1-25. (There are a few different bookmarklets, so yours might look slightly different.)

Figure 1-25. Bookmarking a page in del.icio.us

When you click on the "post to del.icio.us" bookmarklet, it copies the URL and title from the current page and then pre-fills the "post to del.icio.us" form. You then can add an extended description and tags.

If you wish, you can totally ignore the rest of the world and use tags that are only meaningful to you. Or, you can strive to use a set of common and authoritative tags in all of your links.

Well, you could use that set of common and authoritative tags, except that no such thing exists, nor, really, is it capable of existing. The problem of classifying web pages is so difficult that it has driven otherwise brilliant people to near lunacy. And some of those folks were even Perl programmers!

So instead of a set of authoritative taxonomies, del.icio.us allows you to roll your own. In the case of the link shown in Figure 1-24, I decided that the tag gmaps (for Google Maps), fit, since the article is about connecting a GPS to a mobile phone and then loading maps from Google Maps onto the phone.

Of course, gps also fits, since there is a GPS in the system, and mobile phones are mobile, so I threw both of those in as well. Multiple tags are supported, and encouraged; they just need to be separated by spaces.

Why did I use gmaps instead of gmap? This brings up a weakness of these informal taxonomies; sometimes they are too informal, and redundancy creeps in. Did I say creeps? No, redundancy doesn't creep in, it is thrust in! Heaved in, piled in so that the resulting taxonomy creaks from the weight of repetition.

And it turns out that this overwhelming cruft of repetition just doesn't matter. The ability for everyone to create meaningful categories that work for them, while allowing everyone to share in this collective taxonomical work, has created a system of incredible power.

Tag-based classification systems are jumping into existence all over the Web. So much so, that they have fostered the term folksonomy to describe these "folk"-driven taxonomies. Folksonomies have thrilling emergent properties, such as automatically generating taxonomies, and providing the data to allow for automatic generation of link clusters. Folksonomies also have weaknesses, and few people are suggesting that professional taxonomy be eliminated!

del.icio.us has lots of cool features, and it is in a state of continual improvement. One of the neat features is that you can subscribe to tags and to users. So if you subscribe to the gmaps, gmap, googlemaps, and google_maps tags, interesting links will just magically appear in your del.icio.us inbox, and you will get continual updates on what is happening with Google Maps.

Our friend (and Mapping Hacks contributor) Mike Liebhold maintains an extensive set of links to geo-related topics: mapping, GIS, GPS, and so on. He created the del.icio.us account starhill_blend as a repository for his absurdly detailed subscriptions to geo-related web sites. Sometimes two-thirds of the posts will be about Google Maps, but he is looking at everything from location-based-game to psychogeography. You can follow this page at http://del.icio.us/inbox/starhill_blend.

As befits a modern data aggregating application, all the interesting pages are also available via RSS content syndication. If you spend a lot of time on the Web and you don't know about RSS, you can do yourself a favor and save a lot of time by learning about it.

1.10.1. See Also

  • The Google Maps Mania blog at http://googlemapsmania.blogspot.com/ maintains a good ongoing review of all things new and Google Maps.
  • Developing Feeds with RSS and Atom by Ben Hammersley (O'Reilly).

Google Maps Hacks
Google Maps Hacks: Tips & Tools for Geographic Searching and Remixing
ISBN: 0596101619
EAN: 2147483647
Year: N/A
Pages: 131
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