Kudos to Alex Bosworth for figuring out a clever way to save bookmarks semi-privately in del.icio.us. It took me a moment to sort out how this works because it depends on a feature I didn't know del.icio.us had: the ability to tag an item for a friend. I could find no documentation on this, but eventually guessed correctly that if I want to tag this page for Stephen O'Grady, I can use the tag for:sogrady. Now it's listed at del.icio.us/for/sogrady, but only Stephen can view that page.
Alex's insight was to create a del.icio.us account, private.bookmarks, along with a bookmarklet generator that produces an account-specific bookmarklet. That bookmarklet invokes a script, on his server, that runs as private.bookmarks. When I use it to bookmark this page, it adds the page to for:judell, which means I can see it at del.icio.us/for/judell but nobody else can. Except for the owner of the private.bookmarks account, which is one reason why I call this a semi-private scheme. The other is that everyone's semi-private bookmarks are pooled at del.icio.us/private.bookmarks.
Like regular del.icio.us tagging, the for: mechanism is of course spammable. There's basically nothing in del.icio.us/for/judell at the moment, probably because hardly anyone has discovered the feature, but this posting is liable to change that.
A reasonable fix would be to add whitelisting to the for: mechanism. I'm not bullish on email whitelisting, because there I do wish to remain wide open if I can keep the spam under control. But in this case I might be willing to enumerate who can pop links into my queue -- particularly if I can reuse that live list for other purposes. I'd also like to be able to delete things in my for: bucket. That wouldn't mean deleting the sender's bookmarklets, but rather rejecting for: tags aimed at me.
I've wanted private (or at least semi-private) bookmarking for a long time. When I checked my own del.icio.us RSS feed -- del.icio.us/rss/judell -- the need became really apparent. There are currently 74 subscribers to that feed. Yikes! For their sakes I really should separate personal items from professional ones. Until spam catches up with it, or until del.icio.us adds the feature natively, I think Alex's scheme will be good enough.
The larger point here is one I've been mulling a lot lately: Eric von Hippel's notion of user innovation toolkits. It's remarkable that Alex Bosworth can, by a simple act of intermediation, add a useful feature to del.icio.us. I think the qualities of web-based software that enable this scenario qualify it as an important kind of user innovation toolkit.
Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2005/11/01.html#a1332