Recently we decided to keep better track of tweets, blog posts, and other web resources that mention and discuss our product. There are two common ways to do that: send links to a list maintainer, or co-edit a shared list of links. Here’s a third way, less common but arguably more powerful and flexible: tag the web resources in situ.
That third way has been an option ever since the advent of social bookmarking. My favorite example, from long ago: a Public Radio International producer who realized that his team could use del.icio.us to curate playlists of freely-available web-hosted MP3 files. No software had to be written to create these staff-pick channels. The team just had to bookmark MP3s and tag them in a consistent way. The del.icio.us service delivered feeds based on tags (and tag combinations); listeners added the feed links to their podcatchers.
This strategy works in any system that can tag web resources. Whether you’re using Pinboard, Diigo, Hypothesis, or any other resource-tagging system, certain common principles apply. Obviously you need to agree on a standard set of tags to classify sets of resources. More subtly, you can use tag combinations to create hierarchy. For example, we’re using the tag h_breadcrumbs to gather a set of resources. But we’re also using secondary tags as qualifiers; education, journalism. A query for just h_breadcrumbs finds the whole set; a query for h_breadcrumbs and education finds that subset.
None of this is rocket science, it’s long been a convenient way to gather and organize sets of resources without requiring anyone to copy and paste links. The curation can happen in public or in a team-private space. When the resources you’re gathering are web documents represented by URLs, you can tag them using any of the services I’ve mentioned. In Hypothesis, to annotate a whole document (versus a selection), create a page note which you can then tag just as you’d tag an annotation that’s anchored to a selection.
With a pure bookmarking service like Pinboard, the resources you gather and organize are defined by their URLs. With a hybrid bookmarking/annotation service like Diigo or Hypothesis, you can define more granular resources within those documents, then gather and organize those smaller chunks. The basic method is always the same, it’s easy to apply, and it’s very effective.