!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Joshua Schachter's del.icio.us

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Joshua Schachter's del.icio.us

Smithsonian, for my money unsurpassed among general interest magazines in its editing and design, has published a special issue featuring 37 of "America's Young Innovators in the Arts and Sciences."

I enjoyed browsing through the entire issue, but my eye was particularly caught by the write-up on Joshua Schachter, the man who created del.icio.us. The article by Adam Rogers describes the genesis of del.icio.us as a personal Web site Schachter programmed in 1998 to make it easier for him to keep track of web pages he wanted to be able to revisit easily.

The key to Schachter's approach to simplifying the retrievablity of web pages is tagging. Del.icio.us also helps with searching by enabling people to share their tags. As Rogers explains:
... you can go to the del.icio.us Web site and type what you're looking for into its search box; it then kicks back all the sites that del.icio.us users have tagged with your search word ...

For his part, Schachter says the key to del.icio.us is that people tag sites out of self-interest, so they do a good job.
The latter point is important, something one realizes after encountering some of the junk tags jokesters apply at sites like the Smithsonian's online photo collection.

PS Brian Hare is another of the Smithsonian's young innovators who is of particular interest to me as a teacher. Hare is a primatologist whose research leads him to believe that "we would not have evolved the kind of intelligence we have — the kind that allows us to use our brains together, to build things, to be mentally flexible — if we hadn't had a shift in temperament. ... We had to lose [fear of strangers and intolerance of those lower in the social hierarchy] to become who we are." As Virginia Morell, the Smithsonian's writer for the Hare article sums it up: "Controlling one's fears, paying attention to others, finding joy in working with others — that's the path to intelligence ..."