Dan Connolly's tinkering lab notebook

Trying to replace delicious,, and catch with diigo

I keep trying out one more cloud based task/time/knowledge management tool, hoping it will replace several of my too many others. While browsing around the Chrome store looking for tools that sync with android, I discovered diigo. The highlight feature is really slick! I've been hoping for that feature as far back as the Amaya papers and talks from 2000. Plus, it does bookmarking and note taking. But it's not as smooth as I'd like. I wonder if that's inherent in the attempt to do so many things.

A pleasant surprise from diigo: the chrome search bar

Chrome merged the address bar and the search field a while ago. The diigo chrome extension notifies you when you search for things that match items in your library, so you don't have to build a new habit.

Why diigo hasn't replaced pinboard for bookmarking, twitter archiving

The original delicous bookmarklet clearly hit the sweet spot for bookmarking:

  1. Hitting the bookmarklet brings up a little pop-up with the URL and title filled in for you
  2. add your own note... maybe a particularly interesting quote/excerpt (optional)
  3. add some tags
  4. Hit enter/save and you're back to your web page, with the pleasant feeling that your bookmark is stored safely in the cloud (and you can get it back via their export service and/or API)

There were some lightweight features that improved the experience: auto-complete of tags and auto-suggested tags from the crowd. Then the features started getting heavy, going beyond the critical response times, and on a tip from Gerald, I started migrating my delicious bookmarks to (This was long before "the vice president of bad decisions at yahoo" threw in the towel.)
The diigo bookmarklet has two critical problems:

  • It takes over the whole page (and takes too much time doing so). So you can't consult the page as you add your notes.
  • When you hit save, it takes you to your library rather than back to the page you were on.

It was the speed of pinboard that convinced me to switch from delicious, not so much the "anti-social" aspects; I did enjoy the collaborative aspects of delicious, until they went overboard and made it too painful to search my own bookmarks. I was surprised to see so much of my community using twitter for link sharing: how do they ever find the bookmarks they made?! Twitter has the attention span of a gnat; it has no interest in helping you find a bookmark you made 2 years ago. Pinboard solved that problem by adding comprehensive twitter archiving to their snappy search offering.
Diigo has a twitter archive feature, but

  • It archives only favorites, not tweets I wrote, unless pay a monthly fee. (Pinboard isn't free, but the fee is one time.)
  • It loses critical context, i.e. who wrote the tweet.
  • It lumps tweets in with notes I wrote in places like their Quick Notes chrome application

That brings me to the goal of using diigo for task management.

Why Diigo hasn't replaced Catch for gtd-style collecting

Catch supports gtd-style collecting and processing really well:

  1. With their android widget or shortcut, touch to start adding a note.
  2. Type a few words to capture what's on my mind... or more often: hit the speech input button and say a few words.
  3. Hit save, knowing catch will sync with the cloud momentarily.

I do most of my processing via catch's web interface, when I have the full bandwidth of a big screen, keyboard, and fast network. But sometimes when I have some time to kill, I use the catch android app to process notes.
I hope the diigo Powernotes android app gets there. Both catch and diigo let me log in using my google apps accounts, but:

  • Early releases required manual sync, which completely defeated the purpose of getting things off my mind, since I had to think about whether I had sync'd or not. I'm glad that's fixed.
  • Catch has "pin note to homescreen," which is handy for journaling; PowerNote doesn't seem to have anything like that. "Pin list to home screen" would be handy.
  • Saving a note without a title fails silently. This is particularly painful since the speech-to-text note taking feature defaults to an empty title. Throwing away the knowledge I just entrusted to it is pretty much the unforgivable sin for a knowledge management app. The feedback feature is really simple and the developer acknowledged my feedback right away, though, so perhaps I'll give it another chance. 
  • I can't find an easy way to list all (and only) the thoughts I collected. It supports filing notes into lists, and one of the options is "Recent notes," but that's a tease: there is no "Recent notes" when I go to view my lists. Diigo bookmarking supports the "read later" bit a la pinboard, but I don't see how to set that bit on notes. It would be handy to have a unified "read later" collection of notes/bookmarks/highlights.

Diigo for shopping? What was I thinking?

I sure wish Amazon helped me record why I'm adding to my wishlist, e.g. who recommended it, which features or review comments I'm particularly interested in. I can annotate items if I switch to viewing the whole list, but the first thing Amazon does after I hit "add to wishlist" is distract me from recording what's on my mind with offers for other products. So I did a little research on home theater systems using diigo. But while shopping does involve research, there's really a lot more to it, and Amazon is a huge machine finely tuned to help with the whole process. Amazon's universal wishlist button helps some. Besides, as we learn from gtd, the most important thing to do after capturing a thought is to put it in context where you will next act on it. And for online shopping, that place is Amazon more often than not.

Diigo community and tools

The diigo community and development team appeals to the hacker, the researcher, and the closet-librarian in me. I haven't found many familiar names/faces in the diigo community yet. The business model (freemium, with a focus on the education market) seems sensible to me, but I don't have much confidence in my ability to pick viable web businesses. (I've been involved in the web pretty much since it started; I wonder if I'd be ahead or behind if I'd invested in the web businesses I liked when I learned about them...)  With a new owner for delicious, it may be time to take another look. The delicious crowd is large enough to display some wisdom in, for example, finding interesting new python programming resources. And I once discovered that a colleague subscribed to my family movie bookmarks.
Diigo says they support the same export format as delicious, but I don't see how I can get all my data back that way, since delicious has no concept of highlighting nor lists. I see a mention of annotations in the diigo API; perhaps all the structure is captured there.