Alchemical futures

Delicious (I)

I started blogging in November 2003 and my first use of Delicious was on 12 July, 2004. I see that many of my entries for that July are, unsurprisingly, tagged “blogging_community”. They’re still there in Delicious, but I can’t find them via the timeline of pages unless I reverse sort these. Is the Delicious edifice crumbling? I’m glad I’ve a number of local backups dating back over the years. But that is matter for another post.

When I started using Delicious, it was almost entirely as a prop to help me get up to speed with everything I was discovering online. Those years were hectic. I remember when I first started teaching what a learning curve there was and how weekends and nights, in term and holiday alike, disappeared in preparation, reading and marking for at least the first three years (made the more intense as I evolved into an English teacher, a subject I’d last studied formally in my mid-teens). We all know these periods of unavoidable, passionate engagement as we close with a new subject, a new discipline, a new pursuit.

I look back now to another time when, rather late to the party, I began to register what the arrival of the accessible read-write web meant. It was in November 2003, with the birth of TypePad, that it first hit me: a long period, where what had been hard — requiring coding skills that divided the world into the few who had them and the rest of us who, most decidedly, did not, was coming to an end and the ready ability to publish and be heard (who knew by whom?) was upon us. I knew then that I wanted to be involved in this, the future-already-becoming-the-present.

So, for a long while, Delicious, for me, was nearly all about discovery and very rapid note-taking, itself requiring the investment of much time, if I were to gain even a basic grasp of all this stuff. I learned to read fast but attentively, précis-by-excerpt, tag and bookmark, binding knowledge together in a way that had to do duty in the absence of something more adequate (no appropriate memory theatre, then or now).

Back then, as soon as TypePad made it straightforward to use FeedBurner (June 2006?), it seemed to me right to link together the feed for this blog and that of Delicious (a decision I probably wouldn’t make today, were I starting over). Blogging and bookmarking seemed like the two leaves of a diptych in a period when the pace was both frenetic and apparently inexorably determined by technological change.

Things haven’t got slower (as if — though I think I can now be, and am, more discriminating, both knowing more and being a bit the wiser), but my reading habits have certainly changed. With extensive commuting (c 160 miles a day), the time on a train to read and, more significantly, the year-long experience of using an iPad and Instapaper whilst being connected, the way I work, read and think has changed.

One of the pleasures of living in a more connected world is the constant discovery that changes you thought peculiar to you are going on, simultaneously, in others. I noted Read It Later’s post last week, Is Mobile Affecting When We Read?. I can certainly identify with the use of whitespace time, but I’ve been more struck in the last few months with how I’m storing material up in Instapaper, going back to it, archiving things that once I would have bookmarked straightaway in Delicious, ruminating over others and then, finally, sending myself an email reminder to bookmark X later. And later frequently, now, means Saturday — when I have the time to deal with what has become a sizeable backlog. More filtering happens at that stage, too.

Delicious (backed up locally and in Pinboard) has assumed a different role in my life. No longer the bank of preference for instant notes, it’s where I’m putting things that I’ve generally sifted or gone back to (sometimes a number of times). (Of course, some things still seem worth bookmarking at once, but the reason for that can itself turn out to be depressingly ephemeral.) I’m much more interested now, much more able now, to use Delicious as a repository for things which I’ve had the time, and the perspective, to weigh.

All of which makes Delicious, or something like it, even more important. And I haven’t even begun to talk about the network.