Bookmarking habits

Why do people need so many 1 bookmarks? Simple question right? But what is the real answer? Based on my surfing habits, I realize that I really do not need bookmarks all that much. There are going to be a few websites that I consistently accessed so I have bookmarks for those. And the rest of my bookmarks are, for the most part, untouched and unknown. For people with bookmarks in the range of hundreds or so, how many of them do you actually remember? How many do you actually access? And do you store enough information with each website to actually remember why you bookmarked it? Go pick 5 random ones and tell me how much you can tell me about them?

Bookmarks are not really useful for the most part. Why? If you surfing and you come across an interesting article, what do you do? Most people would bookmark it. But I will actually save the entire web page into a program such as Yojimbo so that I can quickly access it next time I need it. This is beneficial in two ways. Firstly, if the website goes down or the author decides to remove that article, I still have a local copy of it. Secondly, I can access this information even if I am offline. These two factors are enough for me to actually consider storing any good articles onto my machine. A bonus factor, if you use Spotlight in OS X Tiger or Google Desktop, is that you can quickly search your computer for keywords and that article will appear.

Additionally, with google or wikipedia, you can actually search for stuff quicker than going through you long list of bookmarks. With your bookmarks, what can you possibly identify from the title or the URL or the multiple tags that you assign? The title is at most one sentence that usually does not provide enough information on what you have. The URL reveals nothing except the main site where the article comes from. And unless you try to add all sorts of tags to it, you probably will never be able to identify the subtler points of the articles. What about including some short description of it? Come on, let's be honest. Who actually writes good description of the articles? Whenever you want to search for something, you do not actually go through your bookmark list; you search for it on Google. It's almost second nature for most people. And now since Google is able to store a history of your searches, it might even be easier to locate the page that you want.

Bookmarks are also lousy for sites that you wish to follow because they do not let you know if the site has been updated or not. Even if there is a way to see if that bookmark has been updated, there is no way to tell what actually has been updated. If the author decides to update his profile on that page it probably will not interest you much. Moreover, a bookmark is a static link to a page. Even if that page moves to somewhere, your bookmark will not reveal it to you.

Furthermore, I find that I am able to remember quick bits of information about a page I read not so much based on its title or URL but the time and day that I accessed it. That is why I find my browser history useful for hunting down articles that might be useful but I forget to or make a reference to. And as soon as I find that article, I am going to quickly save a copy of it so that I do not loose it the next time.

Now this is not to say that bookmarks are not useful at all. In fact, I find two main uses for bookmarks: sites that you visit frequently and web services. Well, maybe it would be better to count them as one since you can probably find out about the web service by googling -- yes, googling is considered a verb now, so use it! -- it as well. If you are constantly visiting a site and there is no RSS feed for it, a bookmark is definitely convenient so that you do not need to remember the URL. Then again, if you visit this site frequently enough, you might already remember the URL or your browser's auto-completion feature might suggest the URL for you as you type out its first few characters. Web services are something that you might want to bookmark because they are so handy and you want easy access to them. In fact, some even offer bookmarklets (for instance, to post to you account) and those are handy things that you should keep on your menu bar.

So, the more important question to ask is not whether I should bookmark this but rather why am I bookmarking this? If there is no good answer for this, that bookmark is probably going to sit there on your desktop or account doing nothing but collect dust2.

  1. Many probably refers to a list in the hundreds.
  2. After writing this, I went through my list of bookmarks. Most of them have not been accessed in the last year or so but the resistance to delete those bookmarks is really great. The I know I will need this soon feeling is really overwhelming.

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