Using Diigo to get to Higher Ground

As I researched this week’s discussion topic, How are you managing information overload, I found that  reducing information overload is a hot topic. One estimate in a New York Times story is that this problem and its resulting loss of employee efficiency will cost US companies 650 billion in 2008 alone.

Mary Brandel’s August 25, 2008, Computerworld article is titled “Information OVERLOAD: Is it time to go on a data diet?” In it the author quotes a number of company executives who have specific suggestions for dealing with this problem. “Some use technology to combat the information overload, while others suggest putting yourself on an information diet and taking control over how much you allow yourself to be exposed to” (p.22).

My favorite quote from the article is from Steve Borsch, CEO of Marketing Directions Inc, who says, “The river of content is turning into a flood, and my instinct is to get to higher ground”  (p. 22).  I recognize that feeling of drowning in data, and I’m looking for a way to leave that feeling behind.

Last week I wrote about how useful Delicious and Diigo are, and decided that I would continue to explore Diigo. My question is this: How can I use the various options in Diigo to manage my information more efficiently? I am hoping that this technology will help me reduce the amount of information I’m dealing with while maintaining better control over what I find.

Step 1: I’m Treading Water

As I have uploaded bookmarks from two computers and my Backflip page to Diigo, I chose first to refine the organization of those links. My first step was to explore the My Lists feature. You can sort bookmarks by tags and then it’s easy to group bookmarks together in a list, which you can then use in various ways. Since my older bookmarks had no tags, I ignored these and worked with only the new bookmarks, the ones I saved after I began using Diigo.

There are many options with Lists. You can put sections in the list to subdivide it. You can rearrange the bookmarks in any order you wish. You can send and share the list with friends or groups on Diigo. You can set up a group of colleagues; for example, all the grade 9 language arts teachers, and instantly share lists with them. 

Once you have created lists you can also go to WebSlides and instantly (in two clicks) create a slideshow of your bookmarks. These can be used as an HTML link, or embedded with a player as a widget into a blog post, so readers can flip through the sites you’ve bookmarked.  If you have annotated the bookmarks, or highlighted pages, viewers can see that too if you so choose. Here’s a tutorial on creating WebSlides shows.

Imagine the application of this to the classroom. You can have students (with Diigo accounts) collect sites, annotate them, highlight important sections, and then share them with their peers. You as teacher can present students with a selection of sites that they can use for research. And of course, this works with teachers too.

You can also send bookmarks directly to your blog from Diigo. This I have not yet tried, but so far I must say that the My Lists options have already proved very useful to me. I am working with a colleague on a presentation in January, and we will be sharing bookmarks via Diigo.

Step 2: My Feet Just Touch the Bottom

Creating lists and THEN editing bookmarks may seem backward to you. My initial intent was simply to have an online list of bookmarks; I didn’t have too much interest in highlighting and annotating. Now I am going back through the links and making changes. I saw the advantages when I was collecting bookmarks for the last assignment. Usually I would save the page, and either print it and highlight, or use Word to highlight it. I often used sticky notes to emphasize certain parts of the page. Using Diigo means that I can highlight, comment, and sticky note it as I read it the FIRST time and my highlights, comments and the site are all instantly saved on Diigo. Saves a HUGE amount of time!

Here’s a link to the Diigo video tutorial on highlighting and page comments, and another one on sticky notes. These are very short Flash tutorials.

Step 3: Waist Deep and Moving Up

As I mentioned earlier, many of the bookmarks I imported into Diigo were without tags. When you are looking at the list of your bookmarks you can edit them to add tags, highlights, comments, and sticky notes. You can also label bookmarks as private, so that if you have personal and professional bookmarks together (and I don’t need more than one bookmarking site to master), you can display only the links you want.

And, one of the best features of Diigo is that the pages are cached, so they NEVER disappear. If you can’t access the page live anymore, you can access the cached version with all of your comments intact.

Step 4: At the Shallow End

There is much about Diigo I have not explored, most especially the social aspect. In terms of my original goals, I have achieved much better control over my information. I have reduced the amount of duplication of material saved in various places. While I have used the Tags feature to see what other searchers have found on a topic, and have found one or two good sites that way, I haven’t really even begun to explore this option sufficiently. But how wonderful to feel that I am in control!

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