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!

This Week’s Road Trip – Social Bookmarking

Ford Focus Commercial

Packing the Car

Why start with a car commercial, you ask? Ever had one of those “Ah hah!” moments of revelation when the layers of your brain finally slid into place, and you found yourself wondering how you could have been so stupid? Would you believe I had one of those moments while I watched this Ford Focus commercial on TV?

It is sad but true – or really neat depending on your perspective – but I finally “got” tagging when I saw this commercial. To me this is the ultimate demonstration of the pull technology that is the Web 2.0 culture: the car buyer pulls all of the options he wasn’t out of the tag cloud surrounding him.

This integration of the concept of tagging gave me the mental set I needed to try out social bookmarking this week. And I love it!

First Stop:

I began by looking for video tutorials about social bookmarking. First of all I watched the Common Craft video, Social Bookmarking in Plain English, which uses  as its example site.  Lee Lefever’s simple three steps, signing up to a service, tagging sites, and “being social” by looking at other people’s bookmarks, gave me the confidence to explore further. After all, I had already used Backflip as a way of storing bookmarks on the Internet. Now I just needed to add the tagging component. I decided to start using

After I added my personal bookmarks I decided to experiment with the social aspect. I searched for tags having to do with crochet, and by adding and deleting tags was able to collect bookmarks dealing with crocheted afghan patterns. Remembering my RSS lessons from last week, I decided to add a feed for this collection to Bloglines.

Next Stop: Diigo

I knew that I also wanted to explore Diigo, so I searched YouTube and TeacherTube and found Emily Barney’s video, “Social Bookmarking: Making the Web Work for You.” This gives a wonderfully clear explanation of how social bookmarking works, and then goes on to explain how to use Diigo.  

If I were working on showing teachers how to do social bookmarking, I would use all three of these videos as part of the training (but of course not all at once).

Pit Stops on the Journey

This past week I

  • Set up accounts for Diigo,, and Furl
  • Installed the toolbar for Furl but had to uninstall it as my computer kept hanging and crashing. I decided to just experiment with the other two applications
  • Imported bookmarks from both my computers to both those accounts
  • Exported the bookmarks from both accounts and imported these into the other
  • Set up Diigo account so that new bookmarks are also automatically added to
  • Added email contacts to Diigo
  • Searched for other users’ bookmarks on crochet afghan patterns by using tags
  • Created a RSS feed for Diigo for crochet afghan patterns
  • Found Will Richardson on Diigo and looked at some of his bookmarks
  • Found Joyce Valenza on Diigo and subscribed to a feed from the Teacher Librarian group she belongs to
  • Investigated educator accounts on Diigo – I can’t join as I don’t have a school email address at the moment
  • Created WebSlides of some of the sites on social bookmarking I collected (see right sidebar).

Deciding Which Route to Take

Each of the sites I investigated has its pros and cons.

  • I found easier to use, as it has a simpler, cleaner interface and it seems more intuitive to me, and easier to navigate.
  • I love the fact that it is as free of ads.
  • The Help pages are easier to navigate than Diigo.


  • All the ads in Diigo definitely slow down search results and navigating pages.
  • Diigo has more features; the highlighting and commenting features are really valuable.
  • I can easily add contacts from my email address book in which I can’t do on – very useful when you want to email colleagues your bookmarks.
  • This is the fully-featured site I’d want to teach students how to use, especially since you can create an educator account.

Some Bumps in the Road

1. Information Literacy – Critical Evaluation

In his “Social Bookmarking” chapter in the book, Coming Of Age: An Introduction To The NEW Worldwide Web, Terry Freedman identifies one critical concern. He says, “There are downsides, [to using social bookmarking] of course. The main one is the flip side of the coin, that is to say, if looking for information is akin to looking for a needle in a haystack, what social bookmarking does is to increase the size of the haystack! That is not an argument for not using it, but it is an argument for making sure that students are taught good information-searching skills, including the ability to evaluate the plausibility and accuracy of the information they find.”

2. Issues with Tags  

Freedman also points out an inherent problem with tagging: ‘A good example is “e-learning”: it would be a good idea to use “elearning” too!”‘

Tagging requires the use of only use single words, so you have to join words in phrases, such as socialbookmarking or social_bookmarking. In Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, Richardson states that “tags that are more than one word usually use an underline to separate the words” (p. 96).

Unfortunately that is not necessarily the case. There is no standardization except what individual users, groups, or communities decide on. One would need to work on this with students or teachers in order to standardize tags. When I was searching for crochet patterns in, for example, I discovered that I could use the tag “patterns” and get results containing the tag “pattern,” but not vice versa.

Spelling counts too. I found plenty of bookmarks with the word “socail” as one of the tags.

3. Issues with Filtered Sites and Downloading of Toolbars

Many school districts restrict the downloading of toolbars and buttons; in my high school students were unable to download anything on to the computers, including bookmarking sites. As part of an initiative for using these resources, teachers would have to work with their administration and technicians to overcome these issues.

4. Privacy Issues

As with all public web sites, the possibility exists that students will encounter some inappropriate content. The Diigo Educator Account provides some safeguards to students. Only teachers and classmates can communicate with students. Ads presented to student account users are limited to education-related sponsors. Students can only communicate with their friends and teachers, and their profiles aren’t included in the People Search feature.

Reasons To make the Journey

Miguel Guhlin’s article “Diigo the Web for Education – From TeleGatherer to TelePlanter with Diigo” gives an eloquent explanation of why social bookmarking tools are so important for our students. Guhlin says,”New web tools allow you to do MORE than just gather great resources; they allow you to explain why they are great, put virtual post-its on them, and then share that care package of great resource links with your comments with your audience of choice.”

Guhlin goes on to quote Dr. Judi Harris:

  • 1. We all begin on the Web by “telegathering” (surfing) and “telehunting” (searching. This we can do pretty well. What we don’t do very well yet is to take educationally sound steps beyond telegathering and telehunting).
  • 2. We need to help our students and ourselves “teleharvest” (sift through, cogitate, comprehend, etc.) the information that we find, and “telepackage” the knowledge that results from active interaction (application, synthesis, evaluation, etc.) with the information.
  • 3. Then, we need to “teleplant” (telepublish, telecollaborate, etc.) these telepackages by sharing them with others…who use them as information in their…
  • 4. …telegathering & telehunting, and the process cycles back around again.

Are you helping your students make the shift from surfing and searching as telegatherers to becoming teleplanters? [Emphasis is mine]

The End (Not) of My Journey

The mind boggles. I could tear down my whole library web page, the Web 1.0 page, the Read Web page, and start again. Shortly the grade 10 students in my former school will be starting their Shakespeare research project. I am itching to work with a class. Students can use Diigo to collect, highlight, annotate, and tag resources on their topics, which include the Shakespeare controversy, the Elizabethan theatre, the Great Chain of Being, William Shakespeare the man, Elizabeth I, the plague, the Spanish Armada, and more. Instead of the page for this project I created, students can contribute what they have found while their teacher and I provide guidance and support. We can teach evaluation and critical thinking skills, building this in as a stage in the project.

And our students become teleplanters.

Did I mention I LOVED working on social bookmarking this week?