Diigo – Software I Use Every Day

Diigo (a “personal knowledge management tool”) is a browser extension[1] that allows one to collect all sorts of information from across the web in a central repository where it can be easily accessed, shared, annotated, searched, and remembered.

I don’t know that I aspire to be a polymath, it is more like I hunger to be one. I consume information in copious amounts and synthesize it together to help me understand the world (and share what I learn). But this presents a great challenge – how can I consume massive amounts of information while not losing what I have learned previously?

The answer is augmentation (along with an acceptance of my finite nature). In the past this might have included a physical filing cabinet, for me it consists of Diigo and a few other primarily digital means.

When one saves a site or article to Diigo, Diigo creates a record associated with that specific page. I then add one or more tags to categorize (create a taxonomy) this record among all my other records.

In addition, if the page includes content I consider to be of important, I highlight it and Diigo saves my highlights as well. It also allows me to add notes to the page. Recently I was reading an article about Thomas Oden and something he said connected with something William Barclay had said, so I added a note about the association.

Sometimes the pages can be summarized in a paragraph or two – in which case I attach a description to the page. I also use the description as a place to remind myself why I cared about this page.

Right now I have 25,361 items in my Diigo. An item is a record which is associated with a specific piece of content (usually a web page). Under many of these items are highlights and notes which help me remember the importance of the content.

I personally pay for their Professional level. It is around $60/yr. ($5/mo.), but I consider it well worth it.

There are some features/enhancements I’d like to see Diigo add in the near future, I’ve outlined my ideas below:

  • Archive.org Integration – Right now Diigo can save a copy of a page if requested, which is great, but I’m wondering if it would make sense for Diigo to integrate with The Wayback Machine and cache every saved page.
  • Implement Hierarchical Taxonomies – Right now tags are a flat taxonomy, that is, no tag is a parent or child to another tag.
  • Separate DB of Trash Links – Right now I tag worthless pages as f-value, so if I come across them again in the future I don’t waste time rereading the material. It would be nice if Diigo maintain a per-user database of trash links and had a small visual reminder when we visited a useless site (e.g., a small trash can on the Diigo button).
  • Acquire / Integrate Zlink’s Better Search Chrome Extension – This nifty little extension lacks transparency about how it handles data, where it is stored, and hasn’t been updated since late 2015, but it offers a number of highly useful features. My favorites are:
    • The ability to vote up or down search results, also to delete search results (thus when one searches for the same term again, one sees customized search results).
    • Customization of search pages with navigation to other sites – e.g., makes it very easy to repeat the same search using another search engine with one click.
  • Expand API – The API currently supports only two methods – retrieve bookmarks and add bookmarks. It needs (at a minimum) the additional abilities of editing and deleting bookmarks.
    • I’d also like to have a way to exclude certain tags / sites from the retrieved bookmarks.
  • Ability to Save Chrome Extension Pages – For whatever reason, Diigo doesn’t seem capable of saving extension pages from Google Chrome’s store of extensions.

 

  1. [1]They also offer mobile apps, but I rarely use.

Diigo – A Great Tool For Readers.

Diigo is a free service which offers higher-tiered features for those who need them. I’ve been paying for the Basic service ($20/year) for the last two or three years – and have no intent of canceling. Someday I might consider upgrading to Premium ($40/year). When I pay for something online – it means I really like it (duhh) and that would be the case with Diigo.

Diigo is a “knowledge management” tool. It allows you to highlight text and create sticky notes on webpages; create a library of links, pages, notes, pictures; archive webpages online for future reference, collaborate with family, friends, or strangers; and so on.

I use Diigo primarily for highlighting. As I’m reading and see something memorable I highlight it with Diigo – it is saved to my Diigo account and I can easily search Diigo to find the reference at a future time when I need it.

I also use Diigo for bookmark management. I moved from Firefox to Chrome as my primary web browser and the one feature I really miss from Firefox is its full-featured bookmark management. Diigo helps ease this pain a bit.

Diigo also provides one with the easy ability to categorize and tag ones links and highlights – this is a huge help in managing a large amount of information…and it doesn’t forget to provide users with intuitive security controls allowing you to decide what others can see. For example, there may be some topics you are researching (especially for personal reasons) you don’t want everyone else to be aware of (i.e. “how to deal with my annoying mother-in-law” [mine isn’t annoying btw]).

There are other tools out there. Zotero is one I’ve used in the past. It is pretty powerful and more aimed at academics. I’d suggest that these are the two frontrunners currently available. Anyone have any other suggestions? Or a preference between Diigo and Zotero?

 If you want to see my publicly shared highlights, notes, and links you can see them here: https://www.diigo.com/user/davemackey.

Great Extensions for Firefox.

Image representing Firefox
Image via CrunchBase

Mozilla has created a robust ecosystem of extensions around their web browser Firefox. In this article I’ll take a look at a few of my personal favorites that I think you’ll find useful as well.

StumbleUpon

Choose topics you are interested in and then stumble away. StumbleUpon helps you find sites that are of interest to you and through rating the sites over time and building a network of like-minded friends you can tune StumbleUpon to a fine science. Really a great tool for finding useful sites and information.

*This tool is a must have for web developers and bloggers.

Alexa Sparky

Alexa is an old site – but still a good one. It allows you to gather information on specific sites – including other sites that are on similar topics to a site and also information about the amount and types of visitors going to a website.

Alexa Sparky integrates this functionality into the Firefox browser. You can quickly see Alexa’s ranking of a site’s traffic compared to other sites and also find related sites.

*This tool is a must have for web developers and bloggers.

Diigo

To some extent, the web has replaced/supplemented traditional literature (magazines, books, newspapers), but it hasn’t always been as easy to “mark up” the web as it is a physical copy of a literary work. Want to highlight some text for later? Yeah, using a highlighter on the screen doesn’t work – in fact, it is a fast way to destroy your computer’s display.

There are now a number of tools for “marking up” the web – my personal favorite is Diigo. Using Diigo I can quickly highlight sections of a web page and Diigo saves the information to My Library on Diigo for later viewing. Now if the website goes down or I want to search all my highlights – I can – from one central location.

Diigo can do a lot more than highlight – it also allows for annotations (notes), saving of entire pages, building of a social network around your information, collaboration, and so on. Its pretty nifty…I actually pay for the premium service (though they have a fairly robust free service as well) because I use it so much.

Zemanta

Zemanta is a must-have for bloggers. As you write a blog post it pulls up related content and links that take your posts to the next level. For example, you’ll get a whole slew of images to choose from to include in your post, related article links, key terms within your post that you can easily hyperlink, suggestions for tags, and so on.

ColorZilla:

Another great extension is ColorZilla. Ever see a color on a website and wish you knew what it was so you could use that specific color to create something else? ColorZilla makes this task a snap. You just choose ColorZilla and then put the eyedropper that appears over the color you want and instantly get the code for that specific color. This will be mainly useful to web designers and artsy types.

MeasureIt:

Similar to ColorZilla in some ways is MeasureIt. It makes it easy to measure the dimensions of objects in the web browser. For example, if you want to figure out how big a photo is or how many pixels the font is, or how wide the utilized portion of the screen is – MeasureIt is your tool.

MinimizeToTray Revived:

For computer power users the frustrations of a crowded taskbar are all too familiar. MinimizeToTray provides the ability to minimize the Firefox application to the tray, thus saving loads of taskbar real estate. This functionality should be included in Firefox natively!

Firefox Sync:

Okay, okay – this functionality is built into Firefox 4.x, no need for an add-on…and if you are using an older version of Firefox you should upgrade immediately rather than installing this extension – but I think it is worth highlighting this functionality. Essentially, it allows you to sync your session data (e.g. cookies, favorites, passwords) between multiple computers. It isn’t quite as slick as it should be…but hopefully it will get there soon (Google’s Chrome does a much more intuitive job currently). This a great tool for those who have multiple computers (e.g. home and work, or desktop/laptop and so on).

LastPass:

A password manager. The idea here is that you create one really robust password for LastPass and then LastPass stores all your other passwords. This way you can generate passwords automatically and not have to worry about remembering them – as long as you remember your master password.

See if you use the same password on all the sites, if one site gets compromised then all your sites get compromised…but with LastPass you can use randomly generated passwords and not worry too much if one account gets compromised.

Of course, if your master password gets compromised – watch out! LastPass recently had a security scare and some folks are staying away from these sorts of services b/c of this…my personal opinion is that the weak link is much more likely to be something you do or your computer than a third party service dedicated to protecting this information.

IE Tab:

I used to use this tab all the time…now I don’t need it much at all…but back in the day a lot of sites only worked in Internet Explorer, and if you didn’t have this extension you had to open up a IE browser window any time a site wouldn’t work correctly in Firefox. These days almost all sites support Firefox, so this isn’t nearly the problem it used to be…but still, a very useful extension. It allows you to view a site with the IE rendering engine even while looking at the site in Firefox.

What are your favorite Firefox extensions? What extensions did I forget that you can’t live without?