Diigo V3 a Win with Non-Intrusive Social Networking

Posted by Matthew Murphy on Wednesday, March 26th, 2008. Filed under: eHub Features

I have been an avid Diigo user for some time now. I use it to manage my bookmarks, to take notes, and organize and share my research. It’s even become my primary blogging tool. Each time I think that I’ve finally mastered Diigo, they add some new feature or enhancement. Now, with the newly released Diigo V3, Diigo comes bounding into the social networking world. While it seems like everyone is getting into social networking these days, most are building communities around who knows who. Diigo, leveraging its success as a knowledge sharing tool, is building communities around who knows what.

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Diigo was first posted in the eHub directory at the end of 2005. Since that time, there has been a continuous stream of enhancements, many in response to their very active user forum. The new V3 really opens the flood gates with over a hundred new features, most revolving around a much more social Diigo. So much has Diigo focused on improving the social lives of Diigo users everywhere, that they’re even given a name to the concept: Social Information Networking.

Social Information Networking has to do with creating your social network around knowledge. It’s the ability to create a social network “with varying degrees of non-intrusiveness” around varying types and collections of knowledge. For those of us suffering from Facebook-fatigue, this is a refreshing diversion from the broader social networking scene. In terms of features, this translates into options. Lots of options.

I really latched on to Diigo’s theme of “varying degrees of non-intrusiveness”. As a knowledge worker, I want to be able to focus on the task at hand, yet I need to be able to quickly plumb the expertise of others. The redesigned browser toolbar is a well thought-out answer to this need. (On a side note. I really hate when some company pushes an ‘update’ that takes away working features. ‘Streamlining’ does not mean reducing the functionality of the application! Diigo, I’m happy to say, did not do any such ‘streamlining’.) The V3 toolbar now sports a little box in the left corner that, when clicked, opens up a shiny new sidebar. I’m not usually a sidebar sort of person; I like my screen real estate too much.

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But Diigo’s new sidebar packs a lot of useful information that follows you from site to site. There’s a tab for your recent bookmarks, a tab that shows the status of your Diigo friends, and a tab that shows you who else has bookmarked the page or the site, including any annotations that have been left on the page by other Diigo users. This is huge! It means instant access to people with whom you have this page in common.

Prior to this new version, I admit that I rarely visited the Diigo website. I had everything I needed right in the Diigo browser toolbar. I still think that the toolbar is one of the best blogging tools out there, but since I’ve begun utilizing the new sidebar, I’ve found myself back at Diigo.com more and more. I’m finding myself looking at who else has bookmarked this page, scrolling through other people’s bookmarks, people who I’ve noticed share similar interests. Then I’ll look through their tags, because maybe they’ve collected some body of knowledge about some other thing. And then it dawns on me– OMG! I’m being social!

It comes back to that “varying degrees of non-intrusiveness” thinking again. I’ve got lots of options when it comes to interacting with another Diigo user. I can page through their bookmarks or check out a specific tag they’ve used. I can choose to follow them so I’ll always know if they’ve found a new lifehacks website or climate change blog. Or I can invite them to be one of my Diigo friends.

Diigo also has some really cool ways of creating communities around knowledge items. I can join a community around a specific tag, such as ”lifehacks” or a community that has developed around a specific web site, like eHub. Or I can create a community (which Diigo calls a group) around a topic of my choosing. Groups are very powerful knowledge devices. These are semi-autonomous knowledge sharing communities that let your explore the web together through annotations and bookmarks, and then give you the ability to rate bookmarks, pushing the most relevant items to the top. This is a great model for quickly disseminating and distilling knowledge among a team of researchers.

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There are, obviously, dozens of features that I haven’t touched on here. In fact, I’m quite literally learning more about the new Diigo every day. As a user, I’ve found many, many things to be exited about. As a reviewer, I’ve found very little to be critical of. My biggest complaint is that, using the old toolbar, the send-to-blog feature opened a new blog entry in a new browser tab. In V3 (using FireFox) the send-to-blog opens in the same window, meaning that you can’t go back and look at the page you’re blogging about. However, if that is my harshest criticism, I think Diigo is doing alright.

In summary, Diigo’s new sidebar is well designed. It allows me to focus on my work while, at the same time, giving me access to Diigo’s knowledge community. Improvements to Diigo Groups has turned this aspect of the Diigo community into a powerful way to distribute and refine knowledge among a team. And Diigo’s “varying degrees of non-intrusiveness” approach to social networking has infused a level of maturity into the social networking world that has been sorely lacking up to this point. There’s a lot of hype around Diigo right now, and the bottom line is that it’s well-deserved.