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To Furl or Not To Furl, That is the Question

When he wrote those worde, Shakespeare little knew the abuse his words would receive for generations to come. This is the second time this week I’ve abused them. The first was in the title of a library session for a Shakespeare class — “To Libe or Not To Libe, That is the Question: Skills and Strategies to Help You Libe.” (By the way, the students have a habit of shortening names at Carleton, so the library is the “Libe,” the arboretum is the “Arb,” etc.)

Anyway, I’ve come upon a dilemma. I don’t know whether to continue to use my Furl or whether to switch to Ironically, I haven’t been adding much to my furl lately for three reasons: the form that lets you describe and categorize pages is cumbersome, it often takes quite a long time to save pages, and there are days when I can’t access my archive. Combine these complaints with’ easy entry form, complete with suggested tags and quick saving, and you see why I decided earlier this week that I’d start transferring everything in my furl over to

No sooner had I made the decision, though, than two problems presented themselves. First, I was unable to make the export/import mechanism work, so I’d have to manually transfer my furl entries. “Oh, well,” I thought, “at least I’ve only saved 108 things in furl so far. How bad can it be?” It seemed like just the sort of job to do during an upcoming Sunday reference shift. But then came the second problem. I learned this morning that I can’t exceed 255 characters when describing the page in’ notes field. This is a problem because I often include information on the licensing or rights statements in my descriptions of digitized collections (example here). I’d hate to lose that information.

So, persuade me. Which tool is better? Why? Do any of you use both? If so, how do you decide what goes where?

Published inSocial WebTools and Technology


  1. Megan Megan

    After playing around with both, I gave up on them and started using Gmail as my bookmark manager.

    I have a “Gmail This!” javascript bookmark in my browser (at home, in my office, and on the ref desk where we all have different profiles) that I use. I’ve got it set to fill in my Gmail address, to copy the URL of the page, and to add “Bookmark:” at the beginning of the subject line. The subject line after that is usually the title of the page I’m sending (it grabs it from the [title] tag). Within my gmail, I’ve got a filter setup that directs all incoming messages with Bookmark: in the subject line directly into a folder. I can add as much description I want into the message, can copy text from the page into the message, etc. With gmail’s search capability, I can find things in a second. Let me know if you’d like to see how I customized my bookmarklet to add the subject line, my email addy, etc.

    I couple this with a toread bookmarklet, which I use for pages I want to get around to reading at some point, but don’t want living in my bloglines. I have a filter set up for that one too, so those items go into a different folder in gmail.

    Advantage of this approach: everything is in one place, easily searchable.

    Disadvantage: not easy to share with others. But then, I’m not so concerned about that, so it’s not a disadvantage to me.

  2. Iris Iris

    I’d never thought of using Gmail for this. The only problem, as you point out, is the sharing thing. My co-workers and I use these social bookmarking tools more for work than for personal saving. We’re building searchable archives for students in our liaison departments, so sharing is the most important feature for us.

    I LOVE your tip about having a “to read” bookmarklet. Bloglines just isn’t doing it for me on that score, and that doesn’t need to be public. Gmail would be perfect for this.

  3. Steve Steve

    I use (view my bookmarks here) and would say that the 256 character limit in the description is about the only thing I don’t like about it. I also only use it for myself, not with a group, so I can’t speak to that.

    I love how easy it is to enter a page, as you mention–that is how I got close to 1700 items in there in less than two years. Anything I think I might want to find again goes in there, though I tend to “write often, read seldom” as I saw someone characterize his use.

    I use to syndicate only those items I tag “see_also” to a sidebar on my blog.

    I also enjoy finding other people’s stuff on, which looks harder to do on Furl. Try or or

    As for tagging practice, the “toread” tag is a great one (not that I often get back to read that stuff…). I keep track of my comments on others’ blogs by tagging them “comments” and with the name of the blog (example). I also use “via:” + the name of the person or site where I found something (example).

    For the rights info that you currently put in the Furl description, could you codify them into tags? For your example, I might tag it “rights:education” and
    “rights:single_copy” or something like that. You could also tag the rights pages separately from the main page, but keeping them associated could be a headache.

  4. Iris Iris

    Ooh, I like the idea of including rights info as a tag. I guess I’d thought of tags more like “subjects” rather than a combination of administrative and subject information. This opens up a whole new world for me.

    I gotta say, though, WOW. You have more tags than anyone else I’ve seen! :)

  5. Iris Iris

    Ok, now I’m just getting greedy, but I wish there were a way to specify an OR when building the tag URL (if I wanted to retrieve all posts with Literature OR Art tags, for example). So far I can only figure out the AND. Oh, and I wish the search box were bigger and that I could decide to set the default search to my bookmarks rather than all of

    I’ve spent a few quality hours playing around. I’ve learned to bundle tags (very cool, but I wish there were a way to syndicate a bundle rather than just a tag – and yes, I know I could give them all a tag, but that seems like extra effort). I’ve added tags to indicate rights. I’ve even added a “linkblog” tag which I’ll use if I replace my current list of links on my professional web site (which are still Furl links at the moment).

    Now I just have to figure out how to get the import/export thing to work so I can get my furl links into

    Then, just because that’s the way I am, I’ll keep both of them up to date for a while and keep playing…

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