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Creative Commons 2.5

Weblog Design: Furl - Effective Use in Writing

In a previous entry Weblog Design: Furl - Social Bookmarking I outlined various links that serve to connect the Experience Designer Network to the Experience Designer Network Furl Archive. It seems to me that the real question around Furl is not as much about how it works, although understanding that is necessary, but how it can assist the weblog author in the writing process...

Furl: A Tool for Exploration

Perhaps the most obvious and simplest use of Furl is to manage and share bookmarks, or sites that are of particular interest to the writer. The added social benefit discovering other people that have Furled the same site, and to see related sites that have been Furled in the community. For example, if I do a search my own Furl archive for Joseph Campbell I get the following results. The Furl item for the Joseph Campbell Foundation appears here.

A weblog archive should be under the constant surveillance of the weblog author. Archives should not be a place where entries simply fade away. Instead, archives should be constantly edited and revised so they can be more closely related to current writing initiatives. This is an important way in which the weblog writing process can be enhanced.

The same is true for a Furl Archive. I sometimes wonder how many people Furl items away never to see them again. I also wonder how many times a Furl item is visited and reviewed more than once. IF a Furl item is of value it will be used in some manner, not merely shared.

Furl: Commenting on Archived Items

Clicking on Furled By: 2 members - See who and what they said... takes us to the About This Link screen. For the most part, I find that Furl archives are not overly helpful here since most people that Furl items do not take the time to comment on them. This, to me, is rather unfortunate. The problem is not due to the Furl software, but instead due to what I would characterize as a emphasis on quantity over quality. Many Furl Archives are rather large, but it sometimes appears that there has been little thought given as to the structure and purpose of the archive.

However, I would also say that is not necessary to immediately add comments to the Furl archive. Items can be Furled for later exploration or reference without adding comments. Sometimes just having an interesting database of sites is good enough.

When an item is used in writing a weblog entry, I have decided to add direct links to that entry in the Comments area. For example, in Campbell, Joseph: The Joseph Campbell Foundation I have added two links to entries in my own weblog that have a direct connection the Furled item. This serves as a personal reminder of what I have written in relation to that link, and it also serves as a flag for a visitor to my Furl archive of some weblog entries they might have some interest in.

Although this is a somewhat laborious process and it perhaps does not make sense to treat an entire Furl archive in this manner, this direct linking can provide a more specific and personalized kind of "tagging" to one author's approach.

Of course, reciprocal links can be added in the weblog entry back out to the Furl archive. Rather than linking to a single item in Furl, I prefer to link to a search term. For example, here is a Furl Search on Joseph Campbell that reveals Furled items in my own Furl Archive, the General Furl Archive, as well as web results from LookSmart. Since the link is dynamic, it can be re-visited over time to see updated results.

Furl: People Who Furled This Also Furled...

Returning to we can see the following toward the bottom of the screen:

People who furled this, also furled:
  • The W.U.S.M. Neuroscience Tutorial
  • Creativity techniques and creative tools for problem solving
  • SIRC Guide to flirting
  • International High IQ Society | Free IQ Tests
  • eChalk colour perception: This is the most amazing optical effect in the world
See more...

There are no direct references to Joseph Campbell here so the "Also Furled" area is not contextual. But it is not without possibilities. I see this area more as an exercise in lateral thinking. In other words, I might discover something of interest even though it may have no direct relationship to Joseph Campbell (I could always do the search outlined above if I wanted to stay focused on him anyway).

Furl: RSS Subscriptions

Furl RSS Subscriptions can easily be customized and added to a feed reader such as Bloglines. For example, an Experience Designer Network Furl RSS Feed for Joseph Campbell can be used to track new items entered into the archive that fit that context. An very specific RSS feed like this would presuppose that the weblog author has a clear focus on that topic otherwise it may be too specific.

However, you could also subscribe to a Furl RSS feed that constantly updates new Furl items related to Joseph Campbell. This is a very useful technique for revealing specific items of interest in the Furl community.

In Weblog Design: Furl - Social Bookmarking I provided a listing of RSS feeds specific to my site that have been organized by the same themes used in my weblog. This helps me to try and contextualize my web explorations with the focus of the weblog itself.

Furl: Some Thoughts For Effective Use

Too often I run into weblogs that seem to be more focused on quoting information from another source than offering a unique opinion or perspective on that information. The goal of an author is to explore his or her own experience in relation to the information at hand. If an opinion or unique perspective can be formed the inspiration for writing appears. Whether or not I agree with that opinion or perspective is secondary and I can choose to write a different one if I wish. If a weblog author merely quotes another source as an end unto itself, weblogs become a means to relay the same information across the blogosphere. A case can be made for raising awareness of that information, or perhaps the weblog author is marking the information as an entry for later development, but without offering an opinion or perspective we simply inspire information as the bog of eternal stench.

A Furl Archive can be thought of in much the same way. Does it really matter how many people Furl the same item if there are no unique perspectives or contexts offered? Aside from using Furl as a resource database (which is, of course, one effective use), at least some of the Furled items should be given context either with a comment made directly in the item itself or a link to writing that is related to it.

In addition, weblog entries can reach out into the Furl archives as well. I believe the most effective way to do this is via the search links outlined above since they can be clicked on at various points in time and the results will be updated. Since I often revisit old entries with an eye toward improvement I am always looking for ways to push it in new directions and using Furl in this manner might, from time to time, offer some possibilities for writing.


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