Tony Duckles on programming, photography, and general geekery

del.icio.us Director


Yes, somewhere along the line…I became a geek. I started using multiple computers, not just between home/work/school/etc., but even multiple computers at home. (Though, I mainly use my MacBook for all my casual web-surfing needs these days at home…) I was always annoyed by having different bookmarks on the different computers I used, which meant frustration when I had to remember which computer I bookmarked that useful such-and-such on. I wanted a way to have a centralized webpage for my bookmarks and hence could access from wherever I was. So, inspired by an entry on 24ways.org, I created one. It was my little pet project, and it was good…

Then I found out that someone else had already done the same thing and they had done it better. Enter del.icio.us. (Ooh, the pretty pretty tag-clouds! Yes, my tag-cloud is quite delicious indeed…) Tags are such a simple concept, but oh-so effective. It just makes so much sense to have a webapp where you save bookmarks and can assign arbitrary tags to each entry. del.icio.us then makes it very easy to navigate around your list of links by tags, even providing nifty “easy” URLs like http://del.icio.us/tduckles/madison, which shows me everything I've tagged with “madison”.

Even better, people out there have written even slicker tools to access and navigate around your del.icio.us bookmarks. <!– more –> John Vey wrote this amazingly cool tool called del.icio.us direc.tor. In it's native form, it's meant to be a bookmarklet which you use at api.del.icio.us after you've done all your HTTP-Auth stuff, so that the JavaScript code doesn't need to worry about auth when trying to access your bookmarks.

Not only is this a uber-slick UI for navigating around your tag-tree and for quickly finding a link based on (real-time!) searching, but the page itself also goes into the design and architecture of direc.tor. This was a really fascinating read for me, from a web-dev perspective. What really blew my mind about this is the whole concept of using AJAX methods to grab the del.icio.us XML DOM, and then use XSLT and XPath features which are built-in to most modern browsers to do all the searching in real-time on the client-side. So, really, the whole bottom pane of direc.tor is the output of an XSTL on the del.icio.us XML DOM of your bookmarks. I had never realized that you could do XSLT and XPath operations via Javascript before. This was a watershed moment for me, because a whole new perspective on web-development opened up for me: you could use XMLHttpRequest to grab an XML document, and then use Javascript to do an XSLT to transform that XML data into HTML or whatever presentation- layer you wanted. In the past, I had always only thought of AJAX calls returning some chunk of HTML which you could then insert somewhere into the document DOM.