Saturday, November 7, 2009

Goodbye To Delicious

It is with a heavy heart that I have this week decided to stop using Delicious as both my own personal bookmarking site and for the students I teach.

Delicious was my first introduction to web 2.0 technology when I was doing my first teacher training placement back in 2005. A teacher, who was to become a good friend of mine, sent me a link to his Delicious account. A list of websites - I was mystified. However I soon got the hang of it and became a convert, particularly as I began to build up a network of people with whom I shared links. Any time I was lacking in inspiration I could dip into what others had found. Anything I was enthusiastic about I could post to others.

A natural development of this was looking at how Delicious could be used in school. Firstly we set up a school Delicious account that several of us could post links to. This helped to collate ideas for the e-Learning newsletters we had started to publish and it was hoped that it would encourage more staff to create Delicious accounts and access the pooled resources.

I did some early trials of using Delicious with students during pre-Diploma lessons two years ago. Through this I got a better understanding of the issues involved. The students couldn't add the buttons to the toolbar and I was stumped at first as to how to bookmark without them. Once we had got round that the mechanics seemed OK but the students had little idea about what they could use the tool for. I needed a better context within which to introduce it.

Last year I started to put together a scheme of work around the concept of Digital Literacy - how to equip students with the skills they needed to find and process data ( more of which in future posts ). One element of this was keeping track of the sources they found during their group project. So now we had a context but the results were still a little patchy.

The breakthough came this year. I began developing google sites for each of my year groups and courses to deliver the resources and lesson plans. I made each site public rather than invite only so that it would be easy for students to log onto the site. When I introduced Delicious the first site they had to bookmark was their google site. After that they could ( within reason ) bookmark any other site that they were interested in and post sites to other students. There was a bit of confusion while students tried to work out the user names of their friends. However they very quickly worked out that the only people bookmarking their google site were students in their year group at the school. By clicking on the number denoting the people who had already bookmarked the site they had a ready made list of all the user names for the year group. Also as each tutor group were introduced to Delicious at a different time all the user names for the group were together. There was real excitement in the room as the students swapped sites and videos. 

This also provided me with a means of moderating the accounts. I set up a moderator account on Delicious and bookmarked all the google sites. This then gave me the same list of all the accounts so that I could do spot checks and make sure that no inappropriate sites were being shared around. I did however find that I had to bookmark each site twice. The URL for the home page changed depending on whether I had just loaded the site or returned to the home page after viewing other pages on the site.

Delicious has also proved ideal for keeping track of sources for coursework. Students have got into the habit of bookmarking sites and using the notes box to document where there have used the information or image. This has been far easier to get them to do than keep a sources table  in Word.

So half a term in and all year 8, year 9 and KS4/5 ICT students have a Delicious account. Then disaster strikes. Delicious, which has been taken over by Yahoo, changed their login procedures so that a Yahoo profile is now required to set up a Delicious account. My HoD was worried that students needed to be over 18 to set up a Yahoo profile so I checked it out. I was relieved to find that if I set up an account with a date of birth suitable for a year 7 student I was still able to create the account successfully. However on checking the terms of use for Yahoo I came across this:-

Yahoo! is concerned about the safety and privacy of all its users, particularly children. For this reason, parents who wish to allow their children access to the Services should assist them in setting up any relevant accounts and supervise their access to the Services. By allowing your child access to the Services, they will be able to access all of the Services including, email, message boards, groups, instant messages and chat (among others). Please remember that the Services are designed to appeal to a broad audience. Accordingly, as the legal guardian, it is your responsibility to determine whether any of the Services and/or Content (as defined in Section 6 below) are appropriate for your child.

This prompted a discussion within the department as to whether our acceptable usage policy and filtering policy covered us for this. Before reaching a decision I received a phone call from a friend teaching at another school. The  login procedure had changed again and you now needed a parent to verify the account by typing in their own Yahoo profile id before it could be set up. The use of Delicious in class was blown out of the water. I tried Tweeting my PLN to see if anyone had a workaround and found that there were others with similar concerns. So I tried posting to the Help Forum on Delicious and received this response:-

As a Yahoo! product we’re committed to supplying the best level of support and as many benefits to our users as possible. While we weren’t happy about it, we knew that there would be a limited number of negative side-effects to this change and unfortunately some of your students fall into this category. There is no work-around for this, a Yahoo! ID is required to access the site for all new users.

Having said that. This shouldn’t be the end of your experience with Delicious. Assuming the links you need to give your students is public; you can still save bookmarks to an account you own, assign a unique tag and add notes as needed. That way you can just give your students the link to get to the content they need, i.e. . There are so many ways Delicious can be utilized by schools without needing to create multiple accounts, in most cases one will do. Utilizing tags, comment and tag descriptions can be a great way to distribute information to a large group. They can also be used year on year so that the same content doesn’t have to be sent to new users each year. Yet still allow you to delete and replace with new content when the content found on the link is no longer pertinent. If you need anymore ideas or suggestions on how to do this contact me at sdavison (at) , I'm more than willing to pass on ideas I've collected from other teachers and government agencies.

I was very unhappy with this response. I do not want my students to be passive consumers of links that I have found. I want them to get into good habits of attributing their sources, setting up networks to share resources and organising their work using tags. A couple more exchanges ensued but the basic answer was 'tough'. There is no workaround.

So I have spent the weekend reviewing alternative social bookmarking sites. Toolbla was recommended via Twitter. This is a nice looking interface but relies on folders rather than tags and is only open to 13 year olds and older. Digg, Stumblupon, Faves and Clipmarks were all discounted due to the same age restriction. Eventually, following other recommendations from my Twitter PLN I have settled on Diigo. It has no age restrictions, it uses tags and allows users to set up networks. Importantly, as we have already started with Delicious, it allows you to import all your bookmarks from Delicious with the tags intact. Even better is actually has features that Delicious does not have. You can highlight sections of the website, add sticky notes and save the entire page in case the original ceases to be available. 

Now 'all' I have to do is rewrite all my resources and help documentation to refer to Diigo instead of Delicious and migrate all the students over to the new system. 


  1. Interesting I'm struggling with these issues too. More form a point of view of a group of professionals shring a ny bookmarks they find - the tagging and annotation on Diigo does appeal. Its also where I have coem from, but others say Delicious has a better community feel to it.
    Diiog has a sign up to it and some people are 'funny' about singing up to accounts. I could just create ine and issue the login to lots of people. Not sure. Any dieas form anyone welcome.

  2. Thanks for the comment. We set up a school Delicious account which everyone could post to but only a couple of people logged on as to tag the links. This way we could get some consistency of tagging. Otherwise you would end up with lots of people's tagging system which may make it difficult to find stuff. With regards to sign-up there is little information required to set up an account and if you have an organisational email system people can use that for sign up rather than any personal account.

    There are more people on Delicious because it has been around longer - I think that's what gives it the community feel - if all your contacts are on Diigo it will have the same feel.

  3. I followed your discussion with delicious with interest and feel that they just don't get 'it' - what appears to them to be a highly logical business decision has put project work which I doing in some primary schools on the back foot. I also object to the tone of their response which, I felt, presumed that you were a bit of an idiot. Thanks for the recommendation of diigo i shall check it and move my bookmarks list to it as well. Very disappointing all in all.

  4. One of the things I try to teach my students is that web 2.0 gives them the ability to enter into dialogue with organisations and possibly influence them to change. OK Delicious didn't budge but hopefully they have become aware of the impact of their decision and the likes of Diigo can only benefit from the adverse publicity.

    This also shows students the flexibility of web 2.0. A service isn't quite right but there are lots of other alternatives to choose from.

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  6. I have just come across your posts to the Delicious forum and agree with what you have said. I am finding it frustrating with the Yahoo registration process and logging in with working with teachers. I am loath to let go of it though and will hang on to see if anything comes from the posts others have made. I have just posted my own comment as well on one of the forums. Just like you I will be investigating Diigo as well. I am glad I have found your blog and will follow that with interest!