I’ve started to tag all the external references in Adam Greenfield’s new book, Everyware on del.icio.us. I did it for Peter’s Ambient Findability when it came out too. The reason why I did it was because I was checking all these references as I read through and I thought how nice it would have been if someone had 1. already presented me with the full references online, and 2. cross-referenced them with the pages I was reading in the book.
All references in these two books are interesting, but typing up long URLs suck. We are lazy people – I think we are less likelly to check the references for more information if we see that long boring link printed on the page. Maybe we’ll check a few, but imagine how much more interesting it would be to experience these books if you could easily access any references and glance through them all as you were reading?
I don’t think this applies to all kinds of books, but these two in partcular discuss a new reality and in many ways require you to think about a world that doesn’t exist yet. It’s not sci-fi, it’s just a near-future that hasn’t been revealed, so the more support you have in reading them, the most you can make out of them. Thus the tagging frenzy.
References from Everyware
References from Ambient Findability
My entirely non-scientific method of observation and talking to people tells me that there are two reason why one would go online to check a reference from a book: To learn more about a topic the book explores to some extent (dig deeper), or to learn about the background on something that’s referenced in a book (high-level) that you don’t really know much about.
I’ve found that I’m more likelly to do the first because it’s more fun (“hmmm interesting new/cool/exciting thing, let me find out more”). However, I will definitely go for the second when my ignorance about the topic is making me struggle with the book at hand (“oh so it’s like UML? Nice, but I can’t remember the first thing about UML. Let me recap…”)
If I can go somewhere and see the aggregated references sorted by the order I am reading the book, it becomes so much easier to do any of these things. When are publishers going to start doing this as part of the publishing process?
Post-scriptum: I failed to mention I am NOT a del.icio.us fan and I never really saw much value in it for me personaly. It was only when I started to tag these books that it became meaningful to me. I still think the method used to tag references is rudimentary and could be lightyears ahead.
Note: I’m getting tired of the word tagging already. It’s used to represent so many things that it’s losing meaning. I’m only talking about the action of adding an identifier – a tag – to something.