The Found-Kept Web:
A Delicious Workshop
exploring delicious
trying it out
assignment ideas
Eastern Michigan University - Writing Across the Curriculum Institute - April 28 & May 5, 2010

This afternoon's 90-minute workshop will introduce you to, a social bookmarking platform launched in 2003. I'm Derek Mueller, Assistant Professor of Written Communication at EMU. The session is designed to provide you with an overview of social bookmarking and to begin thinking about the potential of social bookmarking practices to underpin writing assignments. After you learn a little bit more about and try it out, we will cap today's session with a conversation about specific writing projects that would be enriched if they integrated social bookmarking. Your input (questions, comments, etc.) is welcome throughout today's workshop. Here are a few additional opening provocations that have motivated this workshop:

  • How, by inviting students to write, can we give due attention to filtering practices (i.e., decisions they make about what to collect for this or that purpose, or for engaging this or that question)?
  • What is the value in understanding filtering not only as an individualized, reception-end practice, but as a collaborative, productive practice?
  • How important is it for students to build libraries not only by collecting print resources, but also by gathering and organizing customized digital collections adapted to specific lines of inquiry?

What is
Social bookmarking has been around for more than a decade. is but one site bustling with frequent bookmarking activity—URLs publicly gathered by the site's more than five million of users. Its users log in and save links, recording the URL, adding tags to organize the growing personal/multi-user collection, and sharing the link with others. The entire process is transparent by default, so you can explore the bookmarks kept by any other user. If, on the other hand, you wish to keep a bookmark private, you also have that option.

Fundamentally, these practices are grounded in collaborative filtering of an immense and rapidly expanding web. For writing instruction, we can introduce as an engine to aid simple searches, or we can get students building their own collections. When students build their own collections, instructors can as with any writing assignment introduce all variety of constraints to focus students' work. As we will see, the social bookmarking platform foregrounds collecting, annotating (with notes and tags), and sharing. Teachers of writing in all disciplines can use with students to get them building collections over time, to get them writing about patterns (e.g., coherence) in the collections they keep, and to get them examining the vocabulary they assign (as individuals or as a group) to the objects they are keeping.



Let's spend a few minutes getting to know the interface.
You can make your way through the platform following many different routes, but for now we will explore collections based on

  1. individuals (e.g., dmueller)
  2. the last minute (e.g.,
  3. tags (e.g., economics+toread)
  4. networks (e.g., wacinstitute's network)*

What else can we say for

  1. Flexibility: the platform can be adapted to a great variety of uses. Teachers can use it to grow a repository of materials over many months or years. Students can use it to trace terms or to build their own collections.
  2. Serendipity: lends itself to unanticipated discoveries. Thus, it can serve as a rich source for invention.
  3. Collectivity: the site effectively aggregates individual finding and keeping into collective finding and keeping. That is, building a Delicious network is much like employing a team of self-interested collaborators in actively filtering the web. We will see more on this in a few minutes.*
  4. Ubiquity: Collections can be accessed from any computer with internet access. Unlike local bookmarking, collections travel well.
  5. Recency: offers us a lens on what is being kept today or in any other time period since late 2003.

And what can we say concerns us about

  1. Semantic variation: Irregular vocabularies introduce variability to the system.
  2. Link rot: URLs change over time. Pages move.
  3. Using requires an internet connection.
  4. The platform thrives upon gradual use. An account is much richer with frequent contributions (i.e., serial immersion).

How does one "read"

I recommend subscribing to the RSS feed for your "network." For this, I use Google Reader. In my personal account, I have added approximately 40 users to my network. Many of them are colleagues in my field. On any given day, the links they have collected churn into Google Reader, and I flip through them fairly quickly to get a glancing impression of what they have kept and whether there is anything in it I want to keep or explore further.

Trying It Out

At this point, it is your turn to try out Spend as much as 15-20 minutes on the following.

  1. Sign up for a free account, if you have not done so already.
  2. Log in to your account and follow the paper handout distributed in the workshop.

Assignment Ideas

Here you will find sketches of writing assignments that would take advantage of the collecting, annotating, and sharing logics implicit in As you read through these ideas, think about possibilities for integrating into your teaching. How do you see the platform aligning with a writing assignment you would like to develop?

1. Anthologies

Blaze Micro-Anthology
Why "blaze"? This is an assignment that can be completed in a short period of time--an in-class session or for overnight homework. Using whatever methods you choose (e.g., search engine queries, library databases,, etc.) search for 3-5 resources related to some teaching or research question you are currently exploring. This could be a tentative area of inquiry; it could also be a question linked to something you have learned about in this week's institute. Add each URL to your new account. As you add each link, include a descriptive annotation and the course number and title (e.g., ENGL328: Writing, Style, and Technology). Assign at least eight (8) tags to each one of the resources. When you finish, if time permits, write a paragraph in which you explain the rationale for your spontaneous collection, your Blaze Micro-Anthology.

The Blaze Micro-Anthology could be adjusted for any area of inquiry or period of time. I have adapted this assignment from a course called "Detroit Anthologics," taught by Jim Brown at Wayne State. The course addresses processes of selection, classification, and arrangement. Using, students could build bundles of links organized around research questions they devise themselves or, perhaps, common questions used to thematize a unit or a full course. Collections could include a table of contents, a summary/overview/rationale, an evaluative report (i.e., some explanation of ranking based on recency or other criteria). Yet another alternative would ask students to create collections from a pre-selected repository of materials, choosing, say, 10 selections from a larger collection of 100 articles.

2. Search Chronicles/Narratives/Inventories
Students would develop collections in and use the annotation feature to record the ways they found the item. Such a project could emphasize sustained, distributed research processes that culminate in an open, class-wide inventory complete with explanations of how each item in the collection took its place. Through an exercise like this, search-find processes become more explicit and, perhaps, students and faculty become more fully aware of the proficiencies and pitfalls among the group. Making search-find processes focal in this way allows us to address important questions of recency, authority, genre, purpose, and depth of search.

3. Scavenger Hunts
Scavenger hunts can incorporate a variety of genres or media. For instance, a pre-defined topic of inquiry might touch off a kind of scavenger hunt by which students would work individually or in teams to link to a blog entry, an image, a tweet, a scholarly article, a monograph, a map location, a video, and so on. Students might identify a target audience (e.g., freshmen in my major) and assemble collections based on predetermined criteria (e.g., Five Blog Entries in 2009 Every Freshman in My Major Should Know). Another alternative would be to have students gather an assortment of materials with the stipulation that they must plant an anomalie. Next, students could review each other's collections to see whether they can identify the source that does not belong with the others. A process like this can be a fun, energizing opening segment in a research unit focally concerned with the challenging unevenness among research materials found online.

4. Selective Portfolios
Let's say students have undertaken a distributed, semester-long online writing assignment involving blogs or Twitter. They could then use to bookmark exemplary materials from their work. That is, students could use to organize and tag samples of their writing, keeping with whatever evaluative criteria were established in the assignment.

5. Mapping/Tracing Terms
Were an entire class to use Delicious over a period of time, a critical mass of vocabulary would almost certainly emerge. Imagine an assignment in which students dig more deeply into particular terms, perhaps by investigating etymologies, by grouping terms into semantic clusters, or by comparing the emergent set of terms with a second set of terms (produced by an instructor, found in a textbook's index, and so on).

6. Course Plus Reading Lists
Use to organize supplemental reading lists (for an example of this, check out Bradley Dilger's blog entry on the topic). Certainly there are viable alternatives to Delicious for this purpose, but if students had individual accounts, perhaps they could add links from a course commons (i.e., a shared reading list) and incorporate their own readings related to the course. That is, Delicious would support the ongoing documentation of a student's engagement with a common reading list infused with self-selected readings.

Now, spend 15-20 minutes outlining a writing assignment that would use After 20 minutes, we will share our ideas, discuss Jodie Nicotra's "'Folksonomy' and the Restructuring of Writing Space," and entertain conversation about other aspects of digital writing you want to take up today.


For links to materials from today's workshop, visit