Tech Life Occasionally, gunfire is heard

A Del.icio.us Interview

The original headline for this article hit me last week in a post-Turkey haze… laying on the couch… staring at the ceiling in the living room — “Why Del.icio.us is more important than Google“. Let’s hear it for SENSATIONALISM! Woo-hoo!

It’s hard to compare the two… one is a web service and the other is a company, but they do have a common goal — they strive to manage the endless pile of information that is the Web. They are both viewed as doing a successful job of this as measured by their ability to provide their users with relevant information… quickly.

I believe where Del.icio.us succeeds that Google does not is buzz latency. Like weblogs, Del.icio.us’s social bookmarking system does a fine job of identifying buzz quickly. A quick glance of the popular page and you get a pretty clear idea what Del.icio.us’s 30k+ community cares about.

Yes, Google indexes 8 billion pages and, yes, it serves up the results of queries to those indicies to, well, The Planet Earth, but Google chews on their large bites of the web relatively slowly. A monthly Zeitgeist reports tells me what The Planet Earth cares about, but I could pretty much guess that the most popular retail query on Google was Ebay. I was surprised that the #2 male celebrity query was Matt Drudge, but I don’t actually care.

I do care that Joel on Software is gathering the Best Software Essays of 2004. I’m also oddly interested in how to fold a shirtfree graph paper you say? Well, sure. These are topics I learn about from my anonymous del.icio.us peers… and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Del.icio.us more important than Google? Nah. It’s an AND, it’s not an OR. Can’t really write that article, so a different tact. We know there are several thousands Googlers in Mountain View… what about Del.icio.us?

Joshua Schachter is the decidedly low-profile author of Del.icio.us and he graciously agreed be interviewed via email.

RANDS: At whatever level of detail you prefer, what have you been up to since you graduated from Carnegie Mellon?

JOSHUA: I spend most of my time pressing the buttons in front of the big glowing thing. Occasionally, gunfire is heard.

From outward appearances, del.icio.us is the work of a single person… you… is this the case?

I do all the coding and other heavy lifting, but a cast of thousands contribute ideas.

Given there appears to be no revenue generated by your projects, how do you afford to eat?

I have a day job. I only work on del.icio.us one evenings and weekends. It’s not that expensive, just rack space and ALL MY SPARE TIME.

Do you expect to have to charge for del.icio.us at some point?

I don’t think charging is realistic. I probably could put ads on it to cover the bandwidth costs. I’m not really trying to make a business, just have fun.

Where did the idea for del.icio.us come from?

I had built a single-user bookmark system a few years ago. It had tags but otherwise wasn’t a lot like the current system.

I’d like to nominate del.icio.us for “Best Use of a Non-Dot-Com Name” — is there a deeping meaning to the name?

Not really. I’d registered the domain when .us opened the registry, and a quick test showed me the six letter suffixes that let me generate the most words.

In early discussions, a friend refered to finding good links as “eating cherries” and the metaphor stuck, I guess.

I somewhat regret using the domain name, because it’s almost impossible to discuss or verify without sounding silly. I’ll probably have to rename it at some point, presumably as something ending in -ster or -zilla or whatever.

From looking at del.icio.us from the outside, it appears you first design an architecture, throw it out in the wild, and then continue iteratively developing based off community feedback.

10 Responses

  1. Del.icio.us user interface design

    How do you approach user interface design?Lots and lots of iterations until something feels right. Avoiding features until the interface for them is apparent. Seeing how users use the existing features to do things I didn’t expect, and then making tho…

  2. 1. yay! i get to comment first! although i did just stop by to show the n.a.d.d. article to andrew, and now he’s grumbling because, well, i got sidetracked.

    2. you’re already probably too familiar with my love of del.icio.us. so no surprise there. (guess whose best team-building quality is enthusiasm?) but it never ceases to be more and more useful. even if the search function is a little wonky at times.

    3. i agree with the AND NOT OR argument (uh, why am i tempted to make a bad boolean joke?). but it must be noted that del.icio.us does have a certain advantage for vetting certain topics. try typing in “java” to google. well, at least it pulls up the sun site before starbucks. but if you’re looking for truly useful java sources, it’s easy to say that just looking at http://del.icio.us/java or http://del.icio.us/programming is a lot more useful.

    4. WHY ON EARTH IS THAT SHIRT FOLDING VIDEO SO DAMN FASCINATING? and why has everyone i showed it to just shrugged? maybe it’s some kind of nerd brain miswiring. hm.

    5. without del.icio.us, would i ever have found http://www.viceking.net/bubblewrap.swf? and if i hadn’t, would my life ever feel as complete?

    *sigh* 3am = good night.

  3. If you don’t use del.icio.us you should.

    del.icio.us is going to change the world. Well maybe not but it will be pretty damn close. It does what google and the rest of the search crowd can’t. It follows the second by second ebb and flow of the…

  4. If you think the search function is wonky, you might try Cocoalicious, which I think has excellent search capabilities:

    http://www.scifihifi.com/cocoalicious

    Sorry–I couldn’t resist plugging my own app :-).

    Thanks for the interview, incidentally–I follow del.icio.us pretty closely, but I’ve never really had a very good sense of Joshua’s motivation. It’s nice to see what a labor of love the site is.

  5. I’ve been using del.icio.us to provide categories, descriptions, and various metadata for Blogger-based shopping cart weblogs [1]. It has done a wonderful job of supplementing the simple data repository at Blogger with gobs [2] and gobs [3] of metadata for the websites I’m managing for others.

    [1] http://www.crystalflame.net/2004/09/one_hour_from_n.html

    [2] http://del.icio.us/coronahats

    [3] http://del.icio.us/coastalglass

  6. A Del.icio.us Interview by Rands

    Rands interviews Joshua Schachter, creator of Del.icio.us.

  7. Cheekygeek 10 years ago

    He’s gonna be a rich man. Google will probably be making him a nice offer very soon. They’ll rearchitect it and call it Googlicious and come up with all sorts of ways to index everybody’s book marks.

  8. The man behind Del.icio.us

    Joshua Schachter is the decidedly low-profile author of Del.icio.us and he graciously agreed be interviewed via email… (Rands In Repose: A Del.icio.us Interview)

  9. @kristen: But you do realize, that http://del.icio.us/java is not the tag “java” but just somebody who cared to open an account with that name? http://del.icio.us/tag/java is where you want to link to.