Welcome to Adventures in Technology, where I try out apps, software, and other gizmos that have rumored instructional capabilities.
This week’s adventure: Diigo!
For today’s adventure in technology, I decided to try a bookmarking app.
When they first came on the scene, bookmarking apps did one thing: they let you collect, save, and organize links to material you found on the internet and wanted to visit again someday.
Since then, bookmarking apps have branched out – and how! Want to take notes or highlight a web page? How about collect a bunch of sources for your group project… in a place where your group members can do the same thing? You just might be able to do that in a bookmarking app!
- It’s been around longer (so it’s less likely to disappear in the future)
- It has a wide user base
- It’s the link-sharing highlighting darling of many educators
- It can do oh so much more than manage bookmarks
After a solid week of heavy use, I must say: I’m impressed.
The New User Experience
My initial impression of Diigo was, unfortunately, clouded by skepticism.
Looking at the site’s landing page, I couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow. “9 million+ users are already using Diigo. Try it free Now!” the page’s headline trumpeted, followed by a massive “Install Extension” button. Eyeballing that inexplicably capitalized “now” and the in-your-face encouragement to download software onto my computer, I was not impressed.
Nor did I learn much from the rest of the page.
Collect. Annotate. Organize. Share. What did doing these things actually look like? Could a browser extension really do this many things, and do them well? My gut response was deep skepticism, and I decided to look for a different program. It was only after encountering multiple glowing reviews of Diigo that I decided to come back and see what all the fuss was about.
The primary purpose of Diigo is to collect and organize bookmarked websites and their content. You can save material for later review, prevent websites from disappearing by “archiving”, mark up and save screenshots, access your bookmarks from different devices, and interact with others in a group, commenting, collaborating, and sharing as needed. I tried all of these functions except group-related.
In terms of ease of use, Diigo passes with flying colors.
Diigo does take a few minutes of trial and error before a new user like myself could comfortably navigate and take advantage of its offerings, but once that little hump of a learning curve is over everything works exactly as advertised.
Some thoughts on user experience:
- Bookmarking and highlighting pages via the Chrome extension is quick and easy.
- Organizing things into folders or categories takes a bit more effort, but not much.
- Accessing the app on my phone went flawlessly.
- I particularly like knowing that my bookmarks will continue to be accessible even if I’m on a different device. Or if my computer gets bricked.
It’s easy to visualize how Diigo could be useful in a classroom setting.
I can also imagine it providing a central coordination space for a workplace group project. Any individual – student, hobbyist, or professional – could utilize Diigo for conducting online research and coordinating source lists.
Diigo does have some drawbacks:
- It limits how many highlights you can use if you have a free account
- It doesn’t record bibliographic material (as far as I could tell)
- It cannot incorporate material that isn’t publicly available online, such as a PDF from a research journal that’s behind a paywall (again, as far as I could tell)
Happily, there are plenty of programs that execute Diigo’s individual elements equally as well or better.
Depending on your personal needs, these apps might be more to your liking:
- For tracking visual bookmarks (such as historical images), I find Pinterest much faster and easier to use.
- For annotating, highlighting, tagging, and otherwise interacting with dense e-reading, Mendeley remains unmatched. It takes more time to enter new material into Mendeley and it is not cloud-based, but for note taking and retention it decimates Diigo.
- Zotero is also a better research manager than Diigo.
- Kami remains my personal favorite for annotating websites and online PDFs.
Critiques aside, I am impressed by Diigo’s flexibility and breadth of use. I might even continue using it as a general purpose bookmark manager. It does that job quickly and well, which is really all I was looking for.