I've found my self in several situations over the last 6 months where I needed a clean workflow to collaboratively gather and store links and articles with several different people on a specific project. Most often these projects where ideas for startup companies, and the people involved wanted to start researching a specific field or they just wanted to start gathering information about all the different fields that would go into making this idea come to life.
Right away I thought that the entry point into the workflow system would be a bookmarking service such as del.icio.us , furl , spurl , blinklist , etc. This lead me on a wild digression trying to research every piece of functionality that these services had to offer, and then comparing them all. Needless to say I never really got anywhere. At some point a stumbled across the Roximatic Social Bookmark Review which offered a fairly comprehensive though always a bit out of date perspective on a large portion of the social bookmarking services.
For the sake of moving forward I decided to just go with the standard, delicious, which seemed to do a great job of saving links and retrieving them later. Where delicious fell short was storing articles. I've separated the two (links and articles) because links would be to things such as a company website, a forum, or blogs, while articles where limks to a specific piece of text that needs to be preserved. When archiving articles I turned to furl, spurl, and simpy. Of course I didn't have the time or energy to make a fully informed decisions so I stuck with furl mostly because it looked like it did 75% of what I wanted to do, and it was the first one I discovered.
Now that I could click on one button for links, and another for articles I needed to find a way to share these with the other people on my particular project. Each service offers several different methods of sharing, but what seemed to make the most sense to me was to use RSS feeds. This was the first big lack of functionality that I encountered. I wanted to create a private rss feed of my private posts (at the time delicious didn't allow for private bookmarks, but have since added that feature) in a certain category. I didn't need it to be super secure, but I just didn't want that RSS feed available to the general public. I have yet to find a workaround for this piece of the BLAG workflow.
The next easiest step from here would be to get each person in the project to subscribe to all the other people in the project, thus sharing all their links and articles relating to one topic. This seemed kind of rough around the edges, so what I started doing was using the rss feed reader module in Drupal to combine all these rss feeds into a blog, with an individual post for each link or article. The most obvious benefit being that you could see these links/articles coming in and then just click into the comments section to begin a dialogue with the whole group on a specific topic. The blog would track all the content being collected as well as all of the conversations inspired by that content. With some good search functionality you have a very smart way to do research for staring new companies!
This BLAG workflow is probably being done by someone out there, and I've just been too lazy to find it. To be honest theres probably a very simple solution right in front of me, so I welcome any comments, tips, howtos, etc.
Pieces of the puzzle that I have yet to find even basic solutions to:
- How to do this for multiple projects in parallel. Since each project wants its own set of tags, it makes sense to have a different account in Furl or Del.icio.us to do this or to just use tags to create seperation. The end goal here would be to provide a simple interface for someone to easily capture a link or article from the browser and have it sent to the right BLAG with the minimum amount of clicks or typing.
- How to get straight from the BLAG post generatedby Furl's RSS feed to the archived copy of the article should the article have moved or been taken down.
- Exactly how Furl and delicious (or whichever service you use) decides to pass categories/tags through the RSS feed on to the BLAG, and whether or not those tags can the be used to assign tags with your content management system (in my case, Drupal)
- A way to create private rss feeds from the bookmarking services into the BLAG. I was a bit caught off guard, though in retrospect it was a complete oversight on my part, to notice that my social bookmarking pages were showing up in google searches for my user name. My boss asked to know more about all the articles that I had tagged with the name of his company, at this point I knew I needed a bit more anonymity.