Tag Better

Yesterday and today, I worked with Alex Bischoff and Chris Griego on a Rails Rumble project. In less than forty-eight hours, we set out to build a web application, using Ruby, from the ground up. While we didn’t boil the ocean, we did come up with something interesting.

Tag Better is the groundwork for an app that enhances one of our favorite, but often neglected, sites: del.icio.us. Personally, I’ve tried other bookmarking tools such as a plain text file, EagleFiler and pinboard.in (which I think has an excellent chance of eclipsing Delicious). However, I’ve found myself back on Delicious, even after a hiatus.

Given Yahoo’s unsteady stewardship of the site, we figured it’s time to take matters in our own hands. Using their API, it’s entirely possible for us to build enhancements on top of Delicious. We decided to do just that.

h2. Triage and tidying

We started out from a gem of an idea that Chris had. When you’re trying to better organize your tags and bundles in Delicious, there are two modes you might want to operate under. The first couple times, you need to do triage. Get stuff roughly into order, and start creating a filing system. Once you’ve got everything under control, you switch to tidying. Now you just need to keep things clean or maybe switch things around that aren’t working well.

We tackled triage first. In specific, we wanted a way to filter down our list of tags, select a bundle, and add some of the filtered tags to that bundle.

h2. Try it out

To get started with Tag Better, you’ll first need to log in with your Delicious username and password (more on that in a moment.)

Tag Better – Makes Delicious Tagging Better.png

Once you’re logged in, you’ll see your tag bundles on the left and all your tags on the right. If you click a bundle, the tags that are included in that bundle are highlighted. Clicking a tag toggles its inclusion in the bundle. Changes in Tag Better are immediately reflected in Delicious.

That’s the core interaction. You can also logout, of course. And, if you feel the need, we offer a way to remove your bundle and tag data from our system’s caches.

We were just four short characters away from getting live filtering of your tags via the search box on the top right. Alex and I even got it working, but keyboard cat had already played us out at that point. I promise we’ll add it as soon as judging is over!

A couple other caveats: you might want to create a test bundle (in the Delicious UI) to play with, rather than one you’ve already organized. I don’t think there are problems in the code, but it never hurt to show caution. Also, IE support is probably “interesting”, at this point.

h2. Trust

Even though we need your Delicious username and password to edit bundles on your behalf, we have made sure to never store authentication information on our side. Your authentication data is stored in a cookie on your machine; if you don’t like that, you should probably skip out on using Tag Better as a hosted app. If you delete that cookie, we won’t operate on your data. Further, we’ve added the ability for you to remove your bundle and tag data from our system. That’s the only data that we save on our disks.

I mentioned trust and your authentication data earlier. It’s an important part of an application like this. We don’t want to screw your bookmarks up, and you don’t want us to do skeezy things with your bookmarks. Unfortunately, Delicious does not yet offer a delegated authentication API like Flickr and Twitter do. So, we’ve got two options.

On the one hand, you could trust us. This is up to you. I’d like to think that if you’ve met Alex, Chris or I, then you’re happy to use the application knowing we’ve got more amusing things to do than soil your bookmarks. Further, when the competition is over, we’ll open the source repository up to the public. If you’re a code-review sort of person, go nuts.

On the other hand, you could run it yourself. Again, once the competition is over, we’re going to release the code. Look over the readme, install the dependencies, and run it on your own hardware. Sleep safely at night knowing your password is safely ensconced on your personal machine.

Tomorrow I’ll talk a bit about the technology we used to make Tag Better. Until then, I hope you’ll give it a try. If you have ideas for feedback, leave a comment here!