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Pearltrees: Bookmarking Program for Organization Lovers

(This review is part of the Traveling Geeks tech tour of Paris. David Spark (@dspark) is the founder of Spark Media Solutions and a tech journalist that blogs at Spark Minute and can be heard and seen regularly on ABC Radio and on John C. Dvorak’s “Cranky Geeks.”)

For the first stop for the Traveling Geeks trip to Paris, we stopped by the offices of Pearltrees, a Web bookmarking, organizing, and organizing tool. Sitting inside their offices I could have been sitting at any Web 2.0 company in Silicon Valley. Very open work atmosphere. Brightly fluorescent lit rooms with everyone worked around big conference tables.

I had met with Patrice Lamonthe, Pearltrees’ CEO, back in San Francisco. Now I was his guest in his office. When I first received a demo, I immediately started making comparisons to Delicious, a bookmarking program that I use heavily. I use Delicious because it allows me to quickly bookmark and tag sites that I see that I know one day I’m going to need and use. What I like most about Delicious is the speed of bookmarking, tagging, and organizing. I can quickly “file” something away without going through the arduous task of filing.

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AIM Gets More Social

AIMI use AOL’s instant-messaging network all day long, but I’m not sure when I last used the AIM software itself (with the exception of the iPhone version). I’ve associated it with feature bloat, annoying ads, and a sort of old-timy, Web 1.0 feel. So I long ago switched to other clients that support the AIM network (Apple’s iChat when I’m on a Mac, GAIM when I’m on Windows, and the Web-based Meebo anywhere and everywhere).

But AOL showed off new desktop and iPhone versions of AIM this morning at TechCrunch50. The new AIM is distinctly less clunky and annoying, and it aims to be not only an IM client but also an aggregator of social networking info (aka your “lifestream”) from other services, too. The new versions officially launch next week, but betas for Windows and Mac are available right now and the $2.99 paid iPhone version is live on the App Store.

AIM guy with Twitter logoI’m trying the Mac beta, and it’s a Mac AIM client I’d actually use (hey, I’m chatting in another window even as we speak). It seems to lack some of the irritations that drove me away long ago, like ads popping up without warning. As for the social networking features, AOL has added support for Delicious, Digg, Facebook, Fickr, Twitter, and YouTube. It combines them all in a tab called Lifestream, lets you view all of them in one river of updates, or one service at a time, and permits you to broadcast your AIM status to other services whenever you update it. It also displays photos and videos from your pals directly in the AIM window.

There aren’t many things harder to do than elegant integration of disparate social networks–actually, I’m not sure if anyone’s really nailed it yet–and AIM’s implementation, in this beta at least, is imperfect. I’m not sure why you configure networks in your browser rather than in AIM preferences, for instance. And if you’re the type who loves high-powered apps like TweetDeck and Seesmic, you’ll find the AIM client’s support for other networks to be bare-bones at best. I doubt that any semi-serious Twitter user will rely on AIM as his or her only Twitter client, and about 95% of the things that make Facebook interesting (the full-blown wall, events, third-party apps, etc.) aren’t available.

The new AIM makes most sense for folks whose social lives are centered around AIM rather than Twitter or Facebook or another network. There are millions of those people, so it’ll be accomplishing something if all it does is make them happy. As it will be if you can use the new clients without gnashing your teeth and seeking alternative clients less likely to drive you bonkers.

I’m still looking for the ideal social-networking aggregator, but so many companies are working so hard on the challenge that I’m optimistic that I’ll find one that works for me sooner or later.

As for the new AIM client for the iPhone, I’ve downloaded and installed it–but every time I try to view my Lifestream, I get an error. I’ll check back later.

AIM network users, are you still using the AIM client? If not, why not? If you try the new versions, let us know what you think.

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You Mean I’m Not the Only Person Who Doesn’t Bookmark?

Delicious, the venerable Web-based bookmarking service owned by Yahoo and formerly known as Del.icio.us, launched a new version today. I fully intend to check it out, but right now, I’m still mulling over Matthew Ingram’s post about it: “Delicious 2.0: Who Bookmarks Anymore?”

Matthew uses this Twitter post by Mashable’s Adam Ostrow as a springboard to discuss why he’s finding bookmarking less and less relevant:

I found the whole notion of bookmarking being passé to be not only intriguing but surprisingly cathartic–because I’ve never been much of a bookmarker, and I’ve always felt sort of guilty about it.

How come I’ve never bookmarked? Mostly because it’s always felt like work that didn’t result in adequate payoff. It’s required a few clicks that always seem like a distraction that interferes with whatever I’m doing at the moment. (Pretty much by definition, you bookmark something because it’s valuable; I’m usually so engrossed in the content that I forget to bookmark it.) Bookmarks require folders (or folder variants such as Google Toolbar’s labels); managing folders makes me feel like a librarian tending to a card catalog, and I always seem to end up with multiple folders that duplicate each others’ purpose. Which means that even once I’ve bookmarked something, I have trouble finding it.

Another issue with bookmarks that I’ve never found closure with is that it’s harder to remember to get rid of bookmarks than to create them in the first place. Any time I’ve ever made a concerted effort to bookmark stuff–and God knows, I have–I’ve ended up forgetting to bookmark some sites I go to everyday…and leaving bookmarks related to projects from years ago cluttering up my folders.

For a long time, I had a good excuse to avoid bookmarks: They were tied to a particular browser on a particular machine, and I’ve always been a multiple-browsers-on-multiple-computers kind of browser. In theory, that excuse went away years ago when Web-based bookmarking services started to pop up. (Backflip sticks in my mind as the first one I saw and kind of liked–and it’s still around.)

I’ve tried a bunch of approaches to putting bookmarks on the Web and/or synching them across multiple PCs, but I’ve never found one that made me into a long-term believer. I couldn’t even remember the original Del.icio.us’s name, let along figure out its cryptic interface. I liked Google Browser Sync until it started creating phantom duplicate bookmarks–and if I’d kept with it I would have ended up irritated with Google when they discontinued the service. These days, I use Google Toolbar’s bookmarks–sort of–but still fumble with the fact any browser I use also has its own bookmark system. (I sometimes forget where I’ve bookmarked what.)

When I say that bookmarking is difficult, what I’m really is that other means of finding information are easier. That’s always been true, and it’s only more strikingly so today. I can find nearly anything I need on the Web in Google in ten seconds or so. I’ve always gone back to sites by typing their names into the browser’s address bar, and with the “Awesome Bar” in Firefox 3 and its cousin Flock, it feels like the browser figures out what I’m looking for within my first two or three keystrokes. (Firefox 3 also makes strides in removing some of the hassle of bookmarking, but the Awesome Bar is so good I haven’t felt the need to bookmark anything.)

For years, I thought the fact that I didn’t bookmark much meant that I was secretly a clueless newbie. I assumed that serious Web users were serious bookmarkers, and that my failure to become one was a sign I was disorganized and wasteful of my own time. So I love the notion that bookmarking doesn’t matter much anymore. Whether or not it’s valid.

And now that I’m feeling better about not being a bookmarker, I may even find the courage to explain to you why I’m not that much of an RSS user…