Gizmo Watch January/February 2007

You're It

The big four in social search are Flickr, YouTube, Technorati, and del.icio.us. They specialize respectively in pictures, videos, blog entries, and Web sites, and each lets users tag and store material for their own use and also search to find what others have tagged. Their principal advantage is that each of them has more users than its rival sites do. For some online activities, broader participation is not always a plus: the more members of the “Google Earth Community” who apply comments to an aerial photo, for example, the harder it can be to make out either the scenery or the other comments. But the whole idea of social search is that each new assessment of a site’s value or content helps other users to find more precisely what they want.

Ma.gnolia does all that del.icio.us does, plus stores page contents for viewing if the original link stops working, plus gives users more tools for rating and describing a site. Furl makes it easy to export lists of tagged sites, for research purposes. Wink emphasizes the creation of small communities of shared interests. TagJag is a kind of master search engine for all other search systems. There are hundreds more. On del.icio.us, I (as user AtlanticTech) have tagged a list of these and the other sites I’ve found most valuable, and of the articles and reviews worth paying attention to. You can find it there. —J.F.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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