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Social web: Google Notebook, Clipmarks

Much to the dismay of those who know me well, I’m an incessant trier of new things. Especially new things web-enabled. So after seeing Google Notebook flash up once too many times, my curiosity was piqued such that a dabble was required.

First of all, Google Notebook requires an Add-On in Firefox.

To some, this is a step too far. And for some stuff, I whole-heartedly agree. But as with Google Browser Sync and the Yahoo! Add-Ons, their official status at least gives the impression that there’s a certain level of stability, and some come-back should the wheels come off.

And just in case you were wondering, yes, I use both the Google Browser Sync and the Yahoo! Add-Ons for Firefox. Both of which perform quite excellently, too.

RTFM, idiot!

I’m not the kind to read through any manuals or how-to guides. I like to roll up my sleeves and get straight in.

As my old dad might say, let the dog see the rabbit, lad!

And there’s a method in my madness. I’m simply replicating what almost everyone else does.

So if I get stuck, there’s a good chance someone else would, too.

And get stuck I did. Once I’d installed the Google Notebook Add-On, I was lost. I just didn’t know how to invoke the Notebook.

After wafting my eyes around the browser window for a moment or two, there at the bottom right of the screen was the Open Notebook item, accompanied by a very nice little notebook icon.

How sweet!

Adding notes

The idea behind Google Notebook is pretty simple. Navigate to a noteworthy web page somewhere, click the Open Notebook button in the bottom-right of your web browser window, and off you go!

You’ll get a little dialogue window appear in the bottom-right corner of the screen, which is where you type your notes.

an image of the Google Notebook note window in action

There’s a handy little auto-save feature, but don’t rely on it. If you’re of the religious slant, and particularly of the christian kind, just remember: god uses a Windows PC, and in the beginning, there was only Word, so Jesus always saves.

Better yet, if you select a dollop of text on the web page and then click the Open Notebook button, the text is automatically added in as the text, which is pretty much how the Yahoo! Add-On works, too.

However, crucially, there doesn’t seem to be the skinny limit on the number of characters like there is with the Yahoo! Add-On, which is a bonus.

Also, there’s a chance for moment or two of confusion, here.

If you’re just entering some free text, then type away. But, if you want to add some text which will attach details of the web page you’re on, then click the Clip link. This will grab the title and the link of the web page.

As for the Add Section link, that’s more of a grouping feature, which commands a little more of your time.

It’s worth just digressing slightly at this point. There’s another service, which is more of a social bookmarking service than either or Digg combined, and it’s called Clipmarks, which I’ve been using for some time.

an image of the Clipmarks clip window in action

But that’s just my opinion, so go try it out for yourself. Incidentally, to run Clipmarks, you need to install an Add-On there, too.

What you get with Clipmarks is a way to not just make a note of a web page, you can clip images as well as text, then add a comment, your own tags and then associate the web page in question with your own Collections, which are essentially categories.

Then there’s the social aspect, where people get to vote, or Clip an article, as well as comment and such.

Anyway, that’s enough about Clipmarks for now. If you’re curious, go look for yourself, it’s pretty good. Trust me.

So because it’s so easy to add notes about a web page with Google Notebook, there’s obvious analogies with the likes of, although, other than sharing your notes with people by sending out an email invite, there’s no social slant as such.

It’s a typical Google application, in that it’s got legs long enough to run a marathon, but just isn’t pushed further.

And even more frustrating is that fact that Google Notebook is just aching to be hooked into Google Blogger, so comments can be shared with friends, who could then follow up your comments and make their own.

Or to be tied into Google Docs & Spreadsheets for creating smaller, more collaborative shares.

For now, Google Notebooks is obviously not feature-for-feature with There isn’t even a tags feature, although it wouldn’t take much to beat what have in place.

But for me Google Notebooks is something that’s pretty good for more scholarly types, those who collate and share their discoveries amongst colleagues, friends, fellow students, et al.

In terms of features, Google needs to add in some proper, grown-up social smarts, and go toe-to-toe with, Clipmarks et cetera, and give them all a reason to look over their shoulders…

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

3 replies on “Social web: Google Notebook, Clipmarks”

It’s a shame these notebook services require browser plugsins to work. If they could work native in the browser without needing addons, they could become killer applications in their own right.

Imagine if you could also integrate them into corporate Intranets or commercial web applications.

The technology will get there. It’s just a question of when.

I think Add-Ons get a bad deal, really.

They’re not all that bad, especially if you get them direct from Mozilla.

Yes, it takes a little extra time to install them, but for some, the benefits are pretty good.

Incidentally, I’ve got an article planned for social media and future thereof.

If you scan through my bookmarks with a keen eye, you might find a spoiler…

God knows I tried to use Google Notebook several times to no avail. The product just never clicked with me. However, I’ve been testing Microsoft’s Thumbstack lately and it’s been doing what it’s supposed to do, very quickly and effectively. But there is no comparison with Clipmarks.

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