April 19, 2006

Social bookmarking with Scuttle

Author: Dmitri Popov

Using del.icio.us to manage your bookmarks has its advantages, but it has its limitations too. You can't install del.icio.us on your local network, you can't modify it to suit your needs, and you can't be sure whether the service will still be there tomorrow. Scuttle, on the other hand, is an open source social bookmarking application that offers functionality similar to del.icio.us without the shortcomings.

Scuttle is available under the GNU General Public License (GPL), and requires PHP and MySQL. Its setup process is straightforward. Run the supplied tables.sql script using phpMyAdmin or any other MySQL management tool to add the required tables to your MySQL database. Then configure the connection settings in the config.inc.php file using the config.inc.php.example file as a template, upload the Scuttle folder to your server, and you are good to go.

With Scuttle you don't have to start from scratch: the application allows you to import your browser and del.icio.us bookmarks. To import bookmarks from your del.icio.us account, go to http://del.icio.us/api/posts/all, log in using your del.icio.us username and password, and save the XML file to your computer.

In Scuttle, click on the Add a bookmark link and click on Import bookmarks from del.icio.us. Select the privacy settings for the imported bookmarks and press Import. That's it.

Actually, Scuttle not only offers the ability to import bookmarks, it also supports most of the del.icio.us API. This means that virtually any del.icio.us tool, such as Foxylicious, can work with Scuttle, though it must be modified first. In most cases, modification includes adding the ability to enter the link to your Scuttle's installation and your login info. I know of at least one del.icio.us tool that works with Scuttle right out of the box: DeliciousMind. This program allows you to present your bookmarks as a mind map using FreeMind, an open source mind-mapping application.

If you want to back up the bookmarks stored in Scuttle, you have two options. The easy way is to point your browser to http://scuttleserver/api/posts/all and save the XML file to your computer. Alternatively, you can export the sc-bookmarks table in the MySQL database using a tool such as phpMyAdmin, which allows you to save the data in a variety of formats, including CSV, Excel, SQL, and XML.

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Scuttle allows you to specify one of three types of security settings for each bookmark in your collection -- public, private, or "shared with watchlist." Public bookmarks are available to anyone, including guests that are not registered with Scuttle. If you set a bookmark status to shared with watchlist, it will be available to registered users, but not to unauthorized users. Finally, private bookmarks are available only to you. Each security setting has its own color code, which makes it easy to identify a bookmark's status.

Like del.icio.us, Scuttle exports RSS feeds, so you can keep an eye on other users' public bookmarks. However, Scuttle takes the idea of sharing bookmarks even further. Using the Watchlist feature, users can view each other's public bookmark listings, and add interesting bookmarks in the watchlist to your own bookmark collection by simply clicking on the Copy link. To add a user to your watchlist, point the browser to http://scuttleserver/bookmarks.php/username, where username is the user's Scuttle name, then click on the Add to Watchlist link on the sidebar.

Scuttle has several other features you won't find in del.icio.us. All tags in Scuttle are presented as a tag cloud, making it easier to locate the most popular tags. The tags can be sorted either alphabetically or by popularity. The same goes for bookmarks: you can sort them by date, title, or URL.

Scuttle also supports the related tags feature that allows you to view bookmarks with multiple tags. And when you add a bookmark containing a link to an audio file in MP3 or Ogg format, Scuttle places a tiny player icon next to it, and you can play the file without leaving Scuttle.

Firefox users will be delighted to learn that there is a Scuttle extension that allows you to add bookmarks directly from within the browser. Users that prefer other browsers can take advantage of bookmarklets that take you directly to Scuttle's add bookmark interface. Simply click on the Add a bookmark link and drag the Post to Scuttle bookmarklet to the browser's bookmarks toolbar.

International users will also appreciate the multilingual nature of Scuttle; all text strings in the application are stored in gettext (.po) catalogues, which makes it easy to localize software to other languages using tools like poEdit. Several translations are already available on Scuttle's wiki.

Conclusion

It's impossible not to like Scuttle: it not only offers most of del.icio.us' functionality, but also sports useful additions that makes it suitable for individual users and workgroups alike. If you ever wanted to set up your own bookmarking system, Scuttle is just the ticket.

Dmitri Popov is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in Russian, British, and Danish computer magazines.

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