Not digging diigo

I have been introduced to diigo in my course on Web 2.0 tools where we are using it for group review of articles. Initially, having the ability to see and comment on the highlighting and notes of others sounded like a great idea, like asynchronous threaded discussions within the resource material. That was, until I actually had to put theory into practice.

What happens when you have a dozen people highlighting the same article? You end up with excessive and duplicate highlighting. What enlightens one may seem obvious to another based on previous exposure, experience, etc. Plus, I think people interact with material differently. Some people’s notes turn their document into something resembling a Rand McNally atlas while others just indicate an occasional main idea or recurring theme. Anyway, throw in public notations and the landscape of an article filtered through diigo just gets more chaotic.

The marked up document was not the only added confusion, as the functionality of diigo seemed a bit quirky too. I had several minutes of increasing frustration when accessing articles through diigo and none showed up with the notations. Somehow, I kept losing the diigo toolbar, even though I had my toolbar locked, and guess what happens when the diigo toolbar is not active? Articles do not generate with notations. Problem one solved and moving on.

I found a way to turn off the public comments, so that was helpful. Of the notes remaining, hover over a bubble and the existing comments appear, but whether or not they stay or allow you to add your own comment is another question entirely. Not only that, but don’t expect to make a mad dash to your browser mid-comment in order to do a quick search. Editing isn’t in the cards either. You’ll have to delete your comment and redo it.

Overall, in this first experience with diigo, I identified two specific areas where the limitations of the application actually circumvented the intended usefulness and my subsequent learning. First, there were only four highlight colors available for differentiating the notations of more than a dozen students. It doesn’t exactly take a math genius to realize that this equation can’t be solved given the current values. Second, while the comment boxes could be enlarged, neither the font nor the current entry box for a comment being written expanded with it. There is nothing I hate more than trying to write a paragraph in a small box where only two or three lines of tiny type can be seen at any one time. HELLO! My eyes are 42 years old here! Geez…

Outside of the diigo document, all notations can be accessed through diigo and will appear as a list of threaded commenting. In this initial exposure, I am at a loss to say whether or not it was easier to learn through a comparison of my own paper document with either the collective diigo article or the list of threaded commenting. On one hand, the context of the article is lost in the list of comments, but on the other, the paper and diigo documents appeared different enough to cause confusion. As far as I am concerned, the jury is still out on that one.

I was almost ready to hit publish when I saw a new mail indicator on my e-mail tab. Guess what? diigo comments show up in e-mail. Anyone want to venture a guess as to how many comments 12 online students can generate when they are all working on their homework? Yes, that was a rhetorical question. Obviously, it’s substantial. Fortunately, message forwarding is an option that can be toggled on and off in the user setting preferences.

OK, so to recap. For smaller groups or more focused investigations, diigo may perform just as advertised in the brochure. In this initial experience, however, the larger size of the group, broad scope of our investigation, and high amount of participatory discussion has made it nearly impossible for me to keep up, organize ideas, and extract meaning.

7 responses to “Not digging diigo

  1. OK, in all fairness to diigo, I just tried the diigo extension for chrome and that worked much better than the toolbar with Firefox…

  2. Thanks, Kim. I look at it this way…at least we will have empathy for any future online learners that we are working with! ;-)

  3. Debra – I thought your post was great! What an honest assessment of Diigo. I have found Diigo to be useful in my own personal studies with being able to access my bookmarks from anywhere and share my resources with others. I have never used Diigo for discussion or to highlight/take notes on a reading for class until now. As you said, the amount of notifications are baffling and the entire article might as well be highlighted based on what people view as important. I’m someone who prefers to print what I read and highlight for myself – I don’t like reading online or letting others highlight for me. It’s impossible to discern what I would highlight from what others have already highlighted.

  4. Professor, I appreciate that you took the time to read my post. Actually, at the time, I was so frustrated with my attempts to navigate diigo that I felt I had to write about that experience before I could move on to our discussion prompts for this week. I came to the realization, quite some time ago, that many of these tools for online connection and collaboration may work wonderfully in some contexts, but modestly or miserably in others. Still, as an adult learner, it can be difficult to reconcile that reality with the loss of study time to yet another technology tool.

    For example, I used to be a real Google Documents basher after a few mishaps of very large proportion – namely the constant freezing, crashing, and inconsistent formatting of a 200-page group annotated bibliography and a 72-page multimedia lesson plan. Then, at #THATCamp Pedagogy, I saw several shining examples of group use of Google Documents. The difference? Those groups were small and the documents they were working on together were short – generally representing a single activity such as demonstrating proper APA formatting.

    Add in the frequent limitations that I have encountered in applications when in use by large numbers of MOOC participants and, in the end, my conclusion is that the tools for connecting and collaborating online don’t have room for large groups…yet. If we keep pushing the boundaries, then I am confident that expansion will follow us :-)

  5. Thanks for the comments. It’s a good reminder to keep technology and interaction in mind while designing and I’ll certainly use these comments to inform next iterations.

  6. Thanks, Coleen! I am glad that it’s not just me :-)

    Of course, I always expect a learning curve with something new. Eventually, a combination of experience and adaptation usually improves the experience. Still, I find that most online tools for collaboration are designed for small group, rather than large group, interactions.

  7. Debra, I had to laugh out loud reading this because I am in the same class and find it difficult to read articles this way as well. I have decided to read the articles, annotate, and markup my articles outside of Diigo. Then I go to Diigo and read the comments and add my own. As far as the technical issues, I can say that after a few weeks the kinks might work themselves out. I’ve been using diigo for about 2 years now and I remember having issues with the toolbar, etc early on as well. I’ve never used delicious or any other social bookmarking service though so I don’t have anything to compare it to.