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.