John Lennon knew that some places he recalled were gone while others remained.
So it is with webpages. They might vanish between the time you discover them and your next visit. The desire to access otherwise evaporated pages spurred the creation of iCyte. And I say good riddance to that evil Web Page Not Found error message.
While it's nice to have your own personal Wayback Machine, iCyte offers more. Think of it as "bookmarks meet TIVO." Instead of recording television programs for later viewing, you save webpages for later scrutiny. Add annotations in the form of tags and notes, as well as the ability to share your findings with others, and you've got an effective research tool. Forget all that copying and pasting. Say goodbye to slogging through acres of possibly pertinent bookmarks. Add power to your research by collaborating with others.
Yet, inevitably, the cheeky question must be asked: Why bother with iCyte when you already have bookmarks?
Bookmarks have served us well and have a place in the cosmos. You don't need iCyte, for example, just to go to the homepage of Politico, eBay, or some other browsing oasis. However, if you want to save a page on one of those sites for retrieval later, and if you want a nicely organized bundle of pages, iCyte is your ally. Being able to access a page that might otherwise be lost in the ozone is good. Quickly and easily fetching a page or collection of pages is even better.
Set up is simple. Go to the iCyte homepage and click on Create Account. The next window that appears is the download page.
The only browsers iCyte works with-at the time of this writing-are Internet Explorer and Firefox. (iCyte prefers Firefox.) Safari? No dice! Google Chrome? Forget it for now. According to an iCyte spokesman, "The HTML5 database API isn't supported in Google Chrome. The Google Chrome team plans to support the HTML5 database API, as well as the other APIs that WebKit supports, including offline and workers, in a future release." Just for the record, I miss my Google Chrome.
So assuming you are using an approved browser, you just download and install iCyte. Next, set up a new account by supplying your name, email address, and password. (Later on, the email address and password will be the sign-in open sesames.) Two iCyte icons, placed between the homepage icon and the address bar, will appear on your toolbar.
The program is almost intuitive, yet it is the "almost" that got me into trouble.
After installing iCyte on the desktop, I innocently tried to install it on my laptop. I found myself staring into the abyss of limp documentation. Those of us who are too literal-minded or too trusting (or both) have been stung before.
When you arrive at the iCyte homepage for the first time (or for the first time on a particular computer), you are greeted with Download Now and Start a New Account. And if you click on download now, it takes you to start a new account.
"But I already have an account," I sobbed.
I navigated all around the iCyte site, searching for the door that sidestepped the start-a-new-account invite. Exhausted by the cyber loop-the-loop ride, I finally just said, "What the hell. I'll just start a new account." It was only then that I was proffered a little "Already have an iCyte account?" Phew! Neither Help nor FAQ pages offered guidance for additional downloads.
Sometimes iCyte's instructions were too general when they should be specific, and sometimes they seemed specific but weren't. Generally, the documentation was helpful, but there were moments that caused me to tremble. The good news is that support via email was helpful and courteous. And, to be fair, iCyte continually refines its documentation.
iCyte performs three valuable tasks well: It stores, retrieves, and shares desired webpages. In so doing, it organizes and advances research as you go along.
The iCyte tidy little nomenclature is simple-project (private and public), tags, notes, and cytes. A project is the general category under which things get filed. For example, I am gathering material about the shift from printed media to digital media. I call that project iPodization. A cyte is the page you save. Notes are the stuff of Post-its. Notes I have written include a brief description of the page, what intrigued me, and an action to take. Tags are keywords. Tags you've entered for previous cytes in the project are visible, so you can click on any that you wish to include in your new cyte.
When you find a page that has promise, click on the left iCyte icon in your toolbar. A pop-up window appears, and you can make entries there. Associate the page with a project, which can be public or private. Only you and those you designate can access a private project. A public project is open to the world, or at least the iCyte, web-surfing, latte-drinking portion of the world. There is a field for tags and a space for notes. You also can highlight a portion of the page.
The pop-up window is about the size of a "save as" window and cannot be enlarged. I am myopic and typing-challenged, and I would have preferred to see both what I was typing and the tag list. There is an auto-tag feature. If you enter a letter and you already have a tag that begins with that letter, the program suggests that tag.
Your projects, cytes, tags, and notes are saved on the iCyte server. Thanks to the right-hand icon, which opens an iCyte sidebar in your browser window, they're only a click away.
While intended for research, iCyte is great for doing a one-click save and store of those confirmation windows that show up after a web transaction.
You can manage your projects and review your entries at the iCyte website. The Manage page has two tabs: "Manage Projects" and "Profile and Settings." The latter allows you to enter your name, title, location, industry, time zone, website, brief bio, and interests. Profile and Settings harbors a social networking perk. For example, if you do a search among public projects for the word "metal," it's good to know if the citation you found comes from a metallurgist, an air-guitar virtuoso, or, for that matter, someone who is both.
Appropriately, the Manage Projects section is all about the projects. You can change (add, delete, modify) project names, edit cytes, and delete or add participants. Only the project creator is allowed to manage the project.
Inviting people to jump in is a snap. Under the phrase Invite Someone to Your Project is a space for the inductee's email address. Press a go arrow and whoosh. Recipients get a greeting that invites them to view and join the project.
Though organized by projects, the cyte-centric My View page lets you view your cytes and modify the metadata. A project list is shown on the left of the screen. Select one project and see its cytes, or select All Projects and view all cytes. (The cytes appear in the middle of the screen.)
Below each cyte is a details link. If you click on this, you will see data about the cyte, your notes, and two other links: iCyte View (the cached page you saved) and Live View (the actual page you've cited, if it is still available).
As you run your cursor across a cyte, a gear icon appears. Click on it and cyte-management choices appear: change, move, email, and delete. The email option lets you share the cyte with someone. I got all intuitive and short-cutty and assumed I could use this to invite the recipient to join the project. Wrong! That led to a somewhat irritated email exchange between my would-be collaborator and me. I would like to see users like me protected from our own flawed intuition. Or I would like to see users like me allowed to invite people to join in the project from more than one page. And while I'm in a what-needs-to-be-improved mode, iCyte should reconsider the navigation; links for the FAQ and Press Pack resources should appear on all pages.
When a project has two or more cytes to its name, a widget appears on top that lets you export the cytes to Excel or to Word as an RTF file. It creates a neat list of citations that will wow the fact-checkers.
The ability to join public projects brings a nice dimension to one's research. Enter a term in the My View page search box and you'll get a list of appropriate cytes from public projects. It's fun to harness the search prowess and quirks of others and join with others in appealing research forays. (iCyte is working on a multilanguage interface to reward its users with greater search and research opportunities.)
At the time of this writing, few iCyte users seem to have public projects. The word "health" yielded 158 citations; "digital" returned 70 citations; and "moon" garnered 30. "Michael Jackson," though he may always be the King of Pop, got a paltry five citations. I suspect that in this wild and woolly wiki world, these numbers will grow. In fact, the developer says social networking is not iCyte's "primary focus but more of a byproduct of what we do."
Writers have always adored clipping and storing items for use in future, unimagined articles. Storing dead (or live) webpages is much easier than storing dead trees, and it's actually kind of fun.