The Social Bookmarking Phenomenon
Some days, it seems that we are quickly evolving from a digital world where information was THE marketable commodity to a communications market, where new methods of communicating, networking and socializing are being introduced on a rapid fire basis and are the new consumers of online attention and time. Blogs, wikis, RSS newsfeeds, podcasts, video socialization built around applications like YouTube…all of these are recently formulated methods of communication that seemingly overnight have developed millions of participants.
One of the networking methodologies that has evolved from Internet architecture is the phenomenon of “social bookmarking.” One of the more popular sites is del.icio.us. On this site the notion is that you, the web surfer, share interests with others who have web access via your bookmarked URLs. It’s the same concept as bookmarking favorites with your browser, but the collection of favorites has a coding system and is shared with others. You build a library of URLs that reflect your interests and that you consider worth visiting. You add a personal “tag” with a keyword that characterizes the site.
You can “subscribe” to tags so that you see every new post with that tag. That in turn can take you to the poster’s entire list of favorites which may prove to be a new trove of information for you. del.icio.us allows you to go through the same exercise with podcasts, which are now scattered across the Internet galaxy like asteroids.
Others on the web have access to your library and thus to your personal interests. Utilizing a web based application (in this case, del.icio.us) participants are able to search through sites that others have bookmarked, using not only a standard search term but the tag that has been used to characterize the site. Tags form a collective body of URLs and thus, a body of knowledge – and collective access to those tags forms a community of people with common interests. Included in the process is an optional personal profile, which provides your email address and allow others to communicate with you personally.
One of the drawbacks to this format is that a tag search is going to get you every commercial website out there who has laid claim to the same keyword. It takes a lot of scanning and scrolling to find sites that have been tagged by individuals instead of search engines.
There are several platforms out there for social networking. Flickr (www.flickr.com) is a site that uses uploaded photos for networking purposes instead of URLs. http://www.43places.com is a site where you upload your travel experiences, travel photos and travel interests along with your profile. Wists (www.wists.com) is a “social shopping” exchange where the bookmarks are all about commercial shopping sites. The level of personal communication allowed by social networking sites is up to you: on 43 Places you can post your photo but refuse personal email. You can also hold the line at public access to your favorites library on del.icio.us.
Other social bookmarking platforms (or tools) as they are called, include:
- Yahoo! My Web 2.0
They all have an assortment of tricks and widgets that make their sites a little different. Some of them have fairly sophisticated search methods for their subscribed users; some allow you to “bundle” tags for search purposes; most provide lists of the most popular bookmarks and the recent posts. It’s all an interesting experiment in ‘distance sharing’. Making use of it for professional (research) or personal uses simply requires taking the time to become comfortable with the methodology and then learning how to get maximum usage out of the tagging system.