Thursday, February 15, 2007

Social bookmarking

Another facet of the information sharing that characterizes social media is ‘social bookmarking’. Sites like allow people to ‘tag’ their favourite sites in much the same way you would add a site to your ‘favourites’ folder, except the bookmarks are held online and, most importantly, shared with others.

Users can ‘tag’ web pages, ideally with a descriptive category title, and file them online for future reference and sharing with others. For example, here’s a page of delicious tags for social media. Note how a certain amount of status is conferred on a link by the number of people who have tagged it.

I liked this overview on folksonomies from an article in D-Lib magazine:

Just as long as those hyperlinks (or let's call them plain old links) are managed, tagged, commented upon, and published onto the Web, they represent a user's own personal library placed on public record, which – when aggregated with other personal libraries – allows for rich, social networking opportunities. Why spill any ink (digital or not) in rewriting what someone else has already written about instead of just pointing at the original story and adding the merest of titles, descriptions and tags for future reference? More importantly, why not make these personal 'link playlists' available to oneself and to others from whatever browser or computer one happens to be using at the time?

Now that tagging and social bookmarking have been around for a couple of years, the next iteration is the rating and ranking of these shared bookmarks. The Wall Street Journal online ran an article last week on this phenomenon, called The Wizards of Buzz.

A couple of excerpts:

A new generation of hidden influencers is taking root online, fueled by a growing love affair among Web sites with letting users vote on their favorite submissions. These sites are the next wave in the social-networking craze -- popularized by MySpace and Facebook. Digg is one of the most prominent of these sites, which are variously labeled social bookmarking or social news. Others include (recently purchased by Condé Nast), (bought by Yahoo), and Netscape relaunched last June with a similar format.


It's also giving rise to an obsessive subculture of ordinary but surprisingly influential people who, usually without pay and purely for the thrill of it, are trolling cyberspace for news and ideas to share with their network.


Most sites are based on a voting model. Members look around the Web for interesting items, such as video clips, blog entries or news articles. A member then writes a catchy description and posts it, along with a link to the material, on the site, in hopes that other members find it just as interesting and show their approval with an electronic thumbs-up vote. Items that receive enough votes rise in the rankings and appear on the front page, which can be seen by hundreds of thousands of people. When an item is submitted by a popular or influential member -- one whose postings are closely followed by fellow members -- it can have a much better shot at making the front page.

Want to know more about social bookmarking? Wikipedia has an exhaustive history of the origins, as well as some advantages and disadvantages.