Social Bookmarking: Search, Save, Annotate & Connect?*

February 10, 2008 at 2:14 pm (social bookmarking) ()

Being a very visual person, I thought I would begin with a quote from Will Richardson’s Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms (2006) that, for me, makes a very clear picture of where social bookmarking fits in Web 2.0:

“…social bookmarking sites complete the circle: RSS lets us read and connect with what others write; now we can read and connect with what others read as well.” 

Like Katie, before this week, the only thing that I knew about social bookmarking was what a peer had mentioned in my last online course, something about saving your bookmarks to a web location, rather than on your PC, so that they can be accessible from anywhere and shared with others. 

As a colleague pointed out to me this week after reading some of my other posts, I think part of what is intimidating about a new tool, or a Web 2.0 one in particular, are all these new names – social bookmarking, folksonomies, tags, feeds and crowdsourcing to name a few.  I can’t help but think back to the green light, yellow light, red light lists of terms that I made at the beginning of January, terms I knew, thought I knew or believed came from outer space!  When I look back at all of them now, it’s amazing how many are now familiar and are becoming a part of my regular vocabulary.  Social bookmarking should have been in my repertoire long ago.  It makes sense for teachers, teacher librarians or technology specialists who collaborate in different classrooms, library spaces or computer to be able to access their links from anywhere.   

Social bookmarking also makes sense for students, particularly when it is unlikely that they will be using the same computer on a return trip to the computer lab or library resource centre.  And even if they are, the computer might reset to its original settings each time a person logs off, erasing any changes that may have been made including the addition of any favorites.  Browser bookmarks can be saved or exported to a memory stick, for example, but online social bookmarking eliminates the need to do this, although a frequent back up of your social bookmarks is highly recommended as you just never know what could happen.  No matter where a student is they could access their online bookmarks: at home, school, friend’s house or public library. 

I’ve wanted to go through the bookmarks I have saved on my computer for a long time but it was not a job that I looked forward to doing.  I figured that once I did I would be switching to one of the social bookmarking tools available.  However, before doing so, I wanted to explore what was available. 

Before starting, I read about social bookmarking in two books.  Gwen Soloman and Lynne Schrum’s (2007) web 2.0: new tools, new schools provided a brief overview in less than a page but I was looking for more.  Will Richarson’s Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms (2006) dedicated a whole chapter to social bookmarking.  I read blogs and articles by Will Richarson, Chris Harris and Steve Hargadon through the School Library Journal.  I also searched in social bookmarking websites to supplement the print resources.  In the world of technology, and edtech in particular, a book published a year or two ago isn’t obsolete but websites references have come and gone, new websites appear and users have discovered new ways of using the tools that were unexplored at the time of publication.  Blogs and social bookmarking sites let me know what people are saving and how people are using social bookmarking in their classrooms and schools today

Social bookmarking allows favorites to be organized, ranked, shared, tagged, classified, annotated, searched and subscribed to through RSS feeds.  How does it work?  Well, by clicking on a button you’ve added to your browser toolbar (referred to as a browser plugin) or, ironically I think, clicking on a link that you’ve added in your browser’s favorites, a popup window, also called a bookmarklet, will appear.  It automatically fills in the title and URL of the website.  It is the users job to describe and assign tags and other options depending on the social bookmarking site that is used.  On some it is possible to add quotes to the description or comments section.  This is a real-life example for students of the importance of being able summarize and identify main idea, concepts and/or theme(s). 

Some possible problems that I thought may arise or that I encountered in a school setting are blocked installation of the tool bar, blocked popups and the need to add the toolbar or favorite to every computer that you use, only to have it wiped out when you log off.  Solving these may require involving the school tech who could unblock the popups and add the required button or favorite to all school computers.  Some social bookmarking sites offer you the option of linking to the bookmarklet from the same browser or opening in a popup so this is another way that this could be solved.   

I never knew how many different social bookmarking options there were and I never expected, but it does make sense, that there would be different communities based on different topics such as the sciences or academics.  According to Steve Hargadon in “Cool Tools: Best of Social Bookmarking,” Yahoo! owned del.icio.us first coined the term “social bookmarking.” When I visited del.icio.us, I thought that because it was so simple there must have been a catch so I passed over it only to revisit it later.  Backflip and Furl build on the simplicity of del.icio.us.  I like the idea, organization and layout of the daily routine that Backflip offers.  It suggests linking to all the sites that you visit everyday then coming to Backflip to take you there.  Unfortunately, the colors remind me of a pro-basketball team and I can’t imagine going there every day.  I think PageFlakes is more to may liking and appears to have this same capability although I haven’t explored it fully yet.   

Chris Harris recommends Furl for middle school for its fit with the research process including it’s abilty to group, follow many topics and offers a citation tool.  I’d have to try the citation tool before I’d know if I would recommend it but it is an idea that makes sense.  Furl also came highly recommended by Will Richarson and it was visually appealing to me so I decided to give it a try.  However,  Elizabeth and I are in agreement that it is not as user-friendly as it could be.  This could have to do more with the age of my computer than anything else because I couldn’t go as fast as I would have liked to.  I also wish that there was an RSS feed button at the end of every page like there is on del.icio.us.  I spent way too much time trying to get it to feed to my blog only to decide that I’d invested enough time in it without success.  I will have to use it more at school to find out although I suspect that is is due to the fact that WordPress does not allow Flash, another short fall of my blog of choice. 

Diigo, short for “Digest of Internet Information, Groups and Other stuff,” actually dubs itself as “social annotation” site.  Not all social bookmarking services offer the option of annotation but Diigo is certainly not the only one which is what I felt it was trying to lead me to believe when I first visited.  I visited Fleck, ShiftSpace, Stickis and Trailfire, four other annotation services described at Gonzalez’s Five Ways to Mark Up the Web.  At weblogged-ed, Richardson describes Diigo as a combination of del.icio.us and Furl.  It offers the same things as del.icio.us but like Furl, it saves, what Richardson calls a “snapshot of the entire page” (also called a cached copy) for you to pull up at a later date.  This is helpful, should websites be restructured and links no longer work, content is posted for a limited time like newspaper articles or user accounts with passwords and fees become a requirement.   A copy is still available to view in your archive.  What about copyright?  Diigo explains in their FAQ that because the registered user is the only one viewing the cached page it is not an infringement on copyright.   

In terms of privacy or security, del.icio.us links are all public.  There is no accomodation as with many of the other social bookmarking services for selected links to be private. 

Other social bookmarking services like Connotea and CiteULike are geared more towards academic circles.  What is available for younger students to use?  Harris recommends the userfriendly Ma.gnolia which offers you the ability to control who is a part of a group and as a result who can add or view links. It also returns fewer links when completing a search decreasing the likelihood of information overload.  I wonder if this is an actual design feature or a product of the limited number of users.  

If students are working together on a project, they can save bookmarks from individual searches to one account or folder, then revisit them together to see which ones have the best information to suit their needs.  They can also search and visit pages tagged by others users.  By doing this, they are looking through sources that have been gleaned by others.  However, students still need to be critical of what they are seeing because others have different expectations for quality, have tagged for different purposes and interpret tags differently.

Like so many other Web 2.0 tools such blogs, photo sharing or video sharing, social bookmarking makes use of some form of tagging for searching.  Before students or teachers begin using a social bookmarking service to save or search, they will need to know how tags, or folksonomies, work.  

*Valenza suggested Journalism 2.0: How to Survive and Thrive.  In it a comparison is made between headlines of blogs and newspaper articles, both of which should indicate what a piece is about and hook the reader. 

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2 Comments

  1. Elisa Orton said,

    Just thought I would say Del.icio.us does allow for links to be made private. I made a bunch of mine so and I used a secondary log on to check. those that i had marked private are not visible.

  2. arllennium said,

    Thanks for clarifying. I wonder if it was a new feature that was added or if it has always been the case. I forget where I read that it wasn’t an option.

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