Why use it?
The bookmarking capabilities built into your web browser are adequate for personal use but when this capability is transferred to the collaborative and interconnected realm of social bookmarking services, a range of new possibilities are presented.
Social bookmarking services allow you to access your bookmarks from any internet-connected computer, unlike web browser bookmarks which are tied to a single computer. When you transfer bookmarks to a social bookmarking service they become much more accessible. This is particularly the case if you start using a bookmarking service as your default method of storing bookmarks. At home, work or even while travelling your bookmarks are available to you. For students, this is particularly useful for the campus/home divide.
Over time you can collect a large list of bookmarks stored in your web browser. The task of transferring this collection to a social bookmarking service is usually simple. The process typically exporting your web browser’s bookmarks to a file which the bookmarking service then imports for you.
Most bookmarking services also allow you to export your online bookmarks. This can be used to create a file that can be imported into your web browser bookmarks or to another bookmarking service.
Both the import and export capabilities of the social bookmarking service have the added benefit of creating a backup of your bookmarks. Importing allows you to backup your web browser bookmarks to a social bookmarking service and likewise exporting from a social bookmarking service allows you to backup your online bookmarks.
As previously mentioned, tagging is the process of creating keywords to more deeply describe a bookmark.
The power of tagging becomes apparent when you combine all of the tags every user of a social bookmarking service makes available (del.icio.us has more than one million users). You have now created a new form of classification or taxonomy of the World Wide Web. This free-form, colloquial taxonomy based on tags is commonly called a ‘folksonomy’. Now, rather than searching the web via generic search engines such as Google you can search within a social bookmarking service for tags/keywords and your results show which websites other users have bookmarked and associated with those tags. Different users have different ideas about what tags are appropriate for a particular website or topic. This can reveal previously unthought-of associations. For example, a search for the tag ‘tagging’ might reveal social bookmarking sites as well as graffiti sites.
Some social bookmarking sites also allow you to create groups of users—such as students—so that your shared/combined tags create a focused folksonomy. This essentially allows students and teachers to search the web through the collective eyes of the student/teacher group.
The ability to apply free-form tagging allows people to invent and develop their own classification systems. Compared to a rigid, standards-based system your own classification system can have greater meaning for you.
Tags simplify searching your own bookmarks. It is not uncommon to collect hundreds of bookmarks which can become difficult to manage in terms of finding the bookmark needed. By adding tags you can search by keywords—dramatically increasing your chances of finding the right website.
Tagging also increases the methods available to you to sort bookmarks. Without tags you are limited to arranging bookmarks by name or grouping them into folders. All popular social bookmarking services allow you to search by tag name, tag frequency and some services also include the ability to sort based on date, star ratings, users and other metadata.
What makes social bookmarking services social? Below is a list of some of the features that enable collaboration and connectivity with others through social bookmarking services:
Websites come and go and they also move. Some social bookmarking services automatically check links and regularly verify that all your bookmarks are valid and alert you in case they are not. If a website has moved permanently some bookmarking services can automatically update your bookmarks to point to the new address.
The following teaching and learning strategies indicate the types of activities you could use social bookmarking for. The social bookmarking ‘Case studies’ and ‘Activities’ in this resource will give you examples of how these strategies can work in practice: