Reflection: Social bookmarking

The value of social bookmarking for instruction, collaboration, support

As a tool for sharing personally created directories of useful Web site links, social bookmarking tools like are an effective way to present links along with meta-information regarding categories for classifying the type of information related to the linked resource. An added advantage of an automated online tool for organizing bookmarks is the ability to verify the “health” of the bookmark collection—weeding out links that are no longer available.

The social aspect of sharing bookmarks could be a useful way of locating new materials and resources that we were otherwise unaware of.

Where social bookmarking misses the mark

In my opinion, the biggest disadvantage of a social bookmarking tools is that links are presented without context. Meaning, there is no explanation as to why the person who bookmarked the Web site found the information available there useful.

For example, in my account, I linked several support sites related to resizing a Windows XP disk partition in a Parallels virtual machine. At the time I bookmarked the sites I knew that I was doing so in order to be able to reference them later in the day—as I was rebooting my machine several times trying different options for addressing the technical problem I was trying to solve (and I didn’t want to reload bookmarks within firefox over and over again).

The site doesn’t seem to really know what their main purpose or market is for sure. They do social bookmarking, yet their main home page is much more like Digg—they are showing what sites are being bookmarked the most. While their tags hot list is like a billboard magazine index or version of what overall categories are most popular.

What other efforts have been done to collaborate on or share bookmarks?

Similar efforts to group information socially have been attempted. In 1996 the first Yahoo index/directory links were suggested and maintained by humans—relevant categories were used to organize information. DMOZ, another online link directory, attempted to provide useful and relevant information by using a collective/community to maintain information. The new Mahalo is the latest effort at powering relevant search results with people.

We seem to be in an ongoing cycle where we socially group, gather and classify information, then some other search and filtering technology (e.g. HotBot, MetaCrawler, Google) finds a better way of sorting, searching, and evaluating all of the repositories of collaborative, useful, detailed mess we create.

Closing thoughts

Personally, if I was an instructor, I would favor using blogs instead of social bookmarking tools. Blogs enable you to post images (so you can have a visual history of information or resources), you can add meta-tagging information to classify your posts and/or links, and you can provide a context for why the links are valuable. Most modern blogging tools (I really like WordPress) enable you to search past posts to quickly find what you need. You can also have social interaction regarding the posts by using comments—which you can’t do with

Maybe I’m too set in my ways—but I prefer using blogs much more than social bookmarking sites.

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