Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I Can't Find That Really Great Website I Found Yesterday...

How many times have you been reading a book and had to put it down suddenly and you don't have a bookmark handy? Essentially, social bookmarking acts as a "bookmark" for the websites that you want to remember only it marks it online. Although many people use the "Favorites" button within their web browser, social bookmarking allows you to access your bookmarked sites even when you are using a different computer. This is not only convenient, but it also eliminates worries about losing your bookmarks if something even happened to your computer (ie. virus, stolen, etc.).

I have not ever used social bookmarking myself, however, I do see the benefits of using it - especially in the classroom or in the library. It is a wonderful thing to share great resources with others and by doing that through social bookmarking, you are sharing them with more than just the people you interact with on a day-to-day basis. You are able to share your "favorites" with people all over the world who have the same interests.

Although social bookmarking can be useful, there are many issues attached to it that impact it's effectiveness. One of these issues is the fact that people may try to sabotage the system by creating meaningless tags for particular websites. Liz Lawley mentions in one of her blog posts, "Social Consequences of Social Tagging," that one of the people who had previously commented on a blog post said, "It's certain that some people will try to game the system, deliberately tagging their photos to misdirect people, make a political statement, or otherwise promote their own interests." This was proved to be true when I typed "social bookmarking sites" into Google and a couple of YouTube videos came up as results. I watched one of the results and it and all the other related videos had to do with marketing a business online through social bookmarking and social networking together. These businesses will tag anything just to make money, which is a scary thought.

On the other hand, social bookmarking in this way can be perceived as positive for libraries. If a business can use social bookmarking to make money and promote their goods and/or services, just imagine how libraries could be promoting themselves! Not only could individual librarians tag the websites that they are interested in, but they could also use this opportunity to tag events or programs or books that related directly to the library.

In a classroom context, it would be great to set up a class account on one of the social bookmarking websites and have students access the account through a username and password that is the same for everyone in the class. Then they could easily access various resources that their teachers have found for research projects or other such things. This could also give students the opportunity to locate reliable research. Students would also need to use critical thinking skills when deciding whether or not certain material should be tagged. This builds their information literacy skills.

Nancy Courtney's book contains a discussion of the many advantages of social bookmarking. Eric Schnell mentions that it is inclusive, it is current, it allows others (and yourself) to discover new things, it has a nonbinary nature, you moderate the tagging yourself, it is free, and it is easy to use (p. 94-98). At the same time, he notices the disadvantages: there is no synonym control, precision is lacking, hierarchies are lacking, and there is a strong chance that people will add tags that don't belong to particular items (p.98-99). I must say, though, that the advantages of using social bookmarking seem to outweigh the disadvantages immensely. Will Richardson writes that "the idea that we can now use social networks to tap into the work of others to support our own learning is an important concept to understand...[it is] changing the way we work and learn" (p.98). There will always be disadvantages to technologies, but that is no reason to avoid using them.

I signed up for Twine, a social bookmarking service that I had never heard of. It was so easy and straight forward to join and to set everything up. The website even has suggestions of groups you might like to join based on what you record as your interests. The account actually reminds me a bit of Facebook or Twitter in that you can upload a photo, you have a profile, and you have an inbox. There is a link provided so that you may "tweet" the items you find. Although, I attempted to "tweet" one of the items I added to my collection, but it would not go through because it said that I had too many characters. I am not sure how you could "tweet" anything now because a lot of websites have more than 150 characters. I also noticed that the name on my profile says "Ashley Foster." I'm not sure how that happened because when I chose a username, I chose "AshleyF." It doesn't seem right that the website just assumes a name.

The potential for social networking in libraries and classrooms is definitely there. Again, with all technologies, it is more important that someone learn about it and try to use it first before trying to teach and show others how to use it. I think that social bookmarking could benefit libraries and classrooms in many ways and it would definitely be worth the effort to implement this technology wherever and whenever possible.

Courtney, Nancy, ed. 2007. Library 2.0 and Beyond: Innovative Technologies and Tomorrow's User. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Lawley, Liz. Many 2 Many: A Group Weblog on Social Software. "Social Consequences of Social Tagging." 01/20/2005. Retrieved 07/14/2009 http://many.corante.com/archives/2005/01/20/social_consequences_of_social_tagging.php

Richardson, Will. 2009. Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.


  1. Hi Ashley,
    You have discussed the fact that people are beginning to sabotage social bookmarking sites? Do you think it is possible that these actions will get so out of control that people will stop using the social bookmarking tool as it will no longer be an efficient way of retrieving information?

  2. I think that there are too many people who keep tabs on what is going on, to be honest. Most people who use social bookmarking sites use them for themselves and they would attempt to fix things like this (or would at least not sabatoge the tags). It's hard to say though. If social tagging sabotage became common practice, then I don't think people would see them as reliable. I guess that is one of the cons of social bookmarking - the making your "favorites" public part. But it's also one of the pros.

  3. It seems that sabotage is more common on sites like digg where users rate the site. The more people you can draw to your site the more ratings you will get. It would be a shame if social bookmarking was not properly utilized because of sabotage.

  4. I agree. Social bookmarking can be such an effective tool for personal use and for educational and/or professional use. It would be a shame for other people to ruin it just for fun when many people rely on it to keep track of information.

  5. "These businesses will tag anything just to make money, which is a scary thought."

    This happens on a lot of sites, not just social bookmarking sites. This just highlights how important it is for our students (and us) and the patrons we work in libraries need to have really solid information literacy and critical thinking skills so that they know how to sort out the good from the bad...or the sites that are out there to sell you something.

    "I am not sure how you could "tweet" anything now because a lot of websites have more than 150 characters."

    There are sites you can go to that will automatically shorten a long URL into a shorter address that will automatically redirect you to the right site. TinyURL is one such site--you can go there to get a tiny url for a longer address. Lots of people use sites like this on twitter when they are recommending a website for their followers.