Hi all, Here's the long-overdue followup to my entry-level tagging email I sent to my staff. This one focuses on tagging and goes very lightly into the concepts of social bookmarking using del.icio.us
. I'd love to know what you think. Keep in mind that these emails go out as part of a larger Library 2.0 info strategy. This is the first step in getting people interested in all of this - especially those who are reluctant to do more than email.
Social Bookmarking is Not a Disease
So now that we've covered tagging, it's time to move on to an application for tagging beyond looking for photographs on flickr. This one has great potential for use within our library. It's called social bookmarking and it adds a whole new dimension to how we use the sites we add to favorites in Internet Explorer.
Before I jump ahead of myself, let me take a second and review tagging, because it's a key concept in social bookmarks. When a user"tags" something, what he's doing is assigning his own category to it so that when he goes back to look for it, it's easily found. It's much like what we do with Dewey call numbers, only much less structured. So, if I have photos of my grandmother at her birthday party, I may tag them with the words grandmother, grandma, Eleanor, Meme (what I call her), 91 (her age), birthday, party, "birthday party" nonagenarian... whatever I come up with to describe the photo. If there are other people in the photo, I may add their names. If there's a birthday cake in the photo, I may add that as a tag as well. The benefits of this are not only can I find the photo again based on this, but others looking for photos of meme can find mine (and I theirs).
So what does this mean for something called a social bookmark? And why should you care? I'm really glad you asked.
A social bookmark is a favorite web site whose link is stored not on the computer that you're using (the way they're done in Internet Explorer), but on another web site that you can access from anywhere. So if you're at home and want to access your work bookmarks, you can do so just by going to a site like del.icio.us
and logging into your account.
Now, this is useful in and of itself, and is fine without the concept of tagging those bookmarks. But when you add the tags - the metadata - it allows you to retrieve those bookmarks, or multiple bookmarks on the same subject, more easily. It also keeps track of the tags you've used so that you can use them again as you add more bookmarks to your collection. Pretty cool, huh? Well, just you wait because it gets even cooler.
Imagine being able to see what others have bookmarked and tagged, much the same way you can search for photos that are tagged? Well, that's the social aspect of social bookmarking. People can see what others have bookmarked and how they have tagged those sites. And then you can search by those tags for similar sites.
Sound confusing? It is, a bit. It's probably easier to give you an example.
The social bookmarking site that I use is Del.icio.us (http://del.icio.us/
). You can go take a look at what I've bookmarked by going to my little subsection of the site: http://del.icio.us/uncagedbird
. There you'll see many different kinds of links, some lyrics sites, some recipes, with a list of my tags running down the right side of the page. (Warning, I do use the "F bomb" as one of my tags). What you will also see is how many others have bookmarked the same links.
So look at the link to Google Reader (you'll have to scroll).
It's been saved by 8197 people as of this writing. What's also there is a list of tags that I've saved it under: imported, google, rss, reader, googlereader. I can click on any of those tags and see what else I've saved under them. If I click on the pink box that says how many people have saved it, then I get to see who has done so, what comments they've made about the site, what tags they used, and what else they've saved. This allows me to find new things based on what other people are doing. I've made some very wonderful discoveries of sites because of this.
So why is this practical for libraries? Well, think about it. We have 5 branches, 7 service desks, many staff who don't get a chance to talk to one another about what sites they use on a regular basis. This would be a way that we could share the bookmarks we have. We could create one CPLS account that allows people to save their frequently used sites and share them with the rest of us. Libraries around the country and the world are already doing that. (And I'm going to set up a CPLS account that we can play with, so look for an email about that). We can also link to our del.icio.us bookmarks from our web site, thereby sharing them with our patrons. The possibilities are amazing because it's not one or two people updating our internet resources page on the web site, but everyone in the library, that can be accessed from any computer anywhere. You could also use del.icio.us when you're searching for something for a patron. The home page has a tag search feature in the upper right corner.
There are other social bookmarking sites out there: digg (http://digg.com
) is a social bookmarking site for blogs and news, technorati (http://technorati.com
) focuses on pop culture and media.
So go check out one ore more of these (I really recommend del.icio.us if you're choosing just one) and let me know what you think.
And remember, it's all about the tagging.