Thursday, March 29, 2007

Social Bookmarking

Over the past few years, the web has gotten...well...a little more ......"social." You may have heard the term, "Folksonomy" bantered about in Web 2.0 discussions. What is Folksonomy? As per

A folksonomy is an Internet-based information retrieval methodology consisting of collaboratively generated, open-ended labels that categorize content such as Web pages, online photographs, and Web links. A folksonomy is most notably contrasted from a taxonomy in that the authors of the labeling system are often the main users (and sometimes originators) of the content to which the labels are applied. The labels are commonly known as tags and the labeling process is called tagging.

I think that folksonomy generally describes the natural progression of the web -- in Web 2.0 currently and in the near future and eventually towards the realization of the Semantic Web. But, what are some of the tools that are used in Web 2.0? There are photo sharing sites, social bookmarking sites, blogs, wikis, etc. The practice of folksonomy enables users to tag various sites, blogs, etc. and share them with the world. I'd like to take a moment to explore Social Bookmarking.

Social Bookmarking is a method of marking a website and providing tags/labels that describe the website's contents. There are sites that are only in the business of bookmarking;,,, among others. I took a look at, and you can find my bookmarks at The sites I chose have to do with interests that are close to me - technical writing/communication and grad school -- as I'm currently enrolled in the MS -PTC (Professional and Technical Communication) program at NJIT. So, the sites I bookmarked have to do with issues of interest to people in the MSPTC program, and technical writers and communicators. Things like usability, help systems, writing, and design.

I can also search for bookmarks other people have set, by adding specific people to my network or by searching by keywords. So, if I search for "technical communication," I'll get sites that other people in the network have bookmarked and tagged with technical and communication. I noticed that when I did a search for "folksonomy" on Google, very high up on the list in the search results was a link for"Pages tagged with 'folksonomy on" Social bookmarking is easy enough to do, and keyword searches yielded some helpful results. So, let's examine the pros/cons of social bookmarking.


  • Can be used to offer useful bookmarks to a group of specific people (e.g., people in your school, class, work team, etc. It becomes more useful than a general web search when bookmarking is utilized in this way.
  • It takes advantage of your "web-peers" knowledge of the subject matter you're interested in -- rather than the author of the website plugging in keywords in the code so you'll get a hit on their site in your searches. The folksonomy of this method may make your search results more useful. You can also get a ranking to see how many other people have bookmarked certain sites.


  • People who want you to find and bookmark their website may spend a lot of time creating the illusion that it's high ranked by bookmarking it themselves among a network of people that work for them in some capacity.
  • People don't always tag sites with the same keywords, including spelling/typos. This makes finding some of the useful bookmarks a little harder.

Overall, I like the idea of sharing and allowing web users to become "folksonomists" rather than allowing the web "taxonomists" be our only guide to searches on the web. But, I can't help but wonder, what makes a web user better than a website developer at tagging the site? Wouldn't the web developer have even more of a vested interest in adding the right tags and getting the site listed in a way that the highest number of people who are interested in it will find it? And, as social bookmarking takes off and more and more people join it, won't it just be like.....searching the web? I'm not really buying the notion that web users will help direct me better than the web developers/authors. However, I can see how this is a fantastic way to share your bookmarks with a specific group of people (e.g., work group or grad school group) - as a team of people, they have a vested interested in contributing and making useful judgements about how to tag a site.

What do you think about Social Bookmarking?

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Poets Online said...

Did you find that the links that were "saved by 1500 other people" legitimately were more worthwhile than one tagged by only 12 people? Does the voting of the masses serve as a valid peer review process?

Catherine R. said...

I didn't necessarily find that the sites that were tagged by more people were more useful than others actually. I also did a quick google search comparison and the sites weren't too bad.

I did a search for 'polar bears and global warming' (no quotes), in both and google. I found the first page of results in google to be more specific to what I was looking for, while the results in were more generic - about global warming, but they WERE all relavent. Many were only bookmarked by a couple of people. The one tha was booked by 265 was for an article about the response to Al Gore and "An Inconvenient Truth." The article did mention the words polar bear, so it wasn't completely off the mark actually. But, I didn't necessarily find it to be better than the results only marked by 2 people.

I don't necessarily think that Social Bookmarking has NO purpose, but my results seem to be more specific to what I'm looking for in greater numbers with google. Maybe this will improve, maybe not. Or maybe my sampling is limited.

I think the most value in Social Bookmarking is when groups of people add each other to their networks and share for a specific purpose like a class or people within a particular industry. They are more likely to be able to tag in a manner that you would because they are generally coming from a similar knowledgebase and may add the same types of keywords that you would.