Have you ever signed up for one of those dating agencies? No, I haven't either, as it happens, but we know how they work. You fill out a form saying what your interests are, and what drives you nuts, and the agency tries to match you up with someone with similar predilections.
Social bookmarking can work in a similar sort of way -- but I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start at the beginning.
You're probably aware that when you come across a website you like, and wish to return to, you don't have to write down its address. All you have to do is bookmark it, usually by pressing Ctrl D on a PC and Cmd D on a Mac: job done.
However, this approach has some limitations. Firstly, the bookmarks reside on one computer only. If that's not the one you're using when you want to return to the site, that's pretty inconvenient to say the least.
Secondly, if your computer gets stolen or trashed, your bookmarks are lost (unless you've had the foresight to back them up; I doubt many people do).
Those reasons are good enough in themselves for wanting to do things differently, say by saving your bookmarks online somehow. But there is also a third reason…
When you come across a site you like well enough to bookmark for future reference, that's great. But there's only one of you, and only so many hours in a day. Moreover, because you think the way you do, you're going to search for, or come across, or take notice of, particular websites but not others - meaning that you will probably miss some which could be just what you need. You've heard the saying, two heads are better than one. Well, social bookmarking is a good illustration of that principle. Here's how it works.
Let's say I come across a website I think is wonderful. Instead of (or as well as) bookmarking it on my own computer, I could use a social bookmarking website like StumbleUpon, Diigo or Delicious to save it there.
In order to help me find it again, and to help other people find it, I can put tags in the description box for the bookmark. (If you're not sure what tags are, see the article on tagging in this series.)
Once I've bookmarked the site I've discovered, I can let other people know about it, in various ways. For example, people can subscribe to my bookmarks (and I theirs), and I can set up Delicious and Diigo to alert people in my Twitter network automatically. I could also, if I wanted to, embed my latest bookmark updates to my website through the use of the update's RSS feed. You can see why it's called social bookmarking.
But I can go even further, and here's where the dating analogy comes in. One thing I can do is click on the tag I've used to see what other people have found on the web and tagged using the same descriptor. And let's say I realise that one person in particular seems to consistently bookmark websites I will find useful. What I can do is hook up with that person by subscribing to their update feed, a possibility which I've already alluded to. OK, it's not as potentially romantic as dating, but I think you'll agree that the analogy works!
Another nice illustration of, if you will, the corollary of following someone's bookmarking activity is to be found in this advertisement for British Telecom, made during the 1980s. If it were made today, and if it concerned websites rather than household appliances, Mrs Jones would be a person to subscribe to!
If you found this article useful, you may also like to read 10 Reasons to Use Diigo.
Have you seen the other articles in the Web 2.0 for Rookies series? Feel free to comment, and to recommend them to your colleagues and students.
Diigo is a social bookmark service. A social bookmark service is like the Favorites in Internet Explorer, or Bookmarks in other web browsers, like Firefox. However, instead of saving a URL to your computer, you save it on the internet.
This has a number of advantages:
Firstly, you're less likely to lose all your bookmarks in the event of a hard drive meltdown: you just move on to a different computer.
Secondly, you don't have the hassle of trying to remember which URLs you saved on which computer.
Thirdly, a corollary to the above is that you don't have the annoying situation of finding yourself at work wishing you could remember the URL you saved on your home computer, or vice versa.
Fourthly, and this is where the 'social' comes in, by saving your bookmarks on the web, suitably tagged, other people will be able to see your bookmarks on a particular topic, and you will be able to see theirs. This makes for a very rich experience, and helps you to expand your horizons. It's basically a very practical demonstration of the old adage: Many hands make light work.
Think of how you might use that with your colleagues, or with your students.
Diigo is one of several social bookmarking applications that are available, and I like it for the following reasons.
- It's very intuitive to use. In this sense, it's not that different from the others available.
- It's also free. Ditto.
- You can publish a bookmark straight to your blog. This is a very nice feature. It means that you can, in effect, use the Diigo description text box as a surrogate blogging platform: very handy if you're out and about, and you come across a website you'd like to draw others' attention to, but don't have the time to write a blog about it, or to repeat what you have already said in the Diigo text box.
- If you prefer, you could send the link to Twitter instead.
- You can also organise your bookmarks into lists. I have to say that I have not yet tried this myself, but it seems like the kind of feature you'd find useful.
- For the time being at least, I've decided to make use of the Groups feature. You can join (or apply to join) groups within your area of interest. Doing so will mean that you can be notified of any new bookmarks that other people in your niche have made. It's like doing research, or having continuing professional development, without actually doing much apart from checking your email now and again.
- You can also create your own groups. I've created a group called Education Technology - ICT in Education. From a sharing point of view, it doesn't really cover anything more than several other ICT-related groups already do. But I created it as a way of easily storing bookmarks I have referenced, or may wish to reference, in my own articles.
- Remember my point about being able to publish a bookmark to a blog? Well, the feature that makes Diigo stand out for me is the facility of being able to set up an autoblog post. What that means is that I can set it up to post my bookmarks at particular times and intervals. You can set conditions too. Thus I have set it up to automatically publish, twice a day (although I may change this to once a day or even once a week), any bookmarks in the group I have created. So, if I bookmark something now, it will miraculously appear on my blog at 9 pm today. If I discover and bookmark stuff after that, it will automatically publish it tomorrow morning at 9 am.
- Think of how you could use this in school. For example, you could require your students to join a particular group and bookmark useful sites there, and have that published once a week, say. So their weekly homework would be to check the blog every week to see what's new, and to explore the freshly-bookmarked sites.
- As with other social bookmarking sites, you don't have to share all of your URLs with the world: you can mark them as private if you prefer.
But as I think you'll agree, the educational possibilities of using the various (non-private) facilities of Diigo are vast.
Thanks to Peggy George of Classroom 2.0 Live for drawing my attention to their latest show, on the subject of the new features in Diigo.
You may also be interested in the fact that Karl Fisch is conducting a survey on how people are using Diigo in education. Why not contribute, and look out for Karl's report on it (by subscribing to his blog's RSS feed).