Online Social Bookmarking – Why?
I first discovered and explored online social bookmarking to make my life easier – and it has. However social bookmarking is more than just a personal convenience. Social bookmarking tools, such as del.icio.us, are personal knowledge management tools that have at least two significant impacts. In the rest of this post, I will
- describe why I use furl;
- show how social bookmarking tools reduce the digital divide; and
- explain how the social aspect of bookmarking is a unique aspect of the web that contributes to the human learning pool.
Why I use furl
I teach in an institution that has students on laptops, and am issued a laptop to use to prepare my lessons for the Web. As circumstances change, the school will recall a certain model of laptop and issue another. I find changing from one laptop to another annoying, and used to struggle with saving and re-loading my bookmarks.
Plus, sometimes I use another computer, and I used to get frustrated because I didn’t have access to the sites I’d bookmarked on my school laptop. I first read about furl in Stephen Downes’ OLD newsletter, which I subscribe to. The online bookmarking tool he described sounded like a way around my bookmarking frustrations, so I looked furl up on Google, and set up my own account. I have become, as you can see, an enthusiast.
Online social bookmarking makes it easier for those with limited access to online computers to set up their own knowledge management tools. For those who don’t own a computer and/or have one in their home, setting up computer-based bookmarks is not possible. When people access online computers
- in school computer labs;
- at work;
- in libraries;
- at friends’ homes; or
- in internet cafes
they can still have their own set of saved URLs. The situation is similar to the use of online mail tools, such as Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, etc. Once a tool is online, any computer allows contact with individual’s accounts.
The Social Web
The Web is a new communication tool that operates very differently from print. When you use an online social bookmarking tool, you are sharing your research, and you can benefit from others’ research too. This is done in two ways.
When you bookmark a URL, you can label it private, make it accessible to people you choose, or leave it public. If you keep your collection, or part of it, private, it’s like a library in your home. If you make it accessible only to certain people, it’s like the reserves in a library. If you leave it public, it’s a bit like wandering in the stacks. Except in all these cases, you chose who the URL is available to.
As you can see in the screen-capture above, when I click on the link I saved in furl, I get a list of links on similar topics bookmarked by others. I am browsing in the “stacks” of all the people saving URLs in furl. I am part of a community of knowledge managers, and I can benefit from their searching, and they can benefit from mine. This sharing among strangers, linked by their interests, is a very powerful aspect of the Web, and one of the reasons it is sometimes called the “social Web“.
Someing called tagging is part of this, but I’ll leave that for a future post.