Week 5: Social bookmarking & tagging

This week we’re looking at social bookmarking & tagging. Once you’ve read this information, have a go at the activities we’ve organised for you. You’ll see there are 3 activities listed, but you only have to complete 2 of them. If you get time, have a go at the optional activity.

Remember to add a post to your blog about this week’s activity!

What is social bookmarking?
Social bookmarking
enables you to store and share websites, photos and other resources within an online community and is a way to help you stay up-to-date. It enables you to organise and file websites, photos & articles for future reference, and to also browse other’s bookmarks to discover resources they may never have found using a search engine.

There are several freely available social bookmarking tools including del.icio.us and furl. CiteULike is another social bookmarking tool which is primarily used to bookmark scholarly articles. You must first register for these services and you may then be given the option to download a ‘bookmarklet’ in the toolbar of their browser. When you find a site you like, you just need to click on a ‘bookmarklet’ widget within your Internet browser to assign tags & add the link to your social bookmarking tool.

What is tagging?
If you’ve ever used a subject heading in a library catalogue or a descriptor in a database you’re already familiar with tagging.

A tag is just a keyword or term, and tagging is the process of assigning or associating a tag to something. We usually talk about tagging with online content like websites, digital photos, or blog posts, but the concept is the same as your handwritten notes on the family snapshots.

Tags are completely unstructured and freeform. You choose terms that are meaningful for you, so if “cooking” makes more sense to you than “cookery”, you’re free to use it.

Tags are therefore used as a means of finding the websites, photos etc. you have stored in your social bookmarking tool such as del.icio.us.

Just keep in mind that tags which have two or more words to them need to be joined together so that there are no spaces between the words e.g. chocolate_chip_cookies and ChocolateChipCookies are both one tag, while chocolate chip cookies is three tags.

A short video clip
Take a look at this clip created by the CommonCraft team and made available via YouTube. It explains social bookmarking really well. Plus it’ll give you a break from reading! Please note: You’ll need headphones to listen to it.

Folksonomies? What are they?
Anyone who’s used UDC to catalogue a book knows that there are pages (and pages and pages…) of rules for how it should be used. You are also required to use the exact terms specified. With a structured system like UDC, the rules are essential to keep everyone using it consistently. UDC is a taxonomy, a professionally developed system in which a controlled vocabulary is used to categorize materials.

A folksonomy is like a taxonomy, but without all the rules. Unlike taxonomies, folksonomies are created from the bottom up by anyone who wishes to tag an object. It is classification by people – hence folksonomy. Folksonomies grow from the tags that users apply on bookmarking sites like del.icio.us. As you add bookmarks to del.icio.us or photos to Flickr, you see the tags that other users have associated with similar items. You might even like some of them and decide to apply the tag to your own bookmarks.

Folksonomies are not hierarchical, meaning they lack the “Broader Term, Narrower Term, Related Term” structure often seen in taxonomies. Also, because they do not use a controlled vocabulary, terms can change quickly, there can be multiple tags for the same concept (library, libraries), and the same tag may be used for different concepts.

del.icio.us lets you see the bookmarks that other users have added and how they are tagged. This open sharing of links is called social bookmarking. As bookmarks are added and tagged, a folksonomy emerges. Just as you might click a subject heading in Unicorn to see what the library has on a particular topic, clicking a tag in del.icio.us shows you all the bookmarks with that tag. And in the same way that using a subject heading can narrow a catalogue search, using a folksonomy tag can save you from sorting through 2 million Google hits by showing you what other people have found useful on that topic.

Clear as mud? Don’t worry, this week’s activities will help you understand what tagging and social bookmarking are.

What are you doing this week?
This week, you’ll be exploring a couple of popular social bookmarking resources that use tagging: del.icio.us and Flickr.

del.icio.us is a site that lets you save and organize links to web content. It’s kind of like the ‘Bookmarks’ or ‘Favorites’ folders in Firefox or Internet Explorer. Only better. With del.icio.us, you never have to remember which computer you saved that link on. So if you’re going from work to home, or to different computers around the library, all of your bookmarks are always available.

Flickr is specifically for digital photographs and images. Like del.icio.us, once you’ve saved an image in Flickr it’s accessible from where ever you happen to be. It’s easy to share your photos, too.

Further Readings (optional!)


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