|h|n¤s vou shou|o |nov ecou|...
Professor Sm|th does much of h|s work on the Web
these days. When he |s not teach|ng or do|ng pr|mary
research, he spends t|me on the Web |ook|ng for |n-
format|on re|ated to h|s area of expert|se. Dr. Sm|th
gets h|s |nformat|on from many sources: he rece|ves
e-ma|| news|etters from profess|ona| organ|zat|ons
and co||eagues, he subscr|bes to severa| dozen RSS
newsfeeds, and he uses search eng|nes to he|p un-
cover resources that may be of va|ue |n h|s teach|ng
and research.
He uses fo|ders |n h|s Web browser to organ|ze book-
marks of on||ne resources, but th|s pract|ce has be-
come |neffc|ent. lf a resource |s re|evant to severa|
top|c areas, he has to save that bookmark |n mu|t|p|e
fo|ders. At t|mes he w||| d|scover that h|s essent|a|
bookmarks are on h|s home mach|ne wh||e he |s at
the offce. Other t|mes he |s fa|r|y confdent that the
bookmarked s|te |s on h|s mach|ne, but the process
of fnd|ng one s|te out of hundreds of bookmarks |s
more d|ffcu|t than refnd|ng |t us|ng Goog|e. Often
Dr. Sm|th needs to share bookmarks w|th students
and co||eagues; th|s task requ|res fnd|ng the reference
and e-ma|||ng |t.
Dr. Brown has a|| of the same needs as Dr. Sm|th but
uses de|.|c|o.us to manage her bookmarks. When
Dr. Brown fnds a Web s|te to bookmark, she ¯r|ght
c||cks" the s|te to add |t to her de|.|c|o.us account and
¯tags" |t w|th a few re|evant keywords. S|nce her ||st |s
pub||c, she can eas||y d|rect co||eagues and students
to |t. Others can fnd the ||st through the keywords.
Dr. Brown has a few other advantages as we||. When
she bookmarks a s|te, de|.|c|o.us te||s her how many
others bookmarked the same s|te. lf she c||cks on that
number, she can see exact|y who e|se bookmarked
the s|te and when they found |t. A further c||ck shows
her the bookmark co||ect|ons of others |nterested
|n ¯her" s|te. F|na||y, |f she chooses a common tag,
Dr. Brown can see a|| of the other s|tes w|th that tag.
Th|s makes group co||ect|on and aggregat|on of book-
marks very easy.
Dr. Brown has broken from the mode| of us|ng pr|vate
fo|ders to organ|ze |nformat|on. Soc|a| bookmark|ng
creates a true web of resources and connect|ons-
one that |s not ||m|ted to |nd|v|dua|s and the|r fo|ders
but represents the |nterests and judgments of a
commun|ty of users.
\he| |s ||?
Soc|a| bookmark|ng |s the pract|ce of sav|ng bookmarks to a
pub||c Web s|te and ¯tagg|ng" them w|th keywords. Bookmark-
|ng, on the other hand, |s the pract|ce of sav|ng the address of
a Web s|te you w|sh to v|s|t |n the future on your computer. To
create a co||ect|on of soc|a| bookmarks, you reg|ster w|th a soc|a|
bookmark|ng s|te, wh|ch |ets you store bookmarks, add tags of
your cho|ce, and des|gnate |nd|v|dua| bookmarks as pub||c or
pr|vate. Some s|tes per|od|ca||y ver|fy that bookmarks st||| work,
not|fy|ng users when a ÜR| no |onger funct|ons. v|s|tors to soc|a|
bookmark|ng s|tes can search for resources by keyword, person,
or popu|ar|ty and see the pub||c bookmarks, tags, and c|ass|fca-
t|on schemes that reg|stered users have created and saved.
\ho |s oo|n¤ ||?
Soc|a| bookmark|ng dates back just a coup|e of years, when s|tes
||ke Fur|, S|mpy, and de|.|c|o.us began operat|ng. Other soc|a|
bookmark|ng s|tes |nc|ude de.||r|o.us, an open source vers|on of
de|.|c|o.us, and c|teu||ke, a soc|a| bookmark|ng s|te for academ|c
papers. Soc|a| bookmark|ng |s part|cu|ar|y usefu| when co||ect|ng
a set of resources that are to be shared w|th others. Anyone can
part|c|pate |n soc|a| bookmark|ng.
|ov oocs || vo(|?
Soc|a| bookmark|ng opens the door to new ways of organ|z|ng
|nformat|on and categor|z|ng resources. The creator of a book-
mark ass|gns tags to each resource, resu|t|ng |n a user-d|rected,
¯amateur" method of c|ass|fy|ng |nformat|on. Because soc|a|
bookmark|ng serv|ces |nd|cate who created each bookmark and
prov|de access to that person`s other bookmarked resources,
users can eas||y make soc|a| connect|ons w|th other |nd|v|dua|s
|nterested |n just about any top|c. Üsers can a|so see how many
peop|e have used a tag and search for a|| resources that have
been ass|gned that tag. ln th|s way, the commun|ty of users over
t|me w||| deve|op a un|que structure of keywords to defne resourc-
es-someth|ng that has come to be known as a ¯fo|ksonomy."
more ¹

May 2005
\hv |s || s|¤n|ncen|?
Act|v|t|es ||ke soc|a| bookmark|ng g|ve users the opportun|ty to
express d|ffer|ng perspect|ves on |nformat|on and resources
through |nforma| organ|zat|ona| structures. Th|s process a||ows
||ke-m|nded |nd|v|dua|s to fnd one another and create new com-
mun|t|es of users that cont|nue to |nfuence the ongo|ng evo|ut|on
of fo|ksonom|es and common tags for resources. Üs|ng a fo|k-
sonomy-based too| for research |ets you take advantage of the
|ns|ghts of other users to fnd |nformat|on re|ated to the top|c you
are research|ng, even |n areas that aren`t obv|ous|y connected to
the pr|mary top|c. lf you are |ook|ng for |nformat|on about sa|||ng,
for examp|e, you m|ght fnd that other users saw a connect|on
between sa|||ng and boat repa|r, tak|ng you |n new, potent|a||y
va|uab|e d|rect|ons. These k|nds of too|s a|so encourage users
to keep com|ng back because the fo|ksonomy and the co||ec-
t|ons of resources are constant|y chang|ng. lt`s easy to |mag|ne
ass|gn|ng a va|ue for |nd|v|dua| resources, resu|t|ng |n a rank|ng
system that funct|ons as a co||aborat|ve f|ter.
\he| e(c |hc oovns|ocs?
By defn|t|on, soc|a| bookmark|ng |s done by amateurs. There |s
no overs|ght as to how resources are organ|zed and tagged. Th|s
can |ead to |ncons|stent or otherw|se poor use of tags. For exam-
p|e, |f a user saves a bookmark for a s|te w|th |nformat|on about
greyhounds but on|y tags the s|te w|th the term ¯greyhound" and
not a|so w|th ¯dogs" or perhaps ¯dog rac|ng," that resource m|ght
never be found by someone |ook|ng for |nformat|on about breeds
of dogs. Because soc|a| bookmark|ng refects the va|ues of the
commun|ty of users, there |s a r|sk of present|ng a skewed v|ew
of the va|ue of any part|cu|ar top|c. For examp|e, users m|ght
ass|gn pejorat|ve tags to certa|n resources. ln add|t|on, soc|a|
bookmark|ng means stor|ng data |n yet another |ocat|on that you
have to ma|nta|n and update.
\hc(c |s |t ¤o|n¤?
The techno|ogy beh|nd soc|a| bookmark|ng |s not comp|ex,
wh|ch means the thresho|d to part|c|pate |s |ow, both for Web
s|tes offer|ng such serv|ces and for users. The |deas that soc|a|
bookmark|ng |s bu||t on are work|ng the|r way |nto other app||ca-
t|ons; the pract|ce of tagg|ng |nformat|on |s be|ng extended to
other types of resources, such as mu|t|med|a f|es and e-ma||.
Th|s sh|ft away from forma| taxonom|es may have |mportant
|mp||cat|ons for how user commun|t|es are born and how they
funct|on. As the |andscape for on||ne resources changes and new
systems of c|ass|fy|ng those resources emerge and mature, the
des|gn and funct|on of databases themse|ves may u|t|mate|y be
changed to accommodate new ways of manag|ng |nformat|on.
\he| e(c |hc |mp||ce||ons fo(
|cech|n¤ eno |ce(n|n¤?
Tagg|ng |nformat|on resources w|th keywords has the potent|a| to
change how we store and fnd |nformat|on. lt may become |ess
|mportant to know and remember where |nformat|on was found
and more |mportant to know how to retr|eve |t us|ng a frame-
work created by and shared w|th peers and co||eagues. Soc|a|
bookmark|ng s|mp||fes the d|str|but|on of reference ||sts, b|b||og-
raph|es, papers, and other resources among peers or students.

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