Social and asocial bookmarking

The working day of a ‘”web worker” is an increasingly complex experience, new pointers and ideas occur frequently. More and more people use bookmarking tools for organizing links from diverse sources.

Once people used local browser bookmarks, which quickly get cluttered, usually don’t get maintained, and are not normally shared across browsers and machines. Instead of local bookmarks many adopt tools integrated in their browser in order to have a unique online service where all bookmarks get stored, and get seamlessly updated in whatever browser / machine combination you are using (and also backed up). The most popular such tool is Delicious, a list can be found here.

In this writing I’m referring to services that are primarily meant for collecting personal bookmarks, like Delicious, not mainly for discussing the contents of submitted links, like Reddit.

Social bookmarking

One additional useful feature of Delicious apart from letting collect bookmarks is the fact that the collection of bookmarks is by default public, that is, can be accessed by anyone to whom you give the bookmarks URL. It is a quick and simple way of sharing bookmarks with others.

By analyzing the bookmarking and tagging trends of many users, some observations about the current trends and social bookmarking behavior can be drawn. From this side effect, the entire bookmarking activity has been renamed “social bookmarking”, may be because that is what the press gets interested in about bookmarking: what are the “hot” trends in bookmarking?

But the main interest of the user is in organizing her/his own information, not social trends, and then eventually sharing some specific subsets of that with some specific person.

Make it simpler

Given the standing problem of the amount of information available, people have begun using simple, practical browser add-ons that let you save a bookmark for later, without loosing the main focus of your current activity. These tools have been integrated not only in the browsers but also in client and mobile apps –because there too you access information sources rich in content.

What is the point?

All these “social bookmarking services” let you save and share bookmarks flat, in a simple tagged list. So anyone can see your link collection, eventually filtered by tag. There are rare cases when collections do make sense out of context. But most don’t: for example, I’ve put together a collection tagged “gaming”, the set of links found exploring my idea of a game, and there you find links about… the town of Prague. Yes, maybe the game will be set in a fictional Prague. The point is that this collection is useful to nobody but myself – and most link collections are of the latter kind.

And actually “social bookmarking” in some cases leads to negative practices: given that when you bookmark a site you are proposed the most used tags for that site (not by you: by the community), users begin to use this as a classification guide, without realizing that most of the tags they will be using will be in a one-to-one relationship with the site bookmarked, ending up in a tangled mess of a huge tag cloud, which makes their collection of bookmarks useless. Yes, that is the experience of many of you readers, isn’t it?

It is sometimes said “Delicious is a place where links go to die” – surely your initial usage wasn’t meant to be in that way.

My main point here is that what is most important for users is saving that information, which for them, in that moment, in a particular context, has a specific meaning. So I believe the main user problem that a bookmarking solution should meet is how to preserve in the simplest, fastest and complete way the information context for that bookmark. In this cases, it is a personal, almost private meaningful context: a way of  a-social bookmarking. An its here I think we found some space for improvement in bookmarking software.

This “interpretation” came also from reading this blog post: Social Bookmarking Even When You’re Not Social: Why I Use Delicious.


image Make it meaningful – birth of Licorize

From the consideration that bookmarking is often a part of collecting ideas for a specific project, or a specific idea search, came the idea of building a bookmarking service that could support bookmarking quickly in a definite context – and work from there on. The input for this say “idea collection” does not come just from bookmarking, also from status updates, iPhone/Evernote photos, and so on.

This new “bookmarking and more” service is called Licorize.

2 Responses to “Social and asocial bookmarking”
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  1. […] Pietro Polsinelli says on his post Social and asocial bookmarking: “[…] From the consideration that bookmarking is often a part of collecting ideas for a […]

  2. […] comments « Social and asocial bookmarking Publishing your bookmark collections as “magazines” on the web […]

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