Friday, December 5, 2008

4. Learn about tagging and discover (a social bookmarking site)

Tagging is an open and informal method of categorizing that allows users to associate keywords with online content (web pages, pictures & posts). A tag is just a keyword or term, and tagging is the process of assigning or associating them to something. Unlike library subject cataloging, which follows a strict set of guidelines (i.e., MeSH or Library of Congress Subject Headings), tagging is non-hierarchical, unstructured and freeform, allowing users to create connections between data anyway they want.

Thomas Vander Wal is credited with coining the term “folksonomy” in 2004. He has described it as “tagging that works.” According to Vander Wal, folksonomy is “the result of personal free tagging of information and objects (anything with a URL) for one’s own retrieval. The tagging is done in a social environment (shared and open to others). The act of tagging is done by the person consuming the information. The value in this external tagging is derived from people using their own vocabulary and adding explicit meaning, which may come from inferred understanding of the information/object as well. The people are not so much categorizing as providing a means to connect items and to provide their meaning in their own understanding.”

A Tag Cloud in

Tag cloud

This week we are going to concentrate on a popular social bookmarking site called is a social bookmarking manager which allows you to bookmark a web page and add tags to categorize your bookmarks. Becker Library, at Washington University in St. Louis, uses to manage some of their subject resource guides, such as the Bioinformatics Guides:

Many users find that the real power of is in its social network aspect, which allows you to see how other users have tagged similar links and also discover other web sites that may be of interest to you. You can think of it as peering into another user’s filing cabinet, but with this powerful bookmarking tool each user’s filing cabinet helps to build an expansive knowledge network.

For example, a neuroscientist, a cognitive psychologist and a linguist may all share an interest in speech acquisition, but because they are in different disciplines they may explore different resources. However, if they all participated in social bookmarking and tagged sites with the term “speech acquisition” they could discover cross-disciplinary resources.

For this week’s exercise, you are asked to take a look at and learn about this popular bookmarking tool. If you are completely new to social bookmarking, I recommend first watching the three minute video called “Social Bookmarking in Plain English”. From there, the 8 minute video by the Otter Group is a good resource about, and the Help section in is very good too.

I have included a bibliography in the resources below, for those of you who would like to do some further reading about social bookmarking.

Start with these learning resources:
  • View this 9 minute tutorial (produced by the Otter Group) to get a good overview of its features.

  • Or, view this 8 minute video “Inside//Out:” video (from Matt Dickman, Techno/Marketer)

  • Take a look at the University of Kansas Medical Center Dykes Library bookmarks on Explore the site, change your view from Cloud to List (use the “tag options” on the right side of the page). What visual clue does use to indicate which tags are used most or what resources are bookmarked by the most users?

  • Create a blog post about your exploration of and your thoughts about this application. Can you see its potential for sharing resources? Or, do you think it’s more useful for an individual’s personal use? Can you think of ways that Becker Library could use or other social bookmarking applications to provide service to our patrons?

Optional Exercise:
  • Create a account for yourself and discover how this bookmarking tool can replace your traditional browser bookmark or favorites list. An online account will provide access to your resources from any computer connected to the Internet.

  • Add the button to your browser’s toolbar. Instructions are available for Internet Explorer and Firefox.

  • After you create an account in, use the for:username tag to share a bookmark with me (Rebecca Brown). When you are assigning tags to a site that you are bookmarking, use the tag for:rbrown3. I will receive that site in my Inbox.

  • Other social bookmarking sites to explore: and

  • Visit SlideShare, the world's largest community for sharing presentations. Users Tag presentations.

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