The Fundamentals of Social Book-Marking – A Quick Guide.
In The Begining
Have you ever entered a search term into a search engine and then had to wade through many useless ‘junk’ pages in order to find what you were looking for in the first place? Many web site owners have learned how to ‘fool’ or ‘game’ the search engines which has resulted in lots of trash sites spewing advertising etc clogging up the search results. Social book-marking has grown out of what was originally called ‘folksonomy’. This refered to open ended organisational systems that allowed multiple internet users to sort web sites and their elements. Instead of relying on one organisations assesment of how these sites should be sorted the folksonomy system allowed individual internet users the chance to mold and influence the architecture of this giant filing system.
The key to the structure of the folksonomy system is ‘tagging’. The creation of the categories within the system is made by using a tag or tags to describe a website, document or photograph for example. Tags are almost the equivelant of the keyword looking from a search engine perspective. For example www.help-me-park.com is a web site selling meet and greet parking, sometimes called valet parking, at London Gatwick Airport. Tags for this site could include parking, Gatwick Airport, meet and greet, valet parking, etc. This site would be found if a user of the folksonomy searched under any of the tags associated with that site.
The folksonomic or book-marking system is constantly evolving from the bottom up as actual users of the internet and the folksonomy add sites and tags that will influence the outcomes of any searches performed. This is opposed to the top down search engine model where by their programers and search algorithm writters are trying to stay ahead of webmasters efforts to play the system and get their web site returned for a particular search enquiry.With folksonomy or social bookmarking it is the will and opinions of the participants that make the difference and influence results. Every entry is ‘peer reviewed’ and each tag is a vote of confidence or a personal recommendation.
A Short History fo Social Bookmarking
Social bookmarking has grown out of folksonomic thinking. The idea to arrange content with tags is over a decade old. Sharing bookmarked sites online began in 1996 as a variety of web sites tried to grab market share in the social bookmarking field. Unfortunately for these early pioneers the quest to grab users of the internet was not accompanied by any workable business model and when the dotcom bubble burst these fledgling social bookmarking sites were among the casualties. The social bookmarking concept was down but not out. 1997 saw the introduction of del.icio.us. Working on the model that users were allowed to import their favourite bookmarks and make them visible to all participants via tagging them.
The site was well received and soon developed a loyal following. Not only were people able to find information but they could influence and shape how others found it. The quick growth of del.icio.us showed that the social book marking phenomena was upon us. There was a communal mindset amongst the participants who, through their co-operation, enjoyed using the peer reviewed search results instead of having to rely on the search engine algorithms to guide them through the truly gigantic sea of information that is the modern day world wide web.
The Future of Social Bookmarking
There is a constant injection of new ideas into the social bookmarking arena as the sites such as digg.it, del.icio.us, furl etc as they evolve and improve based on users needs. Social bookmarking has developed to become the grassroots tool of information discovery and organisation. Excitingly for social bookmarking many industry experts and commentators don’t believe that this phenomena is even close to reaching it’s high water mark. Unprecedented levels of involvement from users across the world has the potential to give social bookmarking the capacity to continuousley evolve and change with users needs and never become outmoded.
Social book-marking sites today often employ a search engine style interface to simplify information retrieval. Although tag driven these programs sit between the user and the information and act as search algorithms designed to return results based on what they infer from the tagging structure. For purists of the folksonomy concept this interference by computer programs is not welcomed bu many users do find the search engine model to be useful.
Social bookmarking allows real people as users of the internet to be the judge of useful relevant information. It is possible that the traditional search engines will begin to look to the tags of the social bookmarking world in order to further sift and catalogue the web according to relevance and imprtance to the search customer. Many believe that with the exponential growth of the web in the future it will only be via a human edited and peer reviewed cataloguing of the internet that we will ever hope to find the information we all crave.
About the Author: Barry Babister is the managing director of Help-Me-Park Ltd a company dedicated to providing the ultimate Meet and Greet parking experience at London Gatwick Airport.. Many existing customers of Help-Me-Park.com initially came through personal recommendation from existing clients. Social book marking is the equivalent of being able to ask your neighbours who they would recommend for any particular task and it is making giant strides towards creating a real community of users of the internet.