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Feature Article:
Social Bookmarking

Submitted by Melissa L. Rethlefsen
Learning Resource Center, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN

What is social bookmarking?

Simply, social bookmarking is bookmarking in public. This accomplishes two things: first, your bookmarks are accessible not just from one computer, but from anywhere you can access the web; and second, instead of having a huge list of disorganized bookmarks or favorites in your browser, you have a database of tagged bookmarks where it's easy to find just what you need.

What are the social bookmarking tools?

del.icio.us: del.icio.us is pretty much synonymous with social bookmarking. It was the first social bookmarking tool, and though it has spawned dozens of clones and wannabes, del.icio.us still reigns supreme, it's the best at what it does, it has the most users, and basically I can't say enough good things about it. The del.icio.us crew is working on an overhaul of the whole system (to be formally renamed delicious.com) that promises to make del.icio.us even better than it is now. I, for one, will have a lot of trouble learning how to type delicious without the dots, however. (Try also: Ma.gnolia, BlinkList, unalog, Simpy, Google Shared Stuff)

Connotea: The Nature Publishing Group are social software innovators, and their version of del.icio.us, Connotea, is just one example of this innovative spirit. Connotea takes the model of del.icio.us and makes it relevant to scientists. It specializes in bookmarking scientific and medical journal articles, and is thus often called a social reference manager or an academic social bookmarking tool. It can parse out all the citation information for journal articles and books from a number of different publishers and web sites, including Amazon.com, PubMed, and of course all the Nature journals, and allows the data it gathers to be exported to regular citation managers like EndNote. (Try also: CiteULike, Bibsonomy)

PeerClip: PeerClip is one of a new breed of population-specific social bookmarking tools, this one geared just to physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants (that's right, no librarians allowed). Right now, the site is in beta and can't verify your credentials just yet, but the plan is to run each member through a verification system to make sure that the community is exclusive. Other than its exclusivity, its only real difference from del.icio.us is that it doesn't work as well. (Try also: CiteMD)

diigo: diigo's twist to the social bookmarking arena is social annotation. diigo has featured prominently in Michael Wesch's videos of the future of the web (The Machine is Us/ing Us and Information R/evolution), where Wesch uses diigo to mark up and annotate web pages. And watch diigo's introductory video to see their thanks. Social annotation means that you can mark up and leave sticky notes on web pages, and everyone who is a diigo user can see them. This is an excellent research tool. (Try also: diigo WebSlides, Trailfire, Clipmarks, SharedCopy, Fleck)

What about using social bookmarking in a medical library?

I see four reasons for using social bookmarking in a medical library: personal productivity, teaching our clients how to use them for their personal productivity, sharing web resources with other staff, and creating subject guides. Each and every one of these four reasons is covered in depth in the resources I've listed below, but to get you started, here are a few ideas and examples.

Personal productivity: Using del.icio.us, CiteULike, diigo, or any other social bookmarking tool is a great start to making your life easier. Every one of us has at one time seen something great on the web, and three months later, when it would be really useful, couldn't find it again. Social bookmarking changes all that. Because your bookmarks are basically in a database, there is no reason whatsoever to skimp on bookmarking anything; you can bookmark everything you want and still be able to find it again. It all boils down to tagging, assigning keywords to your bookmarks. If you tag it, you can find it.

Keeping track of what you've seen is great, but there's another reason to use a social bookmarking tool for personal productivity, social networking. In nearly every social bookmarking tool, you can keep track of what other people (total strangers who happen to like what you like or your best friends) bookmark. If you find someone that bookmarks regularly on topics you are interested in, subscribe to their RSS feed or add them to your network (in del.icio.us), you may be able to cut down on that list of blogs you track. Plus, if you can convince your friends and colleagues to join up, you can easily send them links without having to resort to the old copy/paste/email method.

Teaching our clients: What holds true for us holds true for our clients. Social bookmarking can make everyone's information life easier. Scientists may gravitate to Connotea and physicians to PeerClip, but any social bookmarking tool will do. Some librarians, notably Patricia Anderson at the University of Michigan, have already begun teaching del.icio.us to their clients. Follow her lead!

Sharing web resources with staff: One of the most common library uses of del.icio.us is to create a database of shared links for reference desk staff. If you have a joint account, everyone can add, search, or browse bookmarks, plus you can subscribe to the RSS feed to get updated when any new links are added. If you want to get really fancy, you can use an RSS to Javascript tool like Feed2JS to roll the new links on a staff web page.

Subject guides: There have been a couple of good blog posts recently about subject guides 2.0. With the retirement of HealthWeb, it's pretty clear that the old ways of disseminating good web resources to our clients is changing; keeping static web pages up to date is time-consuming, requires technology skills not everyone may have, and makes for easily out-of-date web pages. Using social bookmarking tools to create subject guides alleviates some of these problems by making it easy to add new web sites to your subject guides in a matter of seconds with no knowledge of HTML or web development tools needed.



  • Social bookmarking in plain English (Common Craft Show) http://www.commoncraft.com/bookmarking-plain-english
  • Tips from top taggers (Robert Andrews, Wired) http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2005/10/69084

  • Reviews of the Tools
  • Social bookmarking services and tools: the wisdom of crowds that organizes the web (Robin Good) http://www.masternewmedia.org/news/2006/12/01/social_bookmarking_services_and_tools.htm
  • CiteULike: a researcher's social bookmarking service (Emamy & Cameron, in Ariadne) http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue51/emamy-cameron/
  • Social bookmarking (II): a case study - Connotea (Lund et al, D-Lib Magazine) http://dlib.org/dlib/april05/lund/04lund.html

  • Libraries and Social Bookmarking
  • Tags help make libraries del.icio.us: social bookmarking and tagging boost participation (Melissa Rethlefsen, Library Journal) http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6476403.html
  • Tagging in the medical library (omg tuna is kewl) http://tunaiskewl.wordpress.com/2007/07/08/tagging-in-the-medical-library/
  • Why medical librarians should care about tagging (davidrothman.net) http://davidrothman.net/2007/07/08/why-medical-librarians-should-care-about-tagging/
  • del.icio.us (use for subject guides) (Code4Lib lightning talk, Ed Corrado) http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6365628404758326745&hl=en
  • Make your library del.icio.us: social bookmarking in the stacks (Jason Griffey, 5 Weeks to a Social Library) http://www.opal-online.org/5weeksGriffey20070222.htm (requires IE)

  • Social Bookmarking in Medicine
  • Social bookmarking & del.icio.us: a personal and professional productivity tool (Patricia Anderson) http://www.slideshare.net/umhealthscienceslibraries/social-bookmarking-delicious-a-personal-and-professional-productivity-tool
  • Tagging for health information organisation and retrieval (Margaret Kipp) http://eprints.rclis.org/archive/00011411/

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