This will already be past its sell buy date if you currently use social bookmarks. For those who don't, or who have had a go but didn't pursue it, read on.
Social bookmarking tools do some things well ...
- Store bookmarks - social bookmarking tools allow you to store links to your favourite sites. Being accessible on the web means that you can get to them where ever you have an internet connection. Very useful if you are on the move or collaborating with colleagues outside Bournemouth University.
- Tags - each link can be tagged with keywords you choose. The handy thing is that your tags are remembered so once you have created a tag its just a pick and click operation to add it to new bookmarks which helps consistency. Social bookmarking tools should allow you to edit tags so if it gets out of hand you can always tidy them up. Tags have a number of useful properties. They become links so you can find all the bookmarks that share the same tag. They are presented in interesting but helpful ways, for example, 'tag clouds' - groups of tags where those with larger letters have more bookmarks attached than those with smaller letters.
- Searching/browsing - you can browse using other peoples tags. This can be a bit variable as their tagging will be as individual as yours. On the other hand if you discover the tags of an expert or obsessive tagger it can very quickly get you to the point you need to be. There is also an element of serendipity!
- Sharing - at its most basic sharing is just a URL http://www.2collab.com/tag:social20%bookmarking or http://del.icio.us/socialbookmarking. Different sites will layer in additional facilities, for example, a choice between public and private access or sharing within groups.
What is useful about social bookmarking for researchers?
- Its simple to use - for any research project drawing on the Internet as a source, collecting and listing websites is going to be a key task - as this is the raison d'etre of social bookmarking software why would you use anything else?
- Sharing is good practice either informally to help colleagues or formally as part of a collaborative project. Social Bookmarking takes the effort out of collating and formating lists so sharing is easy.
- Manage your links - social bookmarking software should allow you to Import and Export links in basics formats such as .rtf and .html. which should speed up adding lists of links to reports and written work. Some social bookmarking tools directed at academia also allow Import and Export in RIS (EndNote) and BIBTEX.
- Its a collaborative tool - project teams can contribute, build and comment on links and work at a distance.
Are there any disadvantages?
Social bookmarking tools are at their basic level lists of websites with comments and labels. From a researchers point of view at some point you will eventually want more functionality. While browsing, tagging and serendipity is fun, it can be frustrating when you have to focus on the task in hand and you need a more systematic approach to searching.
What products are available?
There are excellent lists on Social Bookmarking tools already on the web. del.icio.us is popular, but with a wide choice, in the end it comes down to personal preference.
Academic bookmarking tools have better Import facilities to allow importing records from major bibliographic databases and better Export facilities to enable export to bibliographic management packages. Because they handle published reference types such as books, articles etc. they can be used as a supportto bibliographic management packages as well.For example with EndNote, overcoming long standing challenges of sharing bibliographic data over networks. In other words create reference lists in EndNote, export as RIS and Import into Connotea (or other social bookmarking tool) to share with colleagues. This a dynamic area of Web 2.0 development. For researchers its worth keeping an eye on 'big players' as they develop tools to complement their database/software offerings.