Tagging and Social Bookmarking

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Brief Description:

A tag is a collaboratively generated, open-ended labeling system that enables Internet users to categorize content such as Web pages, online photographs, and Web links. Tagging lets you categorize information online your way.

Social bookmarking is the use of a web-based site that stores your tags and the tags of people you know, so you can benefit from their bookmarks as well as your own.

Social bookmarking takes you, the user, to a new level of organizing your precious research, whether it’s a useful restaurant review or a comparison of pathogenic plant viruses. Social bookmarking services such as del.icio.us let you save and store your favorite online resources in a single location that is accessible from any computer with an Internet connection. All you need to do to organize your web links is to assign keywords (tags) that will help you recall the link when you need it. Bookmarks on del.icio.us can be shared publicly, for others to see and add to their resource lists, and vice versa. What a great way to filter through the information overload on the Internet!

Here is a brief video explaining social bookmarking.

Social bookmarking in plain English: http://www.commoncraft.com/bookmarking-plain-english


When to use:

Why should you consider tagging? From Beth Kanter
"Many nonprofits professionals have to manage a lot of information on the web and share it with their co-workers or clients. In many smaller organizations, where there are not enough resources for a high-end knowledge management system, people end up using their browser favorites or forward links to one another via email. Unfortunately, these methods make sharing and managing information resources difficult.
  • Here’s why:
  • (1) The folder structure of your favorites list is not always flexible enough to allow for easy cross referencing.
  • (2) Bookmarks can’t be accessed from different locations or computers.
  • (3) Links can get lost in email.
  • (4) Knowledge management is a solitary endeavor, not a social one.

  • Agree within a group to tag useful web resources with a shared tag; the group benefits from each member's searches.
  • Tag artifacts from an event (photos, wikis, blog posts) to collect all material generated at the event.
  • Follow the tags of thought leaders.

How to use:

From Beth Kanter

You register with a social bookmarking site, typically a free service, which lets you store bookmarks, add tags of your choice, and designate your individual bookmarks as public or private. You can search for resources by keyword, person, or popularity and see the public bookmarks, tags, and classification schemes that users have created and saved.Users use a web-based tagging tool to add tags to describe online items, such as images, videos, bookmarks or text. These tags are then shared and sometimes refined.
When you start using network tags, that’s where you really see the power of social bookmarking. Here are some simple instructions provided by Nancy White, online communication expert and lead facilitator at the Online Social Media workshop.

1. Choose a tag. This is a key practice!
2. Recruit Taggers. Here is my rule of thumb. In a group of 20 people, having 2 taggers will make a difference. It doesn’t have to be everyone. Some people are better scanners/taggers than others. I find people who are fast readers and global thinkers make great taggers. First I try and find out if anyone is already using del.icio.us and tagging. Then I ask them to consider tagging for the group as well. I always encourage people to install the little tag bookmarklet on their browser.
I REALLY love it when people don’t just tag, but they add a short annotation of why they think the link is valuable and add other tags beyond the shared tag that help further define the tag.
  • A tag should be somehow obviously related to the topic. People need to be able to remember it.
  • If it is related to an event, add a year at the end. So if we wanted to identify the CGSocialmedia resources to this year, we could make the tag CGSocialmedia09
  • If you need it to be unique to your group, you will have to work harder to make the tag unique. The tag socialmedia is used by many people so it is too generic.
  • Some caveats: Tags that are too long, have slightly weird spelling or too obtuse tend to have challenges. People forget them, mispell (and thus mistag) them. So bottom line, keep it as simple as you can while still being unique.
3. Make the tag feed visible to users. So this may mean you are recruiting users, or simply making the fruits of the tagging visible to an existing group. You can pull the RSS feed (Meena: coming soon, I promise!) and embed it in a blog or webportal page or any site that allows simple scripts. You can find the RSS feed for any tag at the lower left of that tag page on del.icio.us.
  • For a more detailed definition of tags, see the Wikipedia entry.Many social bookmarking services are available; those most often mentioned by members of the nonprofit technology community include:

Tips and Lessons Learnt

  • Taking del.icio.us for grantedFrom Web tastings-blog: KM for Ag and rural development: Posted on by Pete Shelton
    "The other week, I was showing a colleague from the CGIAR what del.icio.us could do in a very hands on way. We started by uploading a list of bookmarks from her browser into del.icio.us.(...) "
  • Tips for Using Delicious In (Doctoral) Research Blog post by C. Wess Daniels
  • Some free services go out of business. Export your bookmarks on a regular basis to protect your data!

Examples & Stories

(add yours)
  • "Peter Ballantyne proposed to do a project about our tagging experiment. We are using the unique tag NPK4dev (non-profit knowledge management for development) to tag resources on knowledge management in a development context. We produced this video to explain the usefulness of social bookmarking for individuals and groups with a common interest. We used the commoncraft videos about RSS and wikis for our inspiration" - Joiske Hulsebosch


Who can tell me more?

  • Kristin Kolshus (dgroups [at] fao.org)

Related Methods/Tools/Practices:

More Information/References/Related Resources:


Photo Credit

Beth Kanter on Flickr