Category Archives: Social Bookmarking

Daniel Stanford

My Favorite Social Bookmarking Tools (for Now)

In my previous post, Criteria for Evaluating Social Bookmarking Tools, I talked about some of the key features and usability issues I take into consideration when evaluating web-based bookmarking tools. So, which site do I recommend to faculty? That all depends on their needs and level of tech-savvy.

Recommended Tool for Novices: del.icio.us

At the moment, I recommend del.icio.us to novice faculty who I know will view web-based bookmark management as a big leap into the future. It has a pretty small feature set and the most frequently used options are right where you’d expect them to be.

Recommended Tool for More Demanding Users: Furl

For more adept users, I sometimes recommend furl, although I’m not in love with it either. Furl offers three big advantages over del.icio.us:

  • You can select multiple bookmarks at a time and perform major changes to all of them at once (change their tags, delete them, make them private or public, etc.) This makes managing a big batch of imported bookmarks MUCH easier.
  • You can rate bookmarks with a simple five-star system.
  • You can keep archived copies of the sites you bookmark, although I’ve found this feature always sounds better on paper. The first time you try accessing an archived version of a now defunct page with rich media content (Flash, video, or audio), the rich media will probably either be gone or it will be duplicated so that multiple copies of it are embedded on the same page.

Unfortunately, Furl doesn’t offer a groups feature, and neither does BlinkList or most of the other sites I’ve checked out. Keep in mind that I’m talking about groups you create and manage the way an instructor would want to, not “subscription” lists where you get to see every irrelevant link another member added recently or every new bookmark with a particular tag. I also don’t like that Furl doesn’t let you view your tags as a cloud or even as a simple list on the same screen where you view and manage your bookmarks. The Furl interface feels more like a traditional data-management tool than del.icio.us, with everything in neat little rows and columns. This might be comforting for technophobes, but it’s annoying for everyone else.

Recommended Tool for Feature-Hungry Technophiles: Diigo

Diigo has everything I’ve been looking for in a great social bookmarking/collaborative research tool—except ease of use. The tagging system is still buggy (renaming a tag or deleting it can lead to unexpected results), and the interface has some usability issues that I’ve already discussed with one of Diigo’s co-founders. For instance, tag clouds only display the first 18 characters or so of each tag, preferences on how to view your tags revert to default settings every time the page refreshes, etc. Unfortunately, Diigo is still too frustrating to use for me to recommend it to non-tech-savvy educators, but I hope its shortcomings will be resolved soon. If that happens, I’ll become a major Diigo evangelist. If not, I might have to embrace a more bare-bones bookmarking tool like Del.icio.us and search for a separate tool that just handles collaborative research well. Google Notebook is next on my list of tools to check out for that.

Daniel Stanford

Criteria for Evaluating Social Bookmarking Tools

What is social bookmarking?

If you’re not familiar with the term social bookmarking, it’s typically used to describe tools that allow users to save links to their favorite sites on a web server. This allows you to access these links from any computer with an Internet connection, making them easier to share than bookmarks or favorites saved on your computer’s hard drive. Social bookmarking tools also make it easier to categorize links and to find new sites that are recommended by people with similar interests. Some social bookmarking tools offer many additional features that are ideal for collaborative learning, allowing users to create groups and discussion forums and even call attention to specific webpage content with virtual “sticky notes” and highlights. However, many of these features have yet to be implemented in a refined and reliable way.

How do I evaluate social bookmarking tools?

That depends largely on how you plan to use social bookmarking. Here are the criteria I use when evaluating different tools based on my needs and what I believe faculty will value:

1) Ease of Use: Do existing tags automatically show up when you start tagging a new bookmark? How many clicks or screens does it take to rename or delete a tag? How many to edit a bookmark?

2) Groups Features: Can I create groups? Can the be private (by invite only)? I don’t want to just subscribe to other people’s stuff…I want a topic-specific group that shows me just the links my groupmates have posted.

3) Page Annotation: Can students make notes right on the webpage? Can they highlight content and make virtual sticky notes or comments on specific regions or bits of content?

4) Page Caching: Will the tool reliably save an archived copy of the text of the page? What about images, video, audio, and Flash? Does the archived copy still reference the live site in order for the media to be visible? (I tried archiving a page in Furl that had Flash content, and the archive duplicated the Flash object so I had two of them stacked on the same page. Furl also seems to look for any media content on the live site, so I’m assuming the archived copy won’t display most or some of the media if the live site goes away.)

5) Support: How supportive are the developers and the user base? If I post a message in the forum, how long does it take for someone to get back to me? How helpful are the FAQs and documentation? (Are there FAQs, for that matter?)

6) Popularity and Longevity: How popular is the tool? This is more important if you’re interested in using the tool to get recommendations from other users. It’s also helpful if you’re concerned that the tool might disappear one day.

7) Export Options: Can I get my bookmarks out of the tool in a standard format like HTML? I think all the tools I’ve tried allow this, but it’s still a good thing to check on before you invest a lot of time customizing stuff in one tool.

8) Multi-tool Bookmarking: Can I bookmark a site in the tool and simultaneously send the bookmark to my browser’s bookmarks or favorites folder and other social bookmarking tools (e.g., de.licio.us, furl, etc.)?

What’s next?

In my next post, I’ll talk about some of the social bookmarking tools I’ve tried and offer recommendations for anyone looking for a better way to save, manage and share their favorite sites.