It’s been a while since the class used Diigo, the social bookmarking tool, but I thought I’d comment on it (again). Aside from the semantic, topical links I discussed before, I thought it might also be worthwhile to talk about another valuable use for this sort of software – its practicality within communities of practice.
I can search on a subject keyword on a site like Google and get tens of millions of hits. Google’s server software has a sort of page ranking built-in, so that the first page of hits I receive are, in Google’s estimation, the ones that it’s likeliest that I’m going to be interested in seeing. If I remember correctly, the ranking system is based on how many other things are linking to that page. More things pointing to it means that that resource is more authoritative; it’s a more “important” page.
The catch is, that may or may not mean that the first few pages I see are actually valuable to me. For example, if I search for a keyword in an academic database, the place I find my search term within an abstract may just be a supplementary reference, and the source itself may have nothing to do with my desired topic. And so with Google – the number of things pointing to another thing may not be the most reliable metric for deciding a page’s importance.
Enter social bookmarking. A site like Diigo allows me to create a community of practice, of sorts. I can find other people within my field, and look at the pages that they’re saying are useful to them. I can bookmark a site myself, and see that dozens or hundreds of people have also bookmarked it, and even left annotations leaving specific information about the site. Rather than start from zero in a search for valuable Instructional Technology information resources, I can look at the bookmarks of other people within the field, and have a great head start. It’s a step beyond what Google is capable of, because the sites have all been vetted by an actual person, who understands what the page is talking about, rather than being limited to parsing text that’s searchable with a keyword query. Social bookmarking is something I haven’t yet started doing a lot of, but when I think about it, that’s really my own failing, and not anything to do with the tool itself.