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By Terry Freedman

Why maintain a links database in the traditional way when you can use a facility known as “social bookmarking”? The idea is simple: you have a list of your own favourite websites. So do I. So does everybody else. Imagine how powerful it would be if we shared that information! That’s the idea behind social bookmarking.

You choose a service, and then when you bookmark websites you describe it using tags, ie keywords. For example, you might tag a web page as being about e-learning and history. Once you’ve added the site, anyone can find it if they search on one of those keywords. Furthermore, if you click on one of the tags, you’ll see the sites that other people have tagged with the same keyword.

There are downsides, of course. The main one is the flip side of the coin, that is to say, if looking for information is akin to looking for a needle in a haystack, what social bookmarking does is to increase the size of the haystack! That is not an argument for not using it, but it is an argument for making sure that students are taught good information-searching skills, including the ability to evaluate the plausibility and accuracy of the information they find.

Another disadvantage is that you have to be careful in your use of keywords: you have to think about what other people may use. A good example is “e- learning”: it would be a good idea to use “elearning” too!

Finally, there are quite a few of these tools, and they don’t all (easily) talk to each other. If you’d like to find out more about what’s out there, have a ;look at this quite comprehensive review:

http://www.dlib.org//dlib/april05/hammond/04hammond.html

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