Will you share your bookmarks with us?

October 8, 2007

It’s good to share, but what exactly are we asking you to reveal, and what are we going to do with the information? Important questions for anyone interested in privacy.

Social bookmarking is a rapidly growing area of the internet. Services such as del.icio.us, Furl, and Simpy allow users to save their bookmarks in centralised databases, which they can then access from any computer. In essence, the services are simply easy ways to back up you list of favourite web sites.

However, the designers had much bigger ideas in mind when they built their systems. Any bookmark which I save on e.g., del.icio.us, is immediately visible to everyone else (unless I have marked it as private). This means that people can track what I am interested in. Furthermore, del.icio.us automatically shows me who else has bookmarked the same web site. So, I instantly know about other people with whom I might share an area of interest. This allows me to then monitor their web links, in case they are finding things which I have missed.

Of course, just watching people’s bookmarks could be utterly overwhelming, after all, our areas of overlapping interests could be relatively tiny in comparison to the vast array of things which they might record. To get around this problem, most services use some form of ‘tagging’. Each time I save a bookmark, I give it one or more keywords. These are primarily to help me keep my bookmarks organised, but they also allow other people to focus on just specific subsets of my ‘knowledge base’.

The above is all rather theoretical, so let me take it down to a more practical level. My colleagues and I are experimenting with del.icio.us. We will be recording any web pages ,which we find interesting, with the tag tsb_epac. If you click on this link you can get an up to date view of what we have found.

And now for the really important bit. This list will be far more useful if everyone can contribute to it. Sharing our bookmarks will enable us to rapidly learn about useful, and interesting, resources which might otherwise go unnoticed. It may also help us to get to know one another more quickly. In either case, it is an interesting experiment. So, to go back to my two original questions, we would like you to sign up to del.icio.us and start sharing your relevant bookmarks, and we are going to use the information to learn from each other.

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