Thursday, September 14, 2006

Sharing interesting websites

The tool: is an online tool. Its potential is described in just 3 words on the website : keep, share and discover. Information on the internet can be collected, shared and discovered online with this social bookmarking tool. All the information stored on is public, so everybody can see and search all the collected bookmarks of other people.
What can you do with
Bookmarks to websites and online PDF-files can be documented online. The user can assign so-called tags to these bookmarks. A tag according to the website is: “just a word that describes an item saved on” By assigning different tags to a bookmark, a description is provided of the information behind the hyperlink. The bookmarks cannot be categorized, as you would in the ‘favourites’ of your internet browser. Instead of assigning categories to the bookmarks, in you can place the tags used under a heading. These categories and the tags are displayed on the first page of, so you quickly get a good idea of the owner’s field of interest.You can subscribe to other peoples’ webpage. Their links will appear in a separate section of your own webpage. With every hyperlink added you can see how many people have the same page bookmarked and who they are.
What do you need? is online, so you need an internet connection, and it is free of charge.

The next interview took place at June 7, 2006 with Joitske Hulsebosch from IICD.

Knowledge sharing and finding people

“I’ve used for while now, since January 2006, and I think it is an ideal tool to organise all the information that I gather in and around my work. I tried it after a discussion we had online about web2.0 tools in
CPsquare, but started to get enthusiastic when I talked to Peter Ballantyne and his ideas on how to use it to produce a feed with relevant links on a certain topic. At first, when I’d just heard about, I couldn’t really picture the benefits for myself. Because of Peter’s vision and our experiment with the possibilities of the tool, I started using it more intensively and invested time in learning for instance how to cluster tags. I use to bookmark all interesting websites I come across when looking for information for work or just to keep up. Besides keeping all the information organised I also use as a search engine.”

List of bookmarks as shown by Del.icio.usCan you tell me anything about the experiment you started around and social bookmarking? “Around February of this year we (myself and my colleague Nynke Kruidering, Dorine Ruter from ETC and Peter Ballantyne of Euforic) came together and decided to start a little experiment with to see what social bookmarking could do for us and how it could help in our work. We shared an interest in actually experimenting with web2.0 tools. Our areas of interest and work are very similar, we are all interested in knowledge management and development cooperation. So we started thinking: “why look for information separately if we can share?” We could produce a feed with the links we found by using a unique tag for resources we want to share with others. That’s why we chose to make use of a special tag: km4dev_pilot and we made a habit of using this tag for all our resources related to knowledge management in development. offers the option of an RSS feed for a tag, so it is very easy to create a list of the bookmarks that were added by our group. And Dorine used Superglu to ‘glue’ our tags together. This way it is possible to make a feed with bookmarks for a particular subject. We recently also created one around health and ICT at IICD. To help each other even more, we agreed that we would also add tags concerning the kind of information and the geographical area the link refers to.List of tags as displayed by Helping to find interesting information on the web and share it: that’s what it is all about! But how did you get together? “I knew Dorine from the e-collaboration group and we were both using, although Dorine was using it more intensively than me. Peter found us online through, because he noticed we were active taggers on And I brought in my colleague Nynke who was also interested. So it’s not only possible to discover information, but also people with similar interests to you! It is relatively easy to find people with certain interests using If you add a bookmark automatically tells you how many more people have added that same link and you can quickly click to their webpage. Sometimes there can be around 8000 people, but if there are only 1 or 2, I often check if they’ve collected more interesting links.”

Easy to use

“It’s easy to get started: you only have to create an account on the website. You need to create a username, password and provide an e-mail address in case you lose your password. Then you can get started and add your bookmarks.” Is getting started that simple? “Getting started is very easy. You can add buttons in your browser, which enable you to simply add the site you are currently visiting by clicking on that button (called ‘post to’). You add a small description, add the tags and you are done! You might want to add your old bookmarks, which can take a while, but after that they’ll be nice and organised. Adding bookmarks as you work or while searching for information is also almost no trouble at all. After that you automatically go back to the site you were on and continue where you left off. Because of the ease of adding tags, you’ll also add websites that are not needed at the moment, but that contain interesting information. This may be very useful in case you need to search for that subject later on. You don’t need to search any more for what you have already found.”

Benefits for work

Can you give an example of how it has made your work easier? “Recently I had to prepare for a presentation about web2.0. The first thing I did was search my webpage with the tag web2.0 and I quickly found a lot of material I had come across earlier. It saved me a lot of work and time. I could select some of those as handouts, and had excellent inputs for my presentation. It’s also very useful when a colleague comes over with a question, and I know there are interesting things to read on a certain subject. Mostly it doesn’t seem worth investing the time if I have to start searching for materials that I know are interesting for that specific subject. Now I can quite easily send a link from with all material I have found before.” Are there any aspects of that are harder to get familiar with? “I can’t say that anything is hard. At first I didn’t immediately notice that the tags could be organised in clusters, until I saw it on Dorine’s webpage. Then I started to look how this could be done which was quite easy. doesn’t have a whole lot of options, so you quickly get to know the ones available. Besides that we always have our little group where you can ask for help. We keep in touch by e-mail and Skype, where we discuss technical questions. RSS Feed as displayed in Joitske's BlogFor example, I wanted to use an RSS feed at for my
blog. Dorine helped me with that. Now the latest bookmarks are displayed on my blog.”


Has the co-operation between you always been this good or have there been changes in the relationship with the others in the experiment? “We have become a real team, even though we have met only once! We are all very enthusiastic about our collaboration with, and that leads to a sense of being ‘partners in crime.’ We have extended the group, but the 4 initiators are more active. We all share the fun of exploring the possibilities of the tool. That is clearly demonstrated in the discussions we’re having about a new tag. We scheduled a Skype session to discuss this, because we wanted to come up with a good name. Besides that we are also more aware of the subject somebody is currently working on by looking at the bookmarks added. But if you don’t have any idea about how useful a resource is, or what the others thought, it won’t stimulate any discussion.” Are there any disadvantages or would you like to see some changes made to the tool? “I never really thought about any changes. I am used to as it is now and changes would only mean that you’ve got to get used to it again. What I did notice is that although information can be shared on the internet, you can’t give any opinions or discuss any material. So, I use my blog for that.”

More people, more information

What would you like to achieve with Do you see any big ideals behind the tool? “We’d like to involve more people. We just need to take care to make sure that new people aren’t overwhelmed by the ease with which we use the tool nowadays. We probably need to support these people at the start. The current plan is to expand the group to seven people, but I can’t tell yet how much further we can and will go. The more people, the more information there will be, and there is a limit to what we can handle. The larger the group, the less influence you probably have over the quality or type of information tagged. We could also think about having a smaller group of taggers and expanding the users by promoting the feed. The audience can get very big, because everybody is free to look at what the taggers have added. The taggers should consist of motivated individuals, who people can put their trust in and who are active information workers. The quality of the bookmarks must be maintained by the taggers. Also, the taggers shouldn’t consider the tagging as extra work and it should fit into his or her day-to-day work.”

Partners’ reaction

Who would find useful? “I think everybody whose work is involved with knowledge and everybody who wants to be kept informed about certain subjects. As I already mentioned we also started an experiment with a unique tag within IICD about health and ICT, where we have come up with a new tag, ‘ehealthroundtable’. It is amazing to see what happens when 3 people start tagging, you find so many more useful resources than when tagging alone. We also introduced this to two of our partners in the south, and their reaction was positive, but different to what we expected. The problem was not the bandwidth as we feared before, as seemed to work well with them since they had broadband connections. These partners indicated that they foresaw a problem in the time involved in searching for resources, tagging them, and making use of the resources. They just have to see how easy it is and that it doesn’t take much time once you get used to it. A practical introduction to tagging as a collaborative event can stimulate this. Dealing with information overflow is a real problem though, hence we might need an ‘infomediary’ to pre-select the best materials (short and concise).

Another point of view

  • As soon as I heard about this social bookmarking tool, about 2 months ago, I started my own list at I was shocked to see all the material and information I had lost during my years at the university. The only way left for me to retrieve some of it, was looking at the references in the papers I have written, but these contained only literature I used and that is definitely not all that I have come across.
  • While searching information everybody must be familiar with the feeling of: “I have read something about this subject before, but where was that?” The most annoying part was that I couldn’t stop looking before I had found it again. The longer I had to search the more irreplaceable that information became! Often it was a complete waste of time, for I never retrieved it. If I had only bookmarked it all!
  • Another advantage I see for myself in is the overview all bookmarks give about the subjects you have been working on. I often think: “What was it again I learned at the university, at what subjects specifically have I looked closer and which researchers were important with that certain concept? Especially as you start an internship, you start to wonder about which subjects you should know a lot about. All I have now is a list of the courses I subscribed to. With a look at my tags will do all the work!
  • And how many work could I have saved myself and my fellow students! If you are in the same course, you are working on the same subjects, but we never really shared information, only by specific requests. If I could do it all over again, I would have created a very extensive databank with all literature online about new media and digital culture, in cooperation with the other students.


At 12:51 PM, Blogger euforic said...

At euforic, we are heavy users. We structure our tags so they can generate feeds to populate different parts of our web site. We also generate email alerts from the content. We've started working with some euforic memebrs to adopt some common tags that would allow us to much better structure some of the information flows. Still a challenge. See where we also publish some feeds from folks in this community.

I love the nkp4dev tags because I can use my bloglines to 'track' the combined efforts of a group of like-minded people whose tagging I appreciate, usually trust, and frequently find interesting.


Peter Ballantyne

At 12:57 AM, Blogger Maaike van der Steenhoven said...

It is nice to have an example of how an organisation makes such extensive use of a tool like, which after all is fairly simple and for free.

I was wondering if someone can help me with one thing I encounter.

Very often I come across websites with interesting articles or research which I want to save for later. At that moment I don't want to spend time reading all of it, because I am working on another subject for example. How do I tag these?
Most of the time I end up adding only one or two general tags to these bookmarks, but I notice that the less tags a bookmark has, the less value I attach to it. Maybe this is because I know that I did not read the website carefully, which indicates that it is not checked (yet) for quality. When searching other peoples bookmarks I intend to do the same: if a lot of tags are added, the bookmarker has put effort in it. This indicates to me that the website must have been selected with care. And the other way around.

Is there anybody who sees the same for his/herself, or does encounter other issues? Does anybody add tags like: "for_looking_at_later" or have you set 'tagging' rules for yourself? Like the geographical location and kind of information in the experiment?

Thank you in advance.


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