The magic of connection

There are many business reasons why social bookmarking makes sense,
but let me tell you a personal story to show you why social
bookmarking is magical for me.

The books in my grade school and high school libraries had cards at
the back, which we signed when we checked them out. I always enjoyed
reading the list of names and dates. The name of my biology teacher
beside a date stamp ten years ago reminded me that once upon a time,
she was also a student struggling with the same subjects. Running
across the name of a friend in a book that I was reading gave me
something to bring up at my next lunch break. Encountering someone’s
name again and again, I’d guess at another book I hadn’t read yet but
which would fit our tastes—and would not be too surprised to find
that name inscribed there as well.

I always wished that I could find a way to get in touch with these
“friends” I learned about through the library cards. I wanted to ask
them what they thought of the book and what else they’d recommend. I
wanted to share my favorite parts and sneak well-loved quotes into
conversation. I read books because they connected me with ideas, but I
read library cards because they helped me feel connected to people.

Now we have barcodes and RFID tags in books, and there are no more
lists on the inside back cover of library books. No more browsing
through the stacks and discovering people with common interests. And
with much of my information coming in through the Internet, I don’t
even get the sense of read-ness the way I’d scan through the spines of
paperbacks or look at the wear on hard-bound books to figure out what
I might want to read next.

True, I had much, much, much more information at my fingertips – but I
lost the sense of other people.

Social bookmarking brings that back.

As I browse, an icon in the lower-right corner of my window tells me
how many other people have bookmarked a page. I love right-clicking on
it and bringing up a list of names that become familiar over time. I
love exploring the other things they’ve bookmarked and checking out
their comments. And more than that: I can look up their corporate
profile, find their contact information, read their blogs and even
start a conversation or ask a question.

I can connect, and people can connect with me.

Ask me about social computing in the enterprise and I can tell you
stories about how people have mobilized teams and built communities.
I’m learning how to talk about business benefits and return on
investment. But the real reason why I’m so passionate about social
computing is this deep, abiding wonder that we can connect, and I want
to help people experience that joy.