Category Archives: social bookmarking

I’ve figured out why I’m here! =)

I love application essays. They make me think about what I'm doing with my life. Sure, I could probably just make something up or use my StatementOfPurpose from last time, but I actually like having to stop and think.

And I've figured out a little bit more about how my project with Mark Chignell fits into the grand scheme of things!

You see, I'd like to make it easy for people to collect and share Internet resources that they've found useful. For example, consultants in large software companies should be able to find out which documents other consultants in their group found useful. They should be able to find experts on a given topic, and they should be able to explore other people's interests too.

Although several web-based services allow social search and discovery, they haven't yet been widely adopted. My thesis will give me time to think about what we can to do make these systems easier to use. My human-computer interaction coursework will teach me how to measure the effects of the changes we make to the interface. My background in programming and computer science will allow me to quickly prototype new interface designs.

And the grand scheme of things?

I think it would be fantastic if teachers could have that kind of network. Imagine if I could filter my search for programming exercise ideas according to what other introductory computer science teachers found useful, or if I could explore what other people found useful.

Imagine if teachers could choose a set of useful webpages and make it easy for students to prioritize those pages when searching. Imagine if students could contribute their own hyperlinks. I think that would be really cool.

But the interface needs to be much simpler, and it needs to be robust and accessible. We can't rely on constant high-speed Internet connections. Consultants use laptops and teachers in the provinces might connect only once in a while. Both sets of people are Really Busy and don't have the time or patience to muck about with complicated interfaces. It needs to be simple and distributed, and it needs to pack a lot of value.


That sounds like a great challenge. That's what I want to do, and I can see how it might be useful. If only because I would _love_ to know what other teachers bookmark, and I want to have a quick and easy way to tell people about interesting websites without flooding their mailbox...

Mmkay. I'll formalize this after I wake up, but I think I'm onto something here.

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What gets me excited about social bookmarking?

First, there's personal organization. I could never get the hang of bookmarks and folders, and it was hard to remember what to search for.

Then there's social discovery. I check my once in a while in order to find out what the latest bookmarks are in a certain area, although I'm now slightly annoyed about the fact that most bookmarks are either stuff I've already seen or stuff I don't care about.

So that's not what I really like, either.

I somewhat like using to share URLs, but those tend to be special-purpose tags we've agreed on beforehand. I don't really tell people to check out my links, for example, because there are just too many links for people to sort through properly. It's the problem of navigating through someone else's personal information space.

Social search a la isn't that big for me either because (a) I'm not connected enough to get much better search results, and (b) I don't trust that all the relevant sites have been bookmarked, so I may as well go through a regular search engine.


On the other hand, using event- ( or issue-oriented tags like digitalpinay ( made it easy to quickly gather bookmarks without having to set up some kind of groupblog or wiki.

And I totally, totally, totally love checking out people's bookmarks and getting an idea of their interests.


That's my killer app for Stalking. ;) No, no, it's called keeping up with old friends and making new ones.

And that's why people check out my bookmarks, too. Okay, well, they don't really have a choice because I include my bookmarks in my blog feed for my tech-savvy friends who read lots of blogs, so other geeks can't help but notice whenever I bookmark tango websites and whatnot.

I wonder if there's a business use for this, like the way I would _really_ like being able to flip through other people's bibliographies. Stuff like that.

I CAN DO THIS. I just have to make sure that it's not a solution in search of a problem! <laugh>

See, PhD students can spend time figuring out what the problem is and then thinking up a solution. What's a master's student supposed to do?

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