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Bartlomiej Owczarek weblog

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Social bookmarking: an uncharted territory

CmaptoolsSocial bookmarking subject provides a good opportunity to introduce concept mapping as a tool that you can use when making first steps in an uncharted territory of knowledge.

Instead of trying to describe the approach, I will take you through my concept map of social bookmarking. Should you wish to try yourself afterwards, you will find suitable links at the bottom of this post.

Below is the concept map that I drew for the social bookmarking topic:

(You can click on the picture to enlarge)

To give a brief introduction, boxes on the map represent concepts, and arrows reflect relations. The map is organized hierarchically, so you can look at it top-down.

The advantage of creating a map is that the process forces you to structure your thinking, identify most important concepts and draw relations between them.

What social bookmarking sites do?

The first section from the left deals with the functions of social bookmarking sites. I could think of three: organize personal bookmarks, discover pages and discover people:

Social bookmarking concept map - functions

I don?t have much experience in discovering relevant pages through social bookmarking yet, except for being recently impressed with digg. I guess digg?s focus is on that particular function, in contrast with, say, Blinklist, then, would be somewhere in between. I regret that I cannot refer to Simpy just yet, since I didn’t have time to try it – but I will.

After having exported the map I realized that you can link more to search box than just tags, as some sites allow additionally sifting through the descriptions or cached snapshots of your bookmarks.

Third and last function concerns discovering people with similar interests. The idea is to identify relevant people by analyzing bookmarks that are shared by them. From what I have seen, Blinklist seems to be investing heavily in this area. They are introducing lots of interesting social features, even if in my opinion the interface became somehow overloaded in the process.

Mixing bookmarking with other services

While moving to the right, another feature of the concept maps becomes visible. In the process of mapping, you are driven to think of cross-references between different areas of your particular domain.

Social bookmarking concept map - combinations

As an illustration to this, middle section visualizes some possible combinations of social bookmarking with other web services. It can draw from previous considerations about functions. For example, when thinking about ?discovering people?, I was pondering if any integration is possible between social bookmarking and social networking sites, so that opportunities to find interesting new contacts are enhanced.

Turning to search engines, an idea to consider here would be to use social bookmarking sites as a provider of web pages’ relevance data. Number of people bookmarking given site can be used as indicator of its popularity. Most likely, first you would need to ensure that social bookmarking is a mainstream phenomenon. It would have to cover all the content areas, not only the ones favored by early adopters.

How can you make money on social bookmarking?

The last section of the map concerns business models. Bookmarking people seem either not to have one or don?t want to talk about it just now. E.g. this interview with Blinklist, September 2005:

eHub: Do you have a business model? If so, what is it?

BlinkList: Yes, we have a very clear business model and monetization strategy. However, it is still far too early to be discussing this for BlinkList. First we have to proof the concept, keep innovating and refining the product for our community. Once we have gained critical mass we can start to think about our monetization strategy for BlinkList. (…)

However, advertising is for sure one of the monetization avenues:

Social bookmarking concept map - business models

Others are hypothetical ones. For example, if previously mentioned integration with search engines works out, you might obtain some revenue out of it (or get bought by search engine).

As far as additional services are concerned, I could think of some value added services for organization or workgroups, allowing creating closed spaces for research projects. But it’s just a thought.

I hope I gave you some idea on how concept mapping can be helpful. I don’t use it on a daily basis, but for exploring new areas it’s one of my favorite tools. The map I described is obviously highly illustrative both for sake of clarity and due to my limited knowledge of social bookmarking itself. Your comments are welcome.

My previous posts related to bookmarking:

Concept mapping links:

  • Wikipedia article is a good way to start, as usual
  • CmapTools software (free) was used to create the map for this post
  • Kinds of concept maps are described here (actually I thought only hierarchy ones are correct)
  • How to construct a concept map describes stages involved
  • Matt Waite’s post about his experience with CmapTools
  • Flosse Posse article on CmapTools project, focusing on its collaborative features
  • And lastly, an interesting map related to problem solving


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  1. PB
    December 4th, 2005 | 3:11 am


    just to quote a hip-hop bling…’what else can I say to you (…) ‘.
    Your blog is awesome. You still keeping a high-profile.

    Take care.

  2. December 4th, 2005 | 8:08 am

    Bartolomiej: good post! Nice (and correct) map!

    Regarding some of the ideas you mentioned and Simpy:

    – people discovery – example: (look at the right side, scroll down). Those are people related/similar to user otis. The same can be seen for any user with enough bookmarks to make the connection.

    -search other than by tags, you’ll see that Simpy has the richest search content, syntax and functionality of all social bookmarking sites out there (I’m one of Lucene developers and search is my big love). You can do +this +that, this AND that, this OR that, this NOT that, +this -that, “this that”, this* that* and so on and on….
    What is even nicer, is that all of the above can be done against 1 or more or all searchable fields. What fields are searchable? Title, nickname, tags, description, and FULL-TEXT!

    – regarding closed workgroups used for research – Simpy already has this! Take a look at the Groups functionality. Private or public, closed or open, etc. I’ve been using Groups to collaborate with people in various ways: with my book co-author about a new edition of our book, with several people interested in Social Bookmarks and other Social Software (interested in an invitation? let me know), and I even have a group for sharing stuff with my family! Quite handy, I find it.

    Ok, that’s all from me for now. Good post, keep it up!

  3. December 5th, 2005 | 4:33 pm

    […] map Tools garnered a comment — here — worth checking out. It introduces “concept mapping as a tool that you can use when making first s […]

  4. Tom
    December 14th, 2007 | 6:05 am

    I agree with most if what you wrote.
    And as you wrote about social media and networks let me just mention one that I particularly like, it’s called
    I like the functionalities that it offers like chat, blogging, press releases section, video sharing, jobs, and groups.
    So hope some of you will join me there. :)