Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

By Dennis D. McDonald

Luis Suarez recently blogged and podcasted about social bookmarking services. He highly recommends BLINKLIST, a service that I have not used.

I have been using RAWSUGAR, COGENZ, and CONNECTBEAM, so I also have been forming some personal opinions about social bookmarking.

  1. These tools (are they tools or are they services? Right now, I think both) are great ways to manage information on a personal level; they have value even without the social or collaborative features.
  2. The value of the social and collaborative features is driven greatly by who else is using them. This seems obvious but does have some practical implications, for example:
    • If a product is in a "beta" state and has a relatively small number of users, it is a challenge to evaluate the value for collaboration and sharing.
    • If a product is one of several products being used, knowing who in advance uses the service would be helpful in evaluating whether you want to make the personal investment in the time and thought required to build up a collection of bookmarks in that service.
  3. The value of these services is partly dependent on their ability to provide access to information directly related to what you are working on, and partly on their ability to promote serendipity and discovery. Providing features that support both targeted search as well as serendipitous discovery can be a design challenge.
  4. I have found it somewhat of a challenge to use multiple services. I have attempted to allocate certain topics I'm working on to different services. As my usage grows, keeping track of which topic is being tracked via which service is becoming somewhat confusing. ("Where am I posting "project management" entries? Where am I posting "expertise management" links?)
  5. I am finding that  support for the tagging process is a major differentiator. I especially like it when a service makes a list of tags available as popups when I start typing; I also like it when I can easily tell, when tagging, which tags I've used myself and which tags others have used.

Besides user functionality, features related to security and integration are also consideration for corporate adopters, as suggested recently by Jeremiah Owyang when discussing ConnectBeam, one of the services I am currently trying out.

For corporate usage it will be necessary to differentiate between links to and tagging  of internal and external documents, and this will need to be coordinated with the administration of security as well as levels of security. This suggests the need for a couple of features to facilitate corporate use of social bookmarking, including:

  1. Inside-the-firewall hosting.
  2. Integration with administration of existing security and access level systems.
  3. Integration with existing file and document management systems and processes.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that such requirements give Microsoft and its partners some advantages in the promotion of social bookmarking and related collaboration features within the enterprise; I've  already commented on this with respect to Microsoft's  Knowledge Network product.

I believe that collaborative features such as social bookmarking, expertise management, and personal and project blogs should be just as available and universally accessible within the corporation as email and instant messaging.

Also, corporate adoption of such services will be fast among some user groups and slow among others. While it is common to describe the likely adopters of such services as "knowledge workers," three other things may also be true:

  1. Not all knowledge workers are motivated to collaborate.
  2. Not all corporate workers are knowledge workers.
  3. You don't have to be a knowledge worker to understand the value of collaboration.

One implication of the above is that selling such services into the enterprise will require marketing and sales strategies that go far beyond a simple belief that "MySpace and FaceBook users entering into corporate employment will expect availability of collaboration and sharing tools." Such a belief is not a strategy; that's the description of only one potential segment of a market which will take many years to reach corporate ascendancy.


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