Thursday, November 13, 2008

Social Bookmarking

There is simply too much information and interesting content on the web and not enough hours in the day to waste precious time in front of a monitor. I lead a productive work life and only allow myself small punctuations throughout the day for surfing. Now I've always been behind the trend so I'm beginning to explore vehicles that real technophiles had already spun and crashed years ago: social bookmarking sites.
It's a natural progression for yours truly. At first, many years ago, I'd set my home page to a web portal like Excite! or Yahoo, which I eventually customized to include the news and stock tallies, etc., and revisit throughout the day. Later on I made a ritual out of visiting a selection of bookmarked sites that offered the perspectives I sought during the day: NYTimes, Register, Onion, Slashdot. Then RSS and ATOM made this process simpler and more attractive since I could have information pushed rather than pulled.
But the problem was always the same -- unless I was willing to spend an inordinate amount of time spelunking the web, I would never be exposed to new and innovative sources of interest. This began to change when I began to utilize and Google Reader. The great thing about was that once I began to populate my account with all the random bookmarks I deemed valuable I was immediately exposed to others who were interested in the same thing. I could then browse the other, similarly categorized bookmarks these far-flung siblings had chosen to cherish. In effect, I was able to benefit from the research, googling and web-mining of others. I discovered virtual soul-mates who were prolifically bookmarking previously unknown and valuable web pages. I would parasitically attach myself to them via anonymous RSS subscription. For all I know they were attaching themselves to greater source. Perhaps every user of Delicious is merely a decomposer fed from a single autotroph.
Google Reader, a web-based aggregator, is a different animal. A user essentially populates their reader, an empty canvas, with a selection RSS and/or ATOM feeds (the selection is Google-vast), and reads articles through the interface. The application tracks and tallies what you have and haven't read, what you've labeled worthwhile, and begins to suggest new sources of information. The more you use the system, the more intelligent the suggestions. Again, this has had an impact on my daily consumption of information and I appreciate the exposure I receive to different sources of data.
There is something sinister about these tools. In effect, I am allowing myself to be observed and studied. I'm confident dissertations will be penned exploring the reduction of human psychology via web trend analysis. I imagine a superior advertising product will be engineered based on the information obtained when folks like me use a system such as this on a regular basis. But this is another matter.
Today, my attention has been drawn to social bookmarking sites such as Digg and StumbleUpon. I've created accounts with both services and intend on giving them a full evaluation. Will these tools expose me to the information I seek with minimal work? Will I be able to reclaim more hours of the day and spend them away from a monitor? Will I be fed information that I don't necessarily want to read but am meant to read? Only time will tell.

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