Social bookmarking for charities

Delicious logoIn the second of my useful-tools posts I am throwing the spotlight on social bookmarking.

What is social bookmarking?

Social bookmarking is favourites for the 21st century. It’s a useful way of saving information you find on the web in a place you can access from anywhere and in a format that encourages sharing.

Favourites were a really handy tool when we first started to use the internet. Every time you came across a web nugget you could add it to your favourites for easy access the next time you wanted it.

The problem with favourites though is that it assumes a very static use of the web; one person on the same computer every day.

Now we’re more familiar with using the web on the move; on our phone, on a tablet, on a laptop, in a café, hot-desking in someone’s office… but probably not the computer you were using yesterday.

This makes the idea of favourites redundant. What we really want it to be able to access our favourite sites or useful resources from any device and at any time. That’s social bookmarking.

How can social bookmarking be of use to me and my charity?

  • Information you need at the touch of a button – As long as you are connected to the internet then you can access your links. From any device at any time.
  • Find what you need quickly and easily – By using tags to describe the links you save, even if you can’t remember exactly what the list was called, you can retrieve it quickly.
  • Share useful information easily with others – Because you’re saving your links online it makes it a lot easier to share them with others. There are even ways to automate this process, so if you save links that would be particularly useful for your trustees to see it can be sent straight to them. I look at this at the end of the post.
  • Create a library of online information for your organisation or cause – You could use social bookmarking as a way to signpost your service users to relevant information online, use tags to categorise the links.

If you’re going to do your job well then you need to be able to access the right information quickly, and that’s exactly what social bookmarking is perfect for.

How do I get started?

  • You’ll need an account with a social networking site. I use Delicious, just because it was one of very few when I first started but there are others out there.
  • (I’m going to focus on Delicious as that’s what I use) To make it really easy to use, add an Add to Delicious button to your internet browser. This will make it easy to save links with one click.
  • Add link – You don’t have to use the button, you can just go to the Delicious site, log in and then add a link from there.Add link to DeliciousTags
  • Once you’ve added the link you’ll be able to put in more detail.
  • Link title: This will fill in automatically based on how the web page is set up but you can edit it to make it easier to refer to next time.
  • Your comment: This is your place for making any notes about the link that will help you in the future; where you heard about it, why you think it will be useful etc.
  • Tags: These are keywords that you can use to describe your link. Once you’ve used a tag once it will be suggested when saving other links. You’ll be able to see a list of all your links to find others tagged with the same keywords. Make sure that your tags are descriptive so they’ll mean something in a month or years time. If you were saving a link to the match report of Liverpool v Manchester Utd you might use the tags; Liverpool, ManU, result, 2012/2013, home. It’s worth checking if the site you’re using allows spaces in tags, Delicious does.
  • Public/ private: It’s up to you whether your links are public or private. To get the most from the social side of a tool like this you should aim for having most of them as public but if you are saving information about a surprise birthday present or researching a medical condition, for example, it’s easy to make them private.
  • Tag bundles – As well as using tags you can create a bundle to group together sets of links. You might want to do this for the key areas of your work, or one of for each issue you deal with.
  • Share – The great thing about social bookmarking is the social side. If other people you know are using Delicous (for example) then you can include a tag for:louisebrown to send it to them.
  • Discover – The Discover Delicious page shows what popular links people are saving right now, you can even search to see if other people are using the same tags as you. This can bring up information you didn’t even know existed.

Ways to link your social bookmarking site to other online tools:

  • Twitter – If you use Twitter then you can use a tool like Packrati.us to save your tweets automatically to social bookmarking sites. It’s up to you how you set this up, it could be all links you tweet, all that you favourite or when you use a specific hashtag.
  • IFTTT – You can set up IFTTT alerts that will carry out actions such as sending a text, an email, adding to a Google doc, sending a tweet… whatever you want when you save a bookmark with a particular tag. I wrote about how I though this could help to take the pain out of reporting to trustees.
  • Pinterest – You could use Pinterest as your main tool for bookmarking, in a very visual way. The only constraint is that your online resources will need to contain an image for you to save it to Pinterest.
  • Website - If you are using WordPress for your website then there are Delicious plugins that allow you to easily show your bookmarks. There are also more techie things you can do with the Delicious API.

Do you use social bookmarking in your work? Are there any other tips you can add?

Other things I’ve written about social bookmarking:

Creating link resources using Delicious stacks

I’ve been using Delicious for social bookmarking for about five years now and even when Yahoo bought it and then decided to dump the service, I stuck with it (mainly because I was too lazy to start using something else).

One of the things that has made me carry on using Delicious has been the introduction of stacks, a way of grouping together links onto one page and under one URL.

(There are a list of alternatives to Delicious here).

Over the last few months a few of us on Twitter having been trying to persuade people not to hold balloon releases because of the serious harm they can cause to wildlife. We had been sending around single links to a report here or article there but then it occurred to me I could use Delicious stacks to create a more compelling resource.

Balloon release stack

I’ve also created a stack of my favourite Twitter resources that I can send out to people whenever they ask me questions about it. As new resources come out I just add them to the stack.

How to use Twitter stack

What do I like about stacks?

  • You can curate a set of resources under one link, which is then easy for people to share.
  • The look is somewhat like the page of a newspaper, which can help people to pick up the overall theme quickly.
  • Contributors can suggest links you might like to add to your stack by leaving a comment.
  • People can follow your stack so that they’re notified of any changes or additions.
  • You can rearrange the order of the links in a stack.
  • You can invite other contributors to work on your stack.

What don’t I like about stacks?

  • You don’t have a huge amount of control over the way each entry appears.
  • Each entry picks up bits of descriptive text included with the link and it can get in the way.
  • If there’s a picture already associated with a link then it appears in the stack but if there’s no picture there’s no way to add one.
  • It would be nice to add a bit of formatting to the descriptive text of each link.

Sifting the online wheat from the chaff

[19/06/12 ETA – I suspect my getting organised was prompted by this Twitter conversation with @commutiny http://storify.com/commutiny/twitter-scheduling-masterclass]

If this is a blog post of the bleeding obvious then I really do apologise in advance.

I was just taking half an hour to do some much needed sifting of my RSS feeds and it occurred to me that maybe some people – even one person – might find it useful to know how I manage my information. Would it?

In case it is, here’s how I do it:

Focussing first on blogs and websites, it all comes from RSS feeds.

About five years ago I started collecting interesting looking websites and blogs and to keep up to date with them I added their RSS feeds to my feed reader. At the time I was using Bloglines to do this but now I use Google Reader. I’ve already written about RSS feeds on this blog.

Although I can access updated RSS feeds from my laptop I mainly use the app on my Android phone. When I have a spare few minutes either on a bus or in a queue, I scan the new updated feeds.

I’ve already got them categorised into my different areas of interests so I can pick out the ones that are most important or relevant to me at the time.

When I’m looking through the feeds I don’t read everything. There’s absolutely no way I’d have time to do that, well, not as well as having a job.

What I do is look at all of the feeds in a category in one place – with just the headlines showing – and scan to see what catches my eye.

I’m not overly bothered about missing something as I know if it’s really worth reading it’ll find its way back to me at some point.

When I’m scanning the headlines I mark ones that I want to look at in more detail with a star.

When I get to the bottom of the list I mark them all as read and they disappear from my Google Reader.

I find the process of scanning all of the headlines a good way of getting a sense of what’s happening, particularly in the tech world. If there are a lot of mentions of a tool or service then I tend to pick up on it that way.

Scanning RSS feeds

The next stage for me is actually dealing with all of the items I’ve starred. It doesn’t necessarily happen straight after I’ve scanned all of the feeds but at some point I need to decide what I want to do with this information.

Starred RSS feeds

Probably about half of the entries I just read quickly, remove the star and move on. The ones that I think are actually useful to me and other people, I set up as scheduled tweets using Hootsuite.

The act of scheduling is another way of helping me to absorb the information but also selfishly as a freelancer it’s a way of showing people see I’m interested and keeping up with the latest developments.

I’ve linked my Twitter account to a service called Packrati.us. This allows me to post links and hashtags to Twitter and save the links to my Delicious (social bookmarking) at the same time.

Even at this stage I might not have read a post from beginning to end, but once it’s tagged in Delicious I know that I can call it back up if I need to research a tool or topic.

So, to quickly summarise,

  1. I use Google Reader to capture updates from my favourite blogs and websites
  2. I use the Google Reader Android app to scan through the headline updates
  3. I star any updates I want to read
  4. I look at all of the starred updates together and decide what I want to do with them
  5. If I think a link is worth sharing I set up a scheduled tweet using Hootsuite
  6. I make sure the tweet has a link to the information and any relevant hashtags
  7. The link gets saved automatically to my Delicious account for me to access later if I need it.

I have pretty much the same process for information on Twitter. I let the stream of updates pass by me, favouriting anything I want to look at later. When I have few minutes spare I go through my favourites, sharing anything that I think would be of use and replying if I have something to say.

And that’s it. Did you already know that? Is that how you do it? Am I crazy? Am I spending too much time on all of this? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Beginners guide to social bookmarking

I am absolutely loving this little film about social bookmarking, I’ve already got everyone in my team to watch it.  Thanks to Laura for mentioning it http://laura.popokatea.co.uk/2007/08/07/social-bookmarking-in-plain-english/ I want to use it everywhere!

http://www.commoncraft.com/bookmarking-plain-english

 In essence the film tells you:

  1. How to get started on del.icio.us
  2. How bookmarks are organised using tags
  3. How bookmarks are social

(and well done to the Reds for their cracking start to the season on Saturday!)

del.icio.us

My journey into the world of web 2.0 took another step today as I installed a little del.icio.us button into my web browser tool bar.   Annoyingly I had to get someone from our IT dept to help as I didn’t have permission to install it.

http://del.icio.us/ICT_Hub

del.icio.us (and other free social bookmarking sites) allow you to save your favourites/bookmarks on to a website.  Benefits are that if your computer crashes, you move to a new computer or you go on holiday , you know that your favourite free knitting pattern sites (sorry, that’s just me) will still be there and accessible from anywhere.  There’s a wider benefit of these online sites in that people tag each entry with key words to describe the link.  For example, you might tag an article on open source software with – ICT, VCS, FOSS, opensource etc.  Within sites like del.icio.us it’s really easy to pull together links with the same tag, to see what other people are looking at or find new resources.

I’ve started tagging websites relevant to the different events I’m going to be running, so that delegates can refer back to them at a later date.   I hope to capture any websites that speakers refer to in the conferences as well as other useful sites.

Having just had a really productive meeting to talk about a voluntary sector arts / ICT conference, I’ve started tagging links with ICTArtsConf, hopefully this list will start to grow as more discussions are had.