I started using the social bookmarking service del.icio.us a year ago, without actually knowing if it was worth the effort. Although it took me quite a while to get behind its potential and I am still learning about it, I can now say I love del.icio.us. For those of you who have not heard about it and who have also experimented with it, I recapitulate my learning curve with the social bookmarking in 10 steps:

  1. At first, I appreciated to access my bookmarks from everywhere but I never really used extensively my favorites in my browser.
  2. Now I have to think about the tags (key words) for every bookmark and was puzzled about the sense of it and whether it is worth the time. Luckily I installed the browser plugin and just had to deal with a little pop up window.
  3. I found the “saved by 1 other person” link and look through other link lists and can get lost in interesting and boring websites just like in Google search. Here and there I find very interesting documents but did not use it frequently because I searched mostly without a goal.
  4. By tagging and checking other people’s tags, I discovered new information and connection in knowledge domains. I started integrating these into my tags and when needed I also reformulated them.
  5. Thanks to Dorine Rüter, I joined another approach of an distant passive community of practice through a tag experiment called npk4dev (latest links are in the right sidebar), which is used by several people from different locations and organizations to share bookmarks on nonprofit knowledge for development issues. A bigger tag stream experiment is used through nptech (nonprofit technology).
  6. I started adding interesting people to my network, so I can see their bookmarks as well. After a while, I realized how valuable most of there new bookmarks were. You can see how information is delivered and spread through the web and can follow network connections. I decided to put my network in my feed-reader.
  7. I took a closer look at my tags and analyzed which ones are heavily used by other users and have interesting links (for example ICT4D) and add the RSS to my feed-reader. (Want to know what RSS are and why it is of advantage to use them? Check out this video!)
  8. I started posted links to some people from my network and try to integrate colleagues and friends into the same sharing. I noticed that people observe very closely the links from other people, and I asked myself whether a tag could or might give to much information about a person. (Luckily I found the “not shared” feature).
  9. I noticed that I referred more and more to delicious instead of Google to search for information, even though it is slower. With an easy keyword, the results are better and most important from other users evaluations.
  10. I wondered why del.icio.us does not offer new features such as improved search, ability to form groups and send messages, or to use it better for collaborative tagging experiences. I wondered how I can use it better for my personal knowledge management and start using for instance a tag for a to-do-list.

And now I even started a blog and integrated my bookmarks and use the same tags to structure my writings and to enhance my learning. To summarize it, I really needed some time to learn how to use social bookmarking creatively and efficiently. And I am still amazed how tiny little details give new opportunities in how to use this tool. A great screencast for the benefit of tagging and social bookmarking has been made by Beth Kanter. I hope this is interesting for beginners and practitioners, and I am curious to hear about your experiences.