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Social Bookmarking: surfing the crowd to find interesting things on the web.

 
 
Reply Sun 14 Sep, 2008 12:13 am
A lot of people comment on the things I post, and I've come to the conclusion that most of the people here haven't had a lot of experience with the social craze that has swept the web and in particular its social bookmarking.

Social bookmarking is a simple concept at its core. Users used to bookmark things in their browsers, and that was nice except it was stuck there and only useful to one user (and only on one browser). Social bookmarking is bookmarking with networking. Simply put, everyone shares their bookmarks and the aggregate information helps others discover things that a lot of them found interesting.

Able2know will have social bookmarks in the future, and that's why I've moved my social bookmark activity to this site, and I figured I'd write up an explanation with some good examples. So here are some of the top social bookmarking sites on the internet.

http://delicious.com - This one is owned by Yahoo now, but they pretty much started it all back when they were http://del.icio.us . They cover everything but have a lot of web technology given that they started with a very cutting edge and very geeky audience. Yahoo has also recently launched Yahoo! Buzz at http://buzz.yahoo.com/ and Buzz is a less geeky approach.

http://www.stumbleupon.com/ - This one really only works well if you sign up and use their toolbar. I don't tend to use it much because of that but the toolbar brings a randomness to the site discovery since you can "stumble" to discover new sites. That basically means clicking a toolbar button that will load a random site that it thinks you might like based on your history and the crowd that most resembles you and your taste.

http://digg.com/ - This one was originally news-centric and fell toward the citizen journalism spectrum of social bookmarking sitesd. It used to just cover technology but has opened up to a more general audience and tend to cover technology, politics and science well (along with a lot of 4chan stuff). It's a young and very geeky demographic.

http://www.reddit.com/ - This one is another news-centric sites that tends to cover politics, news, technology, science and the web.

http://www.propeller.com/ - This came from Netscape and is another news-centric model of social bookmarking.

I also use a lot of other sites and aggregators but if there's one key I've found to site discovery it is to use the wisdom of the crowds. From the range of sites I've submitted you may think I do little else other than try to read the whole web but in reality what I do is let the crowd help me surf the net and by harnessing good user recommendation engines I find a lot of stuff quickly. At a glance I can see what the top articles and sites were for the last day, week, year or more on the best sites.

So you can surf the crowd to find interesting sites quickly, and you can find the top videos on Youtube, or the top stories on CNN and NYTimes easily if you just look for their aggregate data. In my day to day internet use I tend to hit up the things I follow closely and then if I have spare time I surf some of the social sites for more random site discovery. Without the crowd I wouldn't have run into a lot of the interesting things I did.

If you found this useful start sharing it back. I'm sharing my sites here for myself and for others and we'll eventually have a topic type to share websites like this so in the mean time if you find something interesting write it up (give it a title, excerpt it, include an image if it has one, and format it neatly) and I'm sure others will appreciate the recommendation.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 9 • Views: 1,921 • Replies: 9
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rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Sun 14 Sep, 2008 06:56 am
@Robert Gentel,
Thanks Robert. Good info.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Oct, 2008 05:21 pm
I was looking into these sites just now - I've seen the little buttons on webpages that allow you to add it to de.li.ci.ous (or wherever the dots go) or reddit or whatnot, but I never tried it.

I'd like to try it now, but I'm not sure which one to go for. Which ones are the bigger ones? Do they have different audiences?

The first question I found some answers to, but they're a bit conflicting:

- 30 Largest Social Bookmarking Sites | October 2008
- The Most Popular Social Bookmarking Services

Mostly, then, Digg is just the biggest one, and a couple of others form a mid-group (delicious, technorati, reddit, stumbleupon), and then there's a host of smaller ones?

Are there ones that are moving up fast, or ones that are kind of sliding down in popularity?

The second question I didnt quickly find much about, except for what you wrote here and this article: Top 10 Social Bookmarking Sites. But they all kind of sound like they have the same kind of audience? Not much specialised in terms of niche target groups or specific services / thematical focuses?

Like, isn't there one that focuses on academic content, for example? Or one that's popular among the socially/politically engaged/idealistic?
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Oct, 2008 05:26 pm
I gotta admit - I already drown in interesting content, so I'm not so much focused on finding more. To be honest I'd like to use these services rather to promote content. Like, I saw that the Digg links which, I think Robert, you put up to our blog, brought in a couple of dozen visitors - not earth-shaking, but it does bring people in then. I gather it's used quite a lot to promote web content?

I was thinking maybe trying to use it myself as a way to draw attention to the blog... but I'm also thinking of my work sites. I think we have gotten to underachieve in terms of reaching out to new audiences. The sites are pretty heavy, not literally academic but they might as well be - our output consists mostly of in-depth international monitoring reports about specific subjects. Very policy-oriented, with a clear aim of influencing government (and intergovernmental) policies. So they have an idealistic slant, just very much of the wonky rather than the activist type.

Yeah, so, would you have any advice on which service to try out first? Digg because it's the biggest? Or are there others that are more specifically receptive to certain kinds of content? For example, among the big ones, are there ones that mostly draw an audience that would more or less likely to be interested in this kind of content?
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Tue 21 Oct, 2008 01:40 pm
@nimh,
Digg is a good fit for your kind of content, it's a very left-leaning site with a lot of political stories but it's a very hit or miss way to get traffic. If you get the story "popular" it goes to the home page and you get a flood of traffic, if you don't you get a handful of visits comparable to what you'd get on any site.

Because they get more than 17,000 stories a day, you really need luck or a group effort to get more than a handful of people to see it. So the stories that are popular usually come from sites that are already popular and send their visitors to digg their articles, or from users with a lot of friends who digg each others stories to help them promote.

In short, you'd have to put in a lot of effort digging other stories and making groups who digg each other to reliably promote on digg.

Other sites are not so cleanly divided into "popular" and "upcoming" stories and tend to give a long trickle of traffic. Stumbleupon is the best in that regard and tends to give a long tail of traffic instead of a burst or nothing that the "front page" style sites do.

For your blog, interacting with other blogs is the best thing you can do, as it pings the other bloggers and let's them know about you. As they start linking back the site's authority in search engines will grow and search traffic will come.

Other than that a big thing to do is convert your visitors into RSS subscribers to convert one time traffic into repeat readership.
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Tue 28 Oct, 2008 08:39 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Hi Robert, thank you very much for your advice! Very helpful indeed.

I've now joined Digg and Stumbleupon, and I've started submitting some stuff there, mostly from the blog.

I dont think Digg will prove to be very useful for my work sites - my first impression is that its users go for the really newsy stuff, the more topical, current and somewhat controversial, the better. The kind of, you know, somewhat dry research we do on the legislative and policy context of a subject as a whole, it doesnt look like that'll fly much there ... So, like, what you're saying about how Digg can basically get you a big, sudden boost of hits if you make the front page and otherwise nothing special, well, the work stuff definitely wont make the front page so that kind of undoes Digg's advantage there.

Not that I wont be trying for a while. Cool But maybe Stumbleupon has more promise, then ...

For the blog Digg seems to work though, in a hit and miss kind of way -- so far I've submitted 4 items, and 3 went nowhere but my abortion/terrorism post got 74 Diggs, so that was a bit of a flash. Funny to see that you get twice as many Diggs than people actually coming to your site; I guess a lot of people just Digg stories that sound interesting without actually looking at them?

I submitted the same four posts to Stumbleupon, but that's yielded zilch traffic so far, a couple of hits. But I guess that the more items you Stumble or Digg, and the more people eventually may start following you, the more you get a multiplier effect ... (well yes, nimh, that's what the man just said).

Robert Gentel wrote:
So the stories that are popular usually come from sites that are already popular and send their visitors to digg their articles, or from users with a lot of friends who digg each others stories to help them promote.


I guess it would really help, then, (thinking of my work sites now) to add those bars of little icons/links for all the social bookmarking sites at the bottom of the more newsy pages?

Problem is that many of these wonky types, at least here in Europe, dont seem particularly up to date with the new internet tools ... Like, we have a tagcloud on one of our sites, a clunky-looking one for sure (we'll change the format), but still, a tag cloud -- and from the feedback we get it's clear that a minority of users finds it very useful, and the rest just doesnt even know what it is. I mean, we've had responses from people who thought there was some page error, that some coding or something had accidentally shown up on the page. Reformatting it to make it less clunky and chaotic will help, of course, but you know, if people dont know what a tag cloud is ... somehow I doubt that many of our readers are active social bookmarkers.

Then again, I suppose you only need a small number that are very active and well-established on a social bookmarking site to make an impact...

Robert Gentel wrote:
For your blog, interacting with other blogs is the best thing you can do, as it pings the other bloggers and let's them know about you. As they start linking back the site's authority in search engines will grow and search traffic will come.

I've been dutifully pasting in every blog post I link to into the trackback field... most of those blogs dont seem to feature trackbacks though. Or unreliably - like Ambinder once had the link to our site showing up in his post's trackback field, but other times it never showed up.

It often seems to take a while before the trackback is registered too; I will paste the URL in the trackback field, publish the page - and sometimes the URL immediately appears in the list of trackbacks underneath that field when you next check, and sometimes it just stays inside the field itself till a day or two later. And by that time the post you linked to isnt read much anymore anyway, so even if it would end up featuring the trackback to your post I guess it wouldnt yield much traffic anymore.

I've been trying stuff otherwise though. Like posting a reply to blog posts I linked to, saying that I liked their post and had quoted it in one of my own, and posting a link + summary or excerpt; that got some traffic. What was more effective was when the blogger in question read that and then wrote a new post highlighting mine, but that only happened twice so far. But yeah, when one of the guys from the Monkey Cage did that this one time, basically an off-the-cuff reference, that's yielded more hits to the blog than all the links here on a2k combined.

I guess I now realise a lot better just why blogs keep referring to each other so damn often ... That's always seemed a little incestuous to me, and I often wished they'd just link to newspaper articles or alternatively research or policy papers and the like directly more often. Would help against the perpetuation of echo chambers too. But I guess that apart from all the psychology of the blogosphere elites that all read each other before they'll read anything else, there's also a pretty down-to-earth, practical reason for that then.

As for converting visitors into RSS subscribers, I dont think we're doing that a lot yet... My problem is that my personal friends, they're just not that interested in US politics, they're not gonna read through all of that. I'm the only one who's crazy like that, well, thats why I ended up on A2K Wink
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Wed 14 Jan, 2009 10:14 pm
I keep wanting to get back to this thread and say something substantive about my on-and-off experiences using these sites to promote traffic.

But it doesnt seem like it's going to happen.

So instead I'll just leave it at this: Digg sucks. Cant seem to make it work unless you put in a big effort creating a set of "you scratch my back I'll scratch yours" type friends. The "bury" function is used way too often and arbitrarily and makes for a systematical filtering of content. Plus, anything substantive, reflective and not aggressively partisan has little chance of hitting the big time anyway. And as long as it doesnt, the traffic flow from Digg is meagre.

But Reddit rules. You still have to actually participate - as in: submitting a wide variety of sources and stories, of which those on your own sites make up only, say, 10%. But it seems to work more directly. There's no need for behind-the-scenes networking, just for submitting catchy stories with catchy items. And it generates greater traffic right from the start. The thematic subreddits help, and I guess a big part of it is the way their homepages are defaulted not simply to a list of items with the highest votes, but a "what's hot" list that's determined by the pace at which an item is getting votes, whether it's still at +5 or already at +500.

Plus, actively taking part is no chore. It's totally nerd heaven. Sure, posters are often unexplicably rude (but nowhere near Digg's crudities) and well, they're all male and 20 or something, so the preferences pan out accordingly. But they're those clever uebergeeks among 20-year olds - pithy, witty, with a preference for obscure interests and often, underneath the bravado, a real penchant for knowing their stuff. It's kinda like watching The Big Bang Theory. OK, well, kinda - you get my drift. I'm hooked now Laughing

EDIT: Just stay away from the omnipresent Israel/Palestine stuff.

Oh, and Stumbleupon is great - very different, it does a different thing - seems to be much less about community and much less about discovering individual news stories, and really more about randomly getting to know potentially interesting websites. I've submitted and reviewed a fair number of sites but "stumbling" still doesnt get me a selection of sites I'm much interested in, but then I guess I have pretty eclectic tastes that confuse the system. It's a good way to get a sense of which sites are trusted/liked though, and its users seem more grown-up.

Promoting traffic through it, though, is tricky. I was mixing in about, I dunno, 1/5th of my own, different, sites in my submissions and still the main one I was adding in got bumped off pretty quickly. Basically, once the system notices you are submitting (proportionally) too many pages from one site, it just refuses to process any more of your submissions from that site. Like, for good. So if you dont want to mess about with multiple accounts (God knows I dont), use it with caution.

OK, that was fairly lengthy after all. Curious how my experiences would stack up against others'. I mean, I've just been dabbling at this, spending a bit of time on it just when I have the time, nothing too systematical, so mileages may vary.
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Wed 14 Jan, 2009 10:56 pm
@nimh,
nimh wrote:
So instead I'll just leave it at this: Digg sucks. Cant seem to make it work unless you put in a big effort creating a set of "you scratch my back I'll scratch yours" type friends. The "bury" function is used way too often and arbitrarily and makes for a systematical filtering of content. Plus, anything substantive, reflective and not aggressively partisan has little chance of hitting the big time anyway. And as long as it doesnt, the traffic flow from Digg is meagre.


Actually, it's really just the first part of what you said. There are so many topics posted a day (over 17,000) that any new topic needs an initial boost of diggs to get seen by anyone. Otherwise it disappears.

So it tends to either be very lucky stuff, or power users with a lot of friends.

Quote:
And it generates greater traffic right from the start. The thematic subreddits help, and I guess a big part of it is the way their homepages are defaulted not simply to a list of items with the highest votes, but a "what's hot" list that's determined by the pace at which an item is getting votes, whether it's still at +5 or already at +500.


Digg's front pages work the same way, in terms of them being "hot" and not total votes. It's just that they need a whole lot more to get there while on reddit there is a lower and more segmented (yes, the subreddits really do help) volume of topics posted, so even if you don't make it to the site front page you get traffic.

Quote:
But they're those clever uebergeeks among 20-year olds - pithy, witty, with a preference for obscure interests and often, underneath the bravado, a real penchant for knowing their stuff.


In other words, what digg used to be....

Quote:
I've submitted and reviewed a fair number of sites but "stumbling" still doesnt get me a selection of sites I'm much interested in, but then I guess I have pretty eclectic tastes that confuse the system.


You need to tweak the channels they recommend you and then stumble with their toolbar, but even then it's much more of a random thing, and not very political or article oriented.

It's also worth noting that stumble traffic is a lot less valuable due to this random nature, as users don't arrive on your page with any intent. It's not like they saw a headline and decided to visit, they hit a button and get a random page, so they spend a lot less time on the site on average and bounce at a much higher rate.


Quote:
Promoting traffic through it, though, is tricky. I was mixing in about, I dunno, 1/5th of my own, different, sites in my submissions and still the main one I was adding in got bumped off pretty quickly. Basically, once the system notices you are submitting (proportionally) too many pages from one site, it just refuses to process any more of your submissions from that site. Like, for good. So if you dont want to mess about with multiple accounts (God knows I dont), use it with caution.


It lets you submit them again after a while (either time or other stumbles). But stumbleupon doesn't tend to work very well for your kind of content. For example, on able2know we had hundreds of thousands of stumblers in December, but all the destination threads were easy consumption threads like the funny signs or latin quotes etc.
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Wed 14 Jan, 2009 11:11 pm
@nimh,
nimh wrote:
For the blog Digg seems to work though, in a hit and miss kind of way -- so far I've submitted 4 items, and 3 went nowhere but my abortion/terrorism post got 74 Diggs, so that was a bit of a flash. Funny to see that you get twice as many Diggs than people actually coming to your site; I guess a lot of people just Digg stories that sound interesting without actually looking at them?


Yup, a bunch of that is users digging what their friends dugg when their friends consist of backscratchers, but even without that there is a lot of blind digging in the ratio till it goes front page.

Quote:
I guess it would really help, then, (thinking of my work sites now) to add those bars of little icons/links for all the social bookmarking sites at the bottom of the more newsy pages?


This can help if you have an audience that uses the sites. You can also get them all-in-one badges from sites like:

http://www.addthis.com/
http://sharethis.com/


Quote:
if people dont know what a tag cloud is ... somehow I doubt that many of our readers are active social bookmarkers.


Very true, but it's still an amplifier on your own efforts. For example, with stumble what happens is that they start recommending your page to others, and if it gets stumbled enough it grows. The buttons can make more of the social media users who land on the page vote for it.

Quote:
I've been dutifully pasting in every blog post I link to into the trackback field... most of those blogs dont seem to feature trackbacks though. Or unreliably - like Ambinder once had the link to our site showing up in his post's trackback field, but other times it never showed up.


It should be automatic, you shouldn't need to ping it. The software should ping the blogs for all the urls you post automatically.

The pinged blog typically sees the trackback as a comment and can approve or deny it, but many blogs don't support it (e.g. none of the blogspot ones do). Wordpress and MovableType ones do, but can have it turned off, or they can bin the trackbacks.

Quote:
It often seems to take a while before the trackback is registered too; I will paste the URL in the trackback field, publish the page - and sometimes the URL immediately appears in the list of trackbacks underneath that field when you next check, and sometimes it just stays inside the field itself till a day or two later. And by that time the post you linked to isnt read much anymore anyway, so even if it would end up featuring the trackback to your post I guess it wouldnt yield much traffic anymore.


That's probably the comment moderation turnaround you are seeing. Trackbacks don't tend to get a huge amount of traffic except in certain rare conditions.

Quote:
I guess I now realise a lot better just why blogs keep referring to each other so damn often ... That's always seemed a little incestuous to me, and I often wished they'd just link to newspaper articles or alternatively research or policy papers and the like directly more often.


Part of the reason is because big media used to never link to anyone. They wanted to be internet dead-ends, but a much bigger reason, yes, is back scratching and a sense of community among bloggers.

Quote:
Would help against the perpetuation of echo chambers too. But I guess that apart from all the psychology of the blogosphere elites that all read each other before they'll read anything else, there's also a pretty down-to-earth, practical reason for that then.


One big reason is just technology, they read each others blogs through RSS and a lot of bloggers just comment on the stuff they find interesting that other people have written. Blogging has a lot of "meta-blogging" going on and there are a lot of blogs that do nothing but repost what they see from other blogs (and the polite ones cite them as the source).

Quote:
As for converting visitors into RSS subscribers, I dont think we're doing that a lot yet... My problem is that my personal friends, they're just not that interested in US politics, they're not gonna read through all of that. I'm the only one who's crazy like that, well, thats why I ended up on A2K Wink


Ok, here's one trick:

Do a series. Do something like: "The worst politicians in history, part 1" one day, and at the end use a call to action like "make sure to subscribe to the RSS feed if you want to catch part 2 next week".
0 Replies
 
OmSigDAVID
 
  1  
Reply Thu 4 Jun, 2009 03:51 am
@Robert Gentel,

Thank u.



David
0 Replies
 
 

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