My aspirational brain vomit

Social Bookmarking and The Goblin Reservation

You know we have literacy for the masses when the English-Lit creeps start the bar room brawl…and you know you are really in trouble when even the token Neanderthal finds them too rowdy.

Wha??? you ask.

You know, what with our folksonomies and all. Tagging has democratized information organization in social bookmarking. There is potential for chaos, but I’ve some ideas for that. Regardless, even the potential bar room brawl chaos of folksonomies is more civilized, more indicative of an increasing thirst for knowledge and the need for more efficient access to information, than dealing with the Internet without folksonomies.

Back to the English-Lit creeps. Note that these folks were awaiting the arrival of Shakespeare from the distant past to lecture on how he did not in fact write the plays attributed to him. Earth, far in the future, is a university planet, and time travel is as easy as 1-2-3. At least it is in the sci fi Hugo Award nominee novel The Goblin Reservation by Clifford D. Simak, written in 1968. The entire book can be found online here (which I think is okay to give you since it appears that the book is out of print – my husband purchased an original copy at a used bookstore). Please correct me if I’m wrong and I’ll remove the link.

Anyway, it struck me that this novel would be useful in writing a post about social bookmarking. While it might seem as though I am grasping at straws with some of the connections I make, I do like a) the fun involved in making such connections and b) the illustrative nature literature-based associations can provide. Plus, I’m an aspiring teacher-librarian, so I just have to work literature in somehow or another.

Reflections on the process of learning about the tool: the search for knowledge.

As is noted in this blog post, a major theme of The Goblin Reservation is the search for knowledge (Polite Dissent, 2004). This theme is central too to the purpose of social bookmarking.

God knows what’s to be found in that library. I had a whack at it, but I could do no more than sample it, could barely touch the edge of it. And there was material that I couldn’t come within ten light-years of understanding. Which doesn’t mean that given time and skills that I haven’t got, that perhaps I’ve not even heard of, man wouldn’t be able to understand it. I think man could. (Simak, The Goblin Reservation, p. 135)

In this novel, Earth is now a university planet where beings from all over the universe and throughout time come to study. This idea makes me consider the vast collective consciousness of burgeoning social bookmarking and the organization of web-based information (where in theory all information could eventually be stored). I think of the Crystal Planet library from this above quote as being akin to that which we aspire to attain.

Thus, my small part in this global process of gaining and constructing knowledge is to first learn how to use social bookmarking effectively.

There are a lot of tools available for the purposes of social bookmarking. While I could not possibly sample them all, I decided, to some degree or another, to look into a few commonly used ones. These were the web page bookmarking sites Diigo (which I am already using, but not nearly to its full potential), Delicious, Evernote, Trailfire, and CiteULike. These all find a way to organize web links you find useful (and actually Evernote collects more than that) and then help you find them again later.  Then, there are the social cataloging sites for books such as GoodReads, LibraryThing, and Shelfari, which allow you to record all the books you own, have read, borrowed, and ever hope to read on virtual “bookshelves”. Part of my exploration included finding opinions on and comparisons of the major sites, such as in this blog post, as well as here. While my purpose is not to provide you a comparison of these services, I will mention a few of my observations. Overall, my intention is to discuss the uses of these services instead in later sections.

All of the services I describe below incorporate the key elements of collaboration and sharing useful for taming the beast of information overload.

First off, Diigo and Delicious provide a similar style of social bookmarking, but I’ve decided to stick with Diigo for saving website links because it provides some features that Delicious does not such as annotations of bookmarked web pages and educator accounts. For those of you, however, who do want to stick with Delicious for some of its benefits (such as a larger user population, hence more bookmarks), Diigo allows you to set up your account so that whenever you create a bookmark in it, the same bookmark will automatically be created in your Delicious account. Diigo also allows you to bookmark to your account on your smart phone, although I’ve yet to get this app to work on my iPhone.

Note too that annotations, links, and lists in Diigo can be made private, or open only to certain groups, or public.

Evernote, while having similarities to Diigo and Delicious, is overall a different animal, creating multi-media bookmarking in “notebooks”. These notebooks can include voice messages, scanned documents, photographs, etc., and as such this application is great for project work.

Trailfire provides a sort of slideshow of saved web pages open to commentary (note: Diigo also allows you to view lists you create as a slideshow). I find, however, that some website features in Trailfire don’t always work and sometimes my web browser crashes when I have a slideshow page open.

Citeulike is a social bookmarking service, which focuses on academic links and provides various citation styles for each bookmarked page. An example: when I searched “social bookmarking”, this application provided these materials.

As for the three book social cataloguing sites I explored, my preference was ultimately for LibraryThing, which provided the greatest amount of detail for each book entered into “bookshelves”, or for book searches conducted. GoodReads does have some advantages over LibraryThing (such as famous quotes), and therefore I will keep its use in mind. Students and the less-detailed oriented may prefer GoodReads too. Shelfari’s design might also be preferable to those who like to keep things simple, although it offers fewer features and a smaller book database.

Discussion of the tool in terms of my own personal life and learning: solving a technological conundrum

[Simak’s] characters are generally unassuming individuals thrust into some technological conundrum.” (Polite Dissent, 2004)

So, how can we make social bookmarking work in our favour?

In The Goblin Reservation, Professor Peter Maxwell’s matter transporter was fortunately, or not so fortunately, depending on how you look at it, duplicated, and thus so was he. The fortunate part is that though his original self was killed upon return to Earth, his copy was waylaid to a planet where he stayed for an extra two weeks, thus avoiding the “accident” that nailed his original self. I like to connect this element of the story to the tagging features of social bookmarking – cross-referencing and duplication of links and information is easy, and reduces the chances for disaster.

Social bookmarking uses personally:

  • Bookmark and organize various websites using tags and lists. I love the tags and lists feature. It’s the answer to my longstanding question about what to do with all these interesting websites I collect for others and myself.
  • Create resource lists for my own interests, research and professional development, and expand my personal learning network as I peruse the bookmarks and catalogues of, for instance, educators. The development of personal learning networks and professional development is made even easier on Diigo because you can subscribe, via an RSS reader, to member bookmarks.
  • Solve the problem of having a poor memory by using a book-cataloguing site to remind me of book details. This is useful not only in social situations where I want to come off as intellectual and well-read ;-), but also if I want to refer others to books that they might enjoy or find useful themselves. I may also need to remind myself of books that I found useful for past research so that I can use them again.

Further to the idea of trying to impress others, Kist (2010) asks: “What does it mean when you can declare your likes and dislikes in a relatively anonymous space?” (p. 32) Do the communities that develop online that you join become your identity? What will people assume about you as a result? This makes me think yet again of Richardson’s (2010) discussion regarding what people will understand about you because of implicit context via blog links. Will they take you seriously as a result, or dismiss you outright note only because of your blog links, but because of your bookmarks? Note that students should be taught that as with everything else about them on the net, their social bookmarks may “tag” them too as they develop their online identity.

Discussion of the tool in terms of teaching and learning: resources and critical thinking

Teachers can help students develop their note-taking skills using annotation features by providing examples and then feedback of students’ own annotations. Collaborative annotations go further in developing student skills and understandings because,  “Collaborative annotation tools also facilitate the incremental growth of information as users review others’ thoughts on a resource before adding their own.” (Educause, 2009, p. 2)

Educause (2009) then expounds on the empowering nature of collaborative annotation:

Collaborative annotation tools offer an excellent starting place for immersing students in the scholarly practice of research and annotation, while encouraging them to share information and build on the work of others in a dynamic community of thought. With such tools, students might have the opportunity to collaborate on the interpretation of resources in ways not possible inside a classroom (where the loudest voices sometimes have the final say) or with printed materials that shouldn’t be written in, such as library books. (p. 2)

What an amazing way to teach students how to think critically about what they read.

Other ways to use social bookmarking and cataloguing for teaching and learning:

  • I provide links to my specific lists for students and teachers, such as this one, and tags are searchable. Furthermore, creating unique tags for specific classes allows students to search for links for this class that have been added and tagged by other students in the class. (Richardson, 2010).
  • Combine e.g. links to specific Diigo lists with bibliographies of print resources etc. on Moodle (or another website), and you now have a useable pathfinder.
  • Students can also use the community and group function to develop their personal learning network.
  • This slideshow from the Unquiet Librarian shows how students can use Evernote.
  • Develop book collections in libraries. I can refer to my virtual “bookshelves” for books to purchase for the library, and refer too to the bookshelves of my students. For instance, in order to build up my nonfiction section for our IB Diploma Programme students, I could check out the virtual bookshelves of our students to see which books they have found most useful for their various research papers and projects, plus get additional information provided by the likes of WorldCat, the Library of Congress, and Amazon (on LibraryThing – other cataloguing sites do not use all of these sources). These cataloguing sites also have groups: checking out the likes of groups relevant to my school’s library will also provide suggestions for collections, such as these groups, which use the “young adult” tag.
  • Use the resources on e.g. LibraryThing to encourage literacy amongst students. LibraryThing will list local (as in your location) upcoming events. Some of these social cataloguing sites also include member reviews and the published reviews, author background information, cover art info, widgets to add to your blog, lists of top books, etc.
  • Have students add to book reviews, author bios, etc. on the cataloguing sites.

Folksonomies, again:

Lomas (2005) says

Using a folksonomy-based tool for research takes advantage of the insights of others to find information related to the topic you are researching, even in areas that aren’t obviously connected to the primary topic, [but] by definition, social bookmarking is done by amateurs. There is no oversight as to how resources are organized and tagged. (p. 2)

So, how do we deal with the potentially Wild West atmosphere of folksonomies? There is a raging debate on LM_Net entitled “Doing Away with Dewey”. Do we do away with Dewey, or is there a way librarians can help improve the functionality of social bookmarking by using standard subject headings and e.g. the Dewey Decimal System (without stepping on the toes of those who would rather not use these)?

Can Web 3.0 (the semantic web) intelligently attempt to provide “official” taxonomies (e.g. Dewey Decimal, LOC) to the amateur tags people assign bookmarks? Or could the bookmarking applications provide users the opportunity to select more official synonyms for tags as the amateurish tags are entered?

One final thought about social bookmarking before I log off, inspired by this passage from The Goblin Reservation:

…the scrolls from the Alexandrian library which should have burned, but didn’t, because men had been sent back in time to snatch them from the flames at the moment before they would have been destroyed; the famed tapestry of Ely that had disappeared from the ken of man in a long-gone age-all these and many more, a treasure trove of articles, many of them no treasures in themselves, snatched from the bowels of time.

The place was misnamed, Maxwell thought. Not Time Museum, but rather the Museum of No Time, a place where all ages came together, where there was no time distinction, a building where all the accomplishments and dreams of mankind might eventually be gathered…(Simak, p. 156)

Here I think of the ability to cache information, to “time-travel” as best we can with the technology at hand, to gather all that we can, and then explore, experiment, and synthesize this information, even if we can’t get back what was lost at Alexandria. And wouldn’t it be interesting if at some point the Web could somehow store three-dimensional information, since we now have 3-D copiers


Educause. (2009, October 5). 7 things you should know about collaborative annotation (ID: No. ELI7054). Retrieved from‌Resources/‌7ThingsYouShouldKnowAboutColla/‌182641

Kist, W. (2010). The socially networked classroom: Teaching in the new media age. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Lomas, C. P. (2005, May 1). 7 things you should know about social bookmarking (ID: No. ELI7001). Retrieved from‌ELI/‌7ThingsYouShouldKnowAboutSocia/‌156804

Polite Dissent by Scott. (2004, June 10). Forgotten classic: The goblin reservation [Web log post]. Retrieved from‌archives/‌92

Richardson, Will (2010). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms.     Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.Rosenberg, S. (2010, September 2).

Simak, C. D. (1968). The goblin reservation (Berkley Medallion Edition, March 1969 ed.). New York, NY: Berkley.

15 Responses to “Social Bookmarking and The Goblin Reservation”

  1. Erin Nielsen

    “This is useful not only in social situations where I want to come off as intellectual and well-read”

    You are so funny! You’re sci-fi references are a little lost on me but wow, are you good at the hook :). Great blog post Kirsten!

  2. shelljob

    I love how you used literature to structure your blog post. It’s something I’m working on with a couple of teachers – helping students to synthesize their thinking by linking to elements of the literature they are reading. And, it’s so much fun to do!

  3. Debbie Trees

    Dido shelly’s remark on weaving literature into your post. Some of the references are certainly lost on me, but yes, you do weave a great story/connection.

    “•Solve the problem of having a poor memory by using a book-cataloguing site to remind me of book details. This is useful not only in social situations where I want to come off as intellectual and well-read , but also if I want to refer others to books that they might enjoy or find useful themselves. I may also need to remind myself of books that I found useful for past research so that I can use them again.” I love this aspect of social bookmarking… I too can’t remember all my reads, but app’s like Shelfari are a librarian’s dream. The older I get it seems the more i forget, so glad to have such an app. to retain my connections to literature for a quick reminder session when the brain shuts off.

    • tlkirsten

      “The older I get it seems the more i forget” – do I know this! Tools like this are handy to have up in a browser at all times in case students want suggestions.


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