Thursday, 5 February 2009

Celebrity Deathmatch Social Bookmarking vs Wiki for Useful Links Pages

Celebrity DeathmatchI'm hoping that putting this down in a blog entry will save me a bit of time in the long run. I'm working on the library web pages. The last page I need to produce content for is the Useful Links page. These are always a bit of a nightmare as the links inevitably go bad after a while and so they need a lot of maintenance. Also, it's really hard to build a comprehensive list - there are bound to be useful links that get missed off. Which is where Web 2.0 comes in. People expect to see a page of useful links on the library web page but wouldn't it be great to allow users to add their own links! Truly user generated content.

My first instinct was to create a wiki that folks could edit to add links or even maintain broken links if they came across them. I threw this idea onto our corporate version of Twitter and the suggestion came back to use our social bookmarking tool. So what are the pro's and con's of using one over the other. Here's a few off the top of my head.

How easy is it to set up?

I think social bookmarking wins on ease of setting up. The corporate tool available to me provides an rss feed (so it should be easy to adapt a bit of php to aggregate the bookmarks onto the library page) and there's also a firefox plugin for adding bookmarks and tagging them. Very simple. Setting up a wiki and setting user access and creating an interface for adding links will be a bit more time consuming (although maybe because I don't have any experience with the wiki engine). 1-0 to social bookmarking.

How easy is it to maintain?

I think the overhead here will be checking and fixing broken links and checking that content is appropriate. For both solutions the links will be rendered in straight html so should be able to be run through an automated checker. Checking for innapropriate links is a subjective thing so the process will be the same for both. I call a draw on this point.

How easy is it for users to add content?

The process for users to add a link using social bookmarking would just be to bookmark it in the tool with a predefined tag. My feeling is that alot of folks are happy with this concept already and, let's face it, it's not rocket science - should be able to provide instruction in a couple of lines. Editing a wiki may be a bit more difficult. I could make it easier by providing a form to edit the wiki (and this would help to ensure that the links and descriptions are in a standard format) but that'll add extra overhead to the implementation. The social bookmarking tool is also better integrated with other systems. Users could add links to the library page while adding them to thier own collection of bookmarks just by adding the library tag. 2-0 to social bookmarking.

How secure is it?

Both tools are inside the firewall and should therefore be secure. Score tied.

How much control will the library have over the content?

I think the wiki just about edges it on this one. With a wiki I can maintain the power to remove inappropriate links. Possibly a bit more flexible as well as it would be easy to allow users to make new categories for links (although I can always invite suggestions for categories (or tags) with the social bookmarking. Using tags to add content runs the risk that links people are not intending to go on the library page could end up there (unless the library tags are suitably obscure) BUT this is not necessarily a bad thing. I guess the risk of unintentional links is offset by serendipitous links that weren't intended for the library page but are useful anyway. Overall, the wiki wins this round but it's importance is debatable. 2-1

How much control will the library need?

Ha! Interesting question. I'm not sure that my library really does need the level of control offered by a wiki. I can see that the social bookmarking method would be prone to people maliciously tagging inappropriate sites BUT this is a corporate library. I like to think that the library users are mature and responsible. If not, it's still possible to see, who's tagged what - so if the worst came to the worst I could have a word with a malicious tagger and hopefully resolve any issues. I can see that this method probably wouldn't work in an academic or public library where there are different priorities for policing and protecting library users with regards to inappropriate content. I'd like to trust my users to tag me useful content - if they don't, well, chalk it up to experience.


This is again specific to my setting. My gut feeling is that both tools have performance issues as they are still prototypes really. Social bookmarking edges this one because it should be possible for me to cache the rss feeds from the social bookmarking tool on my web server. That way, even if the tool goes down I'll have a cached version available. Using cached feeds will also be a more pleasant experience for the user as the page load should be pretty fast rather than waiting for the page to go and fetch the feed on every request. Page load times are a factor for the wiki tool as well as I have heard complaints that it can be slow. Overall I'll have more control over the performance of the social bookmarking method whereas if the wiki servers are being slow or go down then the page is scuppered. 3-1 to social bookmarking.

We have a winner. 3-1 to Social Bookmarking

So, it looks like we have a winner! It stikes me that these score is very specific to me, to my experience (or lack of it), and my setting. For others, who maybe need more control over content or have more experience with wikis, or access to a stable wiki engine it could have gone a very different way. Are there any other factors that need to be taken into account? Do you disagree on any of my arguments? Do you have experience of either of these methods? It'd be great to hear if you do.

No comments:

Post a Comment