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Social bookmarking has caught my attention again. I’ve had one account or another for years and years, but in the last year or so I’ve really latched onto it.

In part, I think it has at least a little to do with my iPhone. Before this, I’ve (generally speaking) had two computers in use at any one time. One for work and one at home. And the work bookmarks went on the work laptop, and the personal bookmarks went on my home computer.

When I started emailing myself links to my work email address from my home computer rather than hauling out my work laptop, though: that’s when I knew I was in trouble.

And then the iPhone came along. And believe it or not, it’s my main mobile device. When I stopped in on the Learning Design Summer Camp, all I brought was my iPhone. No laptop. And I did fine interacting with the Live Question Tool, and backchanneling via Twitter, and all that.

But to really get the most out of whenever I was websurfing on my iPhone, I needed to be able to access my bookmarks. And putting them “in the cloud” on a social network (so to speak) has done that.

Someone a few weeks ago told me that you can tell a lot about someone by looking at what they bookmark. I’d give that more credence than judging by their shoes–though I don’t know a lot about shoes past what’s comfortable and looks decent.

My top tags in delicious (name change from the original del.icio.us, so named because a friend of the founder compared finding good links to eating cherries) on my professional account are as follows: socialmedia, reachingstudents, marketing, web2.0, admissions, socialnetworking, usability, content, culture, webdesign.

That’s telling. Though I rather dislike that marketing shows up there: I’ve always resisted that label.

I’m the one usually telling my boss or my equal on the print side (who’s a marketer) that we shouldn’t do that  when he suggests a scheme that smells suspiciously of spamming. We didn’t even have an unsubscribe on the marketing email going out of our office until I got there, and our security policies were (emphasis there on the past tense) not very strong on a few points.

Is it that I’m more ethical than my marketing colleague? Possible. I do know that I’m closer to the age of the students we’re trying to talk with, and way more tech-savvy than he is. And social media-minded, for that matter.

It’s more that I, like many of a similar age and younger, have been totally suspicious of marketing for as long as I’ve been aware of it. “All Marketers are Liars” is more than a book title to me.

In this vein, social bookmarking has become really valuable to me. I’ll more often trust–or at least follow–a link passed to me by a friend or colleague than one being advertised.

So in short, those are the two big draws for me. Social bookmarking is:

  • in the cloud
  • with my community

It allows me to contribute and consume from people I know and trust from anywhere. Which is also the main perk of Twitter, I might add. And I’m sure it could also be extended to many other social networking applications. Care to contribute some more to the list?

Amit Gupta wrote about social serendipity today, and it feels like we’ve got a landslide of that going on here at Penn State, though much closer to home than his examples (he’s the guy behind Photojojo, for those not familiar).

As my follow list on Twitter grows, I’m finding more and more amazing, knowledgeable people out there who “get it,” in the words of one of those folks, who it just so happens I got to meet for lunch today.

And the give-and-take of that community, online and off, has been amazing. You end up tapping into the collective knowledge of a ton of experts, as long as you’re willing to wait for an answer.

This has happened to me before, in other forums and communities, but this is as close to home as it’s come. And while it’s really cool to have connections wherever you might need them–an online shout-out for info about Buffalo a couple months ago turned up online friends that I didn’t know were out there, for example–having them right in your backyard is amazing.

I mean, hey. Impromptu lunches are a possibility, even.

But it does cost attention. Design for Emotion and Flow describes this really well in the second paragraph of the article. The rest is no less important, but it’s unrelated to my point here.

There’s a point of balance that I think most of us are still trying to find in this newfound community:

  • how to give and take equally to one’s network;
  • how to enjoy oneself and others evenly;
  • how to find a sympathetic ear to vent without alienating others;
  • where “no invitation [is] required” and crashing the party;
  • expansion of connections and input overload;
  • “value” of contribution and “just being yourself.”

Some of this, no one has talked about at much length. But I’m feeling it out there. And it’s something we all have to work through. Personally, I worked out some of this by dividing my Twitter presence into personal and professional. Folks I meet at conferences may get one or the other depending on the context.

Some folks have made parts of this problem quite plain: Shannon posted two videos to explain why she might “unfollow” someone on Twitter. Other bits of this are way more unspoken.

It’s exciting to me that these new modes of being create new problems, bizarrely enough. It means we’re progressing, expanding. Perhaps not in a geologic time sense, but significant nonetheless.

I’m looking forward to solving these problems for myself and seeing what they mean on the grander scale, especially as re-localization becomes a trend.

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