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What Happened to Social Bookmarking?

Social bookmarking is when a community of users compiles an index by collectively submitting ("bookmarking") favorite or relevant sites for the community. To make it work, the sites are tagged with keywords to facilitate searching.

The idea of creating a folksonomy is something I wrote about here in 2008 and earlier. On the surface, it sound rather random and disorganized.

the people's taxonomy that is so prevalent on the Web through sites
like delicious, Flickr and Digg, works as long as there is some
agreement on the naming. If I tag something as "satire" but others tag
it as video, or comedy or TV or SNL, does that make it better/broader or
break the system? True taxonomies rely on agreement.  Plant taxonomy
classifies one plant as Gerbera jamesonii so that the common name
"African daisy" or the altered versions of the scientific name ("gerber
daisy" or "gerbera daisy") all point to the same thing. It's not
arbitrary at all.

I ask my students to tag useful sites for my visual design course in delicious with the unique tag of "msptc605"
so that their fellow students can share bookmarks and so that the list
can increase in future semesters. We agree on that tag so that all our
bookmarks can be together, but we also need to have additional tags such
as typography, color, usability so that the list is useful. It's not
arbitrary at all.

It has been enough years that there is a history of social bookmarking. But it seems to me that the use of many of the sites that were the most popular social bookmarking sites in 2010 are not being used as much today.

This video from 2007 was introducing a service like delicious to new users.

But I am not using social bookmarks as much as I did before. My own delicious account that I used for classes has fallen into disuse.

Certainly "tagging" is still being used. But adding the hashtag #edtech to your twitter post is not the same thing as what social bookmarking meant five years ago.

Some social bookmarking sites took a different approach to the process. There was more a "voting" (up or down) approach on the site Digg (which has gone through several rebirths and is no longer really a social bookmarking site). Facebook uses a "thumbs up" Like button for people to indicate to friends that they "Like" a site or post. But these choices are not searchable in any satisfying way and they are not tagged into categories. Newsvine called the headlines there "seeds."

Have Net users outgrown social bookmarking or has the practice evolved to simply tagging in social networks? Is "social tagging" the term to replace "social bookmarking?"

Back in 2006, I asked "Is Folksonomy Taxonomy or Fauxonomy?  Maybe the question is being answered.

Plagiarizing Even When It Doesn't Count?

An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education says that there have been
"Dozens of Plagiarism Incidents Reported in Coursera's Free Online Courses by students even though the MOOC's carry no credit.

Students cheating even when the stakes are low? What are we to conclude?

Eric S. Rabkin, a U. of Michigan professor who teaches a free Massive Open Online Course, posted to his 39,000 students that he wanted them to stop plagiarizing. The people at Coursera (who offer the course) are reviewing the issue and will consider adding plagiarism-detection software in the future.

What is interesting is that in the Coursera humanities courses that have complaints, the complaining has come from other students. The courses use peer grading and each student is asked to grade and offer comments on fellow students.

I am happy that a student says "I just graded my second batch of peer essays and was saddened to find one of them was lifted from Wikipedia" because it means that he is being educated about plagiarism from the other side of the desk, and that he does not approve of it. But I am also surprised that he is surprised that it occurs. The article goes on to say that many students (in the online discussion) "expressed surprise that their peers would resort to fraudulent behavior in a noncredit course."

Is that what they find surprising - not the plagiarism but it occurring in a non-credit course? (Students who complete a course can get a certificate showing that but the courses do not count for credit at any university.)

Of course, as soon as MOOCs came into being, faculty were immediately skeptical (most still are) and one question asked was "Who will monitor and grade the work of thousands of students?"  Quality control is certainly an issue, as it has been for decades in online courses of any size.

We will see what changes occur. Perhaps, students will be able to take MOOCs from a source outside their college, but will be tested and evaluated on what they have learned by their own college and awarded credit based on that evaluation.

Plagiarism is a very old academic issue. Academic integrity in online courses has been an issue for about 40 years. MOOCs have inherited those issues, but are so new that they have not had to really address them as of yet.

Cross-posted in a slightly different version from my blog at
(just so I am not accused of self plagiarism)

An Online Digital Citizen Curriculum

I recently discovered a Google/YouTube collaboration for teaching proper digital citizenship practices. The curriculum is for teachers to use to teach students what digital citizenship means and how it impacts their online and offline lives.

The interactive curriculum is on YouTube. There was a time in the early days of the Internet when I would hear that teachers felt an obligation to educate students on how to be safe, engaged and confident model "Netizens." It has been awhile since I heard that term used, and I'm not sure if this is still a topic that is taught. Perhaps, we are assuming that students are born into Net citizenship.

This initiative is aimed at students aged 13 to 17, but elements could certainly be used with older and younger students with some adaptations. For example, the lesson on Copyright includes a Teacher's Guide and Slides that would easily work with an introductory college group.

Google is using its own YouTube as the content for the lessons provided. They cover YouTube’s policies, how to report content, how to protect their own privacy, and how to be responsible YouTube community members. Teachers would hopefully lead students to see the wider implications of being part of an online community and how this applies to places like Facebook.

Each lesson comes with guidelines for teachers and ready-made slides for presentation. There’s also a YouTube Curriculum channel where videos related to the project will be posted.

Boundless Textbooks


Boundless Learning has launched an upgraded, public iteration of its software (after a year in beta) and it offers college students free, open versions of textbooks. They describe this big money saver as "textbook replacement."

It will not surprise you that publishers are not happy. Three major publishers sued Boundless in April for abusing the intellectual property its authors have created, copying not the actual content but the structure and form of their books.

The company identifies widely used textbooks in certain fields and then takes the best freely available material it can find. The resulting book is offered as an alternative.

The company is not charging at this point but has $9 million in investor funding. The market for college textbooks is estimated at $4.6 billion a year and has long been a target of student protest over costs. Unfortunately, many students deal with the cost by not buying the textbook and trying to get by by borrowing books from the library and friends (often photocopying large portions of the book).

In the past 5 years, I have written a number of posts about open and free textbooks and the attempts to change textbook publication and sales. There have been other companies, like Flat World, that have opened book access by appealing to colleges and instructors to adopt their reduced cost textbooks. Boundless is direct marketing to students with taglines like "Replace your assigned text for 100% free."