del.icio.us and other social bookmarking tools are just the beginning of a shift in the fundamental browsing process. They have shown that, if tools make it easy enough, users will take the time to categorize and annotate as they browse, and in doing so create a double-filtered web that increases the productivity of all. Many web citizens will be come true researchers– readers and writers, and will share the fruits of their research as never before.
The technology for this collaborative research will evolve from the document-centric and textual tagging basis that spawned it. People, now treated as second-class subjects in relation to documents, will become a central focus. This transformation has begun with the social networking revolution, but thus far has remained within the domain of dating and job hunting, and within the “this-is-me” and “these-are-my-friends” framework.
Persons-as-subject is the next step in the evolution. We all google, not just to find documents, but to find people! But a person is a nebulous object on the web, akin to Sybil, the famous woman with nineteen distinct personalities. Each of us has a scattered presence on the web, but current research tools like del.icio.us don’t provide much help in allowing users to create an organized virtual person.
With del.icio.us, you can tag a document with a person’s name, e.g., ‘david_wolber’. Readers can then go look at all the documents under ‘david_wolber’. But ‘david_wolber’ is just text. You can’t set a homepage for the person David Wolber, or specify that he has a blog and a del.icio.us user name. And you can’t do things with David Wolber, like put him in a group, or associate him with another person.
People-centric bookmarking improves upon the process by making people first-class objects and giving them at least equal emphasis with documents. Users can create person objects, not just for themselves or their friends, but for anyone whom they are researching. Users can then ‘grab’ one of these virtual people and do things with him– associate the person with a document, i.e., people-mark the document, add the person to groups, and associate the person with another person. Search in such a system returns both people and documents.
peoplicious.com is a people-centric bookmarking site. Check it out!