Social bookmarking site del.icio.us announced last month that it will give people the option to make bookmarks private — for “those antisocial types who doesn’t like to share their toys.” This a sensible layer to add to the service. If del.icio.us really is to take over the function of local browser-based bookmarks, there should definitely be a “don’t share” option. A next, less antisocial, step would be to add a layer of semi-private sharing within defined groups — family, friends, or something resembling Flickr Groups.
Of course, considering that del.icio.us is now owned by Yahoo, the question of layers gets trickier. There probably isn’t a “don’t share” option for them.
(privacy matters 1)
I just came across Common Times, a new community-generated news aggregation page, part of something called the Common Media Network, that takes the social bookmarking concept of del.icio.us and applies it specifically to news gathering. Anyone can add a story from any source to a series of sections (which seem pre-set and non-editable) arranged on a newspaper-style “front page.” You add links through a bookmarklet on the links bar on your browser. Whenever you come across an article you’d like to submit, you just click the button and a page comes up where you can enter the metadata like tags and comments. Each user has a “channel” – basically a stripped-down blog – where all their links are displayed chronologically with an RSS feed, giving individuals a venue to show their chops as news curators and annotators. You can set it up so links are posted simultaneously to a del.icio.us account (there’s also a Firefox extension that allows you to post stories directly from Bloglines).
Human aggregation is often more interesting than what the Google News algorithm can turn up, but it can easily mould to the biases of the community. Of course, search algorithms are developed by people, and source lists don’t just manufacture themselves (Google is notoriously tight-lipped about its list of news sources). In the case of something like Common Times, a slick new web application hyped on Boing Boing and other digital culture sites, the communities can be rather self-selecting. Still, this is a very interesting experiment in multi-player annotation. When I first arrived at the front page, not yet knowing how it all worked, I was impressed by the fairly broad spread of stories. And the tag cloud to the right is an interesting little snapshot of the zeitgeist.