Monitoring the Conversation

I recently wrote about how the online conversation is real. The basics of that post is that blogging fosters interaction. No surprise, to be a successful blogger, reading, writing, and responding to others within the larger community is an absolute must.

There are a growing number of ways that users can keep track of online conversations. David Teten spoke to one of them in the previous post- PubSub. PubSub is a prospective (forward looking) matching service that provides new information to users as it becomes available. So, for example, if you want news or information on social software, you would create a PubSub subscription with keywords “social software”. You can view a subscription like social software on PubSub or simply by copying the feed they provide into your favorite news aggregator.

Other ways to monitor the conversation include keeping track of “tags” that interest you. Tagging is a growing trend in the social software world and is closely related to “social bookmarking”. I’ll first speak to social bookmarking because it is similar to a word most people are familiar with – bookmarks.

Social bookmarking builds upon collaborative efforts, in that an individual’s bookmarks (or “favorites”) are no longer just their own. Rather, they are shared with the larger community. Unlike storing a bookmark under a particular folder in your browser, social bookmarks are saved online and are not categorized by folders, but are instead “tagged” by keywords. Users (and not computers) select appropriate tags for articles or sites of interest, as they come across them through their surfing of the web.

This post, for example, might be tagged with the word “socialsoftware” on any number of social bookmark sites. The most popular social bookmarking tool to this point is del.icio.us. Take a look at the socialsoftware tag or at my social bookmarks. Each tag also has an RSS feed, so that you can keep track of them in your favorite news aggregator (I’ll provide some more info on how to actually do that in my next post).

Tags can help you stay informed and introduce to information you might not have found otherwise. For a more advanced use of tags, take a look at what I am doing with my first blogoposium.

update: a good reference on social bookmarking basics (via Jyri Engeström) by Tony Hammond, Timo Hannay, Ben Lund, and Joanna Scott; and a very academic piece by Clay Shirky entitled Ontology is Overrated: Categories, Links, and Tags (via David Teten’s suggestion)