What is “enterprise bookmarking”?

Since the term enterprise bookmarking emerged a year-or-so ago, there has been a great deal of confusion regarding what it really is and how it is related to the social bookmarking.

The term social bookmarking was coined by Delicious (at the time known as del.icio.us) in 2003, but the idea of sharing bookmarks online was not new. The first one to offer shared online bookmarks was itList (http://www.mail-archive.com/scout-report@hypatia.cs.wisc.edu/msg00038.html) in 1996! During the dot com bubble era numerous bookmark sharing websites appeared: Backflip, Blink, Clip2, ClickMarks, HotLinks…

Nevertheless, these early attempts did not work out, which is often blamed on the burst of the bubble. However, Ari Paparo – the founder of Blink – offers a different angle on the lack of success of the early bookmark sharing applications. He believes that “it all came down to product design, and to some very slight differences in approach” (http://www.aripaparo.com/archive/001456.html).

Indeed, Delicious invented tagging. – Tagging radically changed user behavior and (arguably) could even count as the major conceptual innovation of the Web 2.0. Annotation of content using keywords was certainly not new. Nevertheless, it was always considered to be something that only librarians do, and the keywords were drawn from a controlled vocabulary (thesaurus). Tagging and the emerging folksonomies opened the world of library classification and indexing to the masses.

The simplicity of organizing, managing and searching bookmarks that was enabled through the use of tags may just be that “slight” difference of approach that Ari Paparo credits as the decisive factor in the success of Delicious. Soon, Delicious was followed by numerous similar websites featuring slight variations of the basic online bookmark sharing: Furl, Simpy, Citeulike, Connotea, Stumbleupon, Ma.gnolia, Blue Dot (later renamed to Faves), Diigo… Social bookmarking became a recognizable feature in the Web 2.0 landscape.

Surprisingly, it was IBM who first raised the idea of using social bookmarking in the enterprise context. Their research introduced Dogear in 2006 (http://queue.acm.org/detail.cfm?id=1105676) that soon became a part of the Lotus Connections.

Dogear simply copied the concept of Delicious and put it behind the corporate firewalls. Its inclusion into the Lotus Connections gave it a distinct Enterprise 2.0 flavor. This trend was soon followed by the ConnectBeam’s Spotlight, Jive’s SBS and FastNeuron’s InfoFlow. What is common to all these products is that they are primarily Enterprise 2.0 applications designed for the intranet and extranet social networking, and that they only marginally include the enterprise bookmarking functionalities. According to this trend, enterprise bookmarking is to Enterprise 2.0 what social bookmarking is to Web 2.0.

A different approach was taken by Jumper 2.0 and our own BrightLight. These products view enterprise bookmarking primarily as a knowledge management discipline, and place a greater emphasis on the creation and management of the corporate knowledge bases. The social aspects of the enterprise bookmarking – sharing, collaborative filtering, feedback and recommendations – are seen not as a goal in itself, but rather as the means for an effective transformation of the so-called tacit knowledge (i.e. knowledge that exists only in the heads of the employees) into the explicit knowledge. This approach also justifies products that are entirely dedicated only to the enterprise bookmarking, and do not cover additional Enterprise 2.0 standard features, such as blogs and social networking.

In this respect BrightLight is actually unique: BrightLight integrates discussion forums and wikis into the concept of tag. Tags are called topics in BrightLight, and every topic is automatically also a discussion forum and an entry in the knowledge base that is edited as a wiki. Users can hold discussions, ask questions and seek for expertise about every individual topic. From this point of view, topics are discussion threads. At the same time, users can also collaboratively compile and edit a description of a topic in the form of an encyclopedic article – like the articles from the Wikipedia. In this respect, topics are wiki pages. Nevertheless, the main role of topics is still to tag bookmarks, so that bookmarks can be browsed and searched using topics.

Accordingly, two trends, maybe even philosophies can be distinguished in the enterprise bookmarking. The first generation of products viewed enterprise bookmarking merely as a supportive functionality of the corporate social networking. The new generation of products views enterprise bookmarking in the context of the corporate knowledge management.

To learn more about BrightLight visit http://enterprise-bookmarking.net/.

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