Social bookmarking in companies: IBM example

Queue, the ACM journal has a special issue about social software. Among the different articles, the one entitled "Social Bookmarking in the Enterprise" by David Millen, Jonathan Feinber and Bernard Kerr caught my eyes. The tagline is very appealing: "Can your organization benefit from social bookmarking tools?". Some snippets:

The apparent success of Internet-based social bookmarking applications begs the question of whether large enterprises or organizations would also benefit from social bookmarking systems. To investigate this question, at IBM we are designing and developing an enterprise-scale social bookmarking system called dogear. (...) The first significant design decision was whether to base user identity in the application on real names or pseudonyms. We decided to require real-world identity for the following reasons. First, one of the expected benefits of the system is to allow users to make inferences about the interests and expertise of others based on informal browsing of bookmark collections.

This point is very pertinent and tightly related to a phenomenon called Transactive Memory (a theory proposed by Wegner (1987). This theory examines the process by which individuals determine who knows what and who knows who knows what).

The "dogear" application is then described:

Dogear also exploits collaborative filtering techniques to screen new bookmarks for those that are predictably of interest to an individual (or a group of individuals). Common interests can be inferred based on a number of observable user actions, including use of similar tags and/or tag combinations, similarity of bookmark (URL) collections, common RSS subscriptions, and click streams that indicate interest in specific kinds of bookmarks. Text analysis of bookmark titles, descriptions, and comments will also be used to determine bookmark relatedness.

The article continues describing the research prototype they designed to investigate the usefulness of a social bookmarking application for a large enterprise. Among the results they investigated, there is this: they used social network analytical methods to "begin to understand" the information affinities among dogear users.11 The picture below shows a sociogram showing which individuals have clicked through to another person’s bookmark reference:

Why do I blog this? even though this is more " we did this to begin to understand", it's refreshing to see that some companies are investigating how social bookmarking (as a geek-based/out-of-companies innovation) could be used in companies. This is just the beginning but a social network study of this can be very informative, in terms of information management and transfer.