Benbunan-Fich, R. and Koufaris, M. (2010). An empirical examination of the sustainability of social bookmarking websites. Information Systems & E-Business Management, 8(2), 131-148. Retrieved from http://web.b.ebscohost.com.library.aurora.edu/
Authors Benbanun-Fich and Koufaris researched factors that contributed to why social bookmarking sites have persisted in high usage online. Social bookmarking allows users to bookmark sites and tag keywords. Many sites allow users to bookmark/tag their sites privately or publicly. They can organize their information and collect their bookmarks in one place. Users can tag a site using any word of their choosing. If a public bookmark, other users can then find that tag and find links to other similarly tagged information. It allows users to locate information they may otherwise not have accessed without using social bookmarks. The authors are concerned that even though there are so many benefits to public social bookmarking, so few users actually contribute. They are either private users that do searches or they are known as lurkers, users that simply retrieve information and do not contribute. The authors believe that only a small fraction of users actually generate bookmarks. The authors point out that if that small fraction of users are the only public contributors, that the pool of information will be depleted and will not multiply.
The authors collected data from the social bookmarking site, Simpy.com (www.simpy.com). Simpy is one of the oldest social bookmarking sites available so the site would have a variety of users. The authors used the sites cloud page to retrieve user names. They collected 2,837 users that were referenced in a particular tag in the cloud. From there, they used a sample of 1000 users. From those users, the authors calculated three pieces of data including the bookmarks that were made public, length of time a user has been contributing to the site, and which users contributed most often.
The authors chose a resource-based model and data they collected on ListServes. The availability of resources is dependent on the membership level including the membership losses on a social bookmarking site. As the membership levels grow, the availability of resources grows as well. The authors make four hypotheses. The first being, "The majority of users of social bookmarking sites will make most of their contributions publicly available to the other users" (Benbanun-Fich & Koufaris, 2010). This would explain why social bookmarks are continuing to function so highly. The second being, "A minority of contributors will provide a significantly larger portion of public
content than the remaining majority of users" (2010). This would explain why the sustainability would be depleted by fewer contributions. The third being, "New users will contribute more of their resources to the public repository than
existing users" (2010). This would explain the possible decline of some resources available. The last being, "The majority of users will contribute regularly to the public repository" (2010). This would explain the ability of social bookmarks sites to continue to thrive.
Results and Findings:
The authors determined that 943 of the users in their sample made contributions of over 474,000 bookmarks. Only 17 users contributed nothing at all. Of the 474,000 bookmarks, 412,000 bookmarks were social. They figured then that on average, one contributor added about 412 bookmarks. The authors found that a very small fraction of users kept their bookmarks private and/or did not contribute. This would add positively to the sustainability of the sites. They also found that there were "regular" contributors to the sites. The authors determined that the option to make bookmarks private does not affect the success of a social bookmark. They also determined the need for bookmarking sites to pull in "regulars" to keep new information posted. Benbanun-Fich and Koufaris also found the need to attract new users as they are the highest contributors to the sites.
Reflection and Application:
I would say that after reading the findings of these authors that I find myself to be a user of several different social bookmarking sites however, rarely am I a contributor to the sites. I utilize the sites for the acquisition of new information. I do not always know what I am looking for and social bookmarking is a great way to give me access to new categories of information. I am grateful for the regular contributors to social bookmarking sites. With users like me frequently these sites, there is a need for new and fresh information. If the same set of bookmarks come up when I'm searching I know I would be far less likely to go back to that site.
Social bookmarking is such a simple way to access and retrieve information that this Web 2.0 tool has really begun to sprout. As a user, I am less likely to use a site if it is time-consuming or difficult to use. I am always looking for new information and the contributions that new users are making keep me from see the same information recycling frequently.