Stumble Upon a Delicious Digg Lately?

Since summer's soon winding to a close, it seems fitting to ask: how many former library geeks remember the Dewey Decimal System?

Bueller...? Bueller...?

The Dewey Decimal Classification (or "DDC" as it's called) is the basic system created in the late 1800s to categorize and organize public libraries. It uses an established structure to group information so it's easier to find.

In a similar way, bookmarks are a simple way you can organize information you look at on the Internet. On your browser window, you typically find a menu called "bookmarks" where you can create folders and save sites you want to go back to.

For instance, if you're looking for a venue to hold a wedding reception, you can create a folder called "reception venues" where you store those links so you can compare them and show them to others.

Helpful, yes. But what if you're visiting your mother and she wants to see the places you've found but you don't have your computer?

This is where social bookmarking comes in.

There are several websites that serve as portable bookmarking sites. These sites -- including Delicious, Digg, and Stumble Upon -- don't actually provide any content of their own, but instead, they serve as massive online libraries that store links that other people have saved. And because they're online, you can access this organized information anywhere you have browser access.

For instance, assuming you're still looking for that wedding reception venue, you can store your folder of reception venues on Digg so that when you're at your mother's house, you can log in to your Digg account on her computer and show her the latest contenders.

So, why is it called "social" bookmarking? Because with these services, you can store your own collection of links, and you can search all the sites that other people have saved with that same label.

Of course, one of the potential challenges of tags on a social bookmarking site is that your system of organizing info may not be the same as someone else's, so when you are searching those sites for information, it's helpful to use broad terms.

The benefit of these sites is that you can find information you might not normally come across. For example, if you want to find a wedding venue in Maryland, a regular search engine will yield a number of sites where you can book your wedding. But the same search in Digg will lead you to an article that highlights unique wedding sites in Maryland, which include everything from castles and mansions to inns and taverns. These are places you might not find in a regular wedding planning guide.

The lesson? You can personalize your browsing experience by flagging sites you may want to use later. And don't forget that search engines are not a perfect science; using social bookmarking sites may help increase your search results so you can uncover that hidden gem!

Next month, we'll talk about the joys to be found from blogging.