Our friends and social groups are a great source of information and opinion.  If I ask them (whether in person or on any of my favorite online media such as Twitter, Facebook, Instant Messenger, etc.), I’m sure to get plenty of feedback.

“What do you think of the new U2 album?”

“What’s the best vegetarian restaurant in Houston?”

“Do the Cubs have a chance at the pennant this year?”

“What are best practices for tagging blog content with regards to Search Engine Optimization?”

Unfortunately, my friends don’t have the answer for that last question.  It’s pretty specific to my line of work.  That’s when I turn to other web developers and editors to see what they’re doing, and to check in on the conversations they’re having.  But where do I find those conversations?

Social bookmarking is one way to find out what people are saying about any number of topics.

Some prominent social bookmarking sites you may have heard of include Delicious, StumbleUpon, Digg, Mixx, and Reddit.  There are dozens more, each with their own particular recipe for serving up what their users deem interesting.

The way these sites work is that users submit links to web pages or blog posts that they find interesting, humorous, relevant, informative, controversial, or strange.  The submission is tagged with various keywords to help categorize the link and give it context.  Often there is space for the user’s personal review of the link, plus a way for others to rate the quality of the link.

A site such as Delicious serves as an online repository for a user’s personal bookmarks, which can then be accessed on any computer.  Because these bookmarks are tagged and searchable by other users, one can find pages on similar topics and connect with others who have bookmarked the same pages.  If a user finds friends and colleagues on Delicious, they can share bookmarks.  Going to Delicious and searching for AAPG shows 35 people with the AAPG home page bookmarked.  From there you can see its tags and what other sites interest people who find AAPG’s web site worthy of bookmarking.

A site such as Digg — incidentally the most popular social bookmarking site according to many sources — arranges its content based on the votes of its users.  The most prominent links are the ones that have been “dugg” by the most visitors.  This makes Digg a great place to find what’s being talked about on the Web.  Searching for AAPG on Digg retrieves content from the GEO-DC Blog, Explorer, and AAPG mentioned on another publication’s blog.

My personal favorite social bookmarking site is StumbleUpon.  It operates much like Digg, in that users submit and rate pages they find link-worthy, along with commentary.  What makes StumbleUpon fun is that you can  “stumble” to sites either based on a searched interest or at random.  As you tell StumbleUpon whether you like or dislike sites, it learns your preferences and can point you sites based on your feedback.  Just a warning, though — this can get addictive!

Take some time to use these — and other — social bookmarking sites to see what the Web has to say about petroleum geology, energy, or any other topic that interests you.  Many corporations use these sites to find out what people are saying about their company, service, or industry.

Share your own links as well, so your voice and interests are represented in this 24-hour global conversation.  You’ll now find links to submit to several popular social bookmarking sites on all AAPG Blog Zone posts.  The online version of the Explorer also has social bookmark links on each of its stories.  Take advantage of them if you read something you like!

What are your favorite social bookmark sites?  Let me know in the comments!

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