A pyramid scheme that works – social bookmarking

July 16, 2009

I am sure that at some point, you have encountered a friend or relative that tries to sell you on the idea of a pyramid scheme.  Sometimes referred to as multi-level marketing, the goal is to get people to join your organization because the more they sell or the more people they recruit, the more successful you are.  Here is a picture representation of it – each level is another level of recruiting people and the money associated with it (assuming starting with 6 people at the top each recruiting 6 more and so on):

As you can see, as each progressive person finds more people who find more people the number of people in the pyramid grow exponentially.  This same process is the key to social bookmarking.  Contact upon contact combined with their contact’s contacts make for a very large network of people.  That network is created through common tagged items.

My social bookmarking service of choice is delicious.  This is mostly due to the fact that my own school librarian was absolutely raving about it and suggested that I create an account.

Fontichiaro (2008) identifies situations in which social bookmarking would be beneficial for the user.  I am going to highlight two that I feel are very relevant for me personally.  I use many computers on a daily basis.  I have access to two computers at home (a laptop and a desktop) and numerous computers at school (classroom, computer lab, physical education office, and staffroom.  Sometimes I am at the computer for just a few minutes, other times it is an extended period of time in order to do more lesson planning or researching of a topic.  Because of the access to many computers a social bookmarking sites allow me to keep all of my most favourite bookmarks in an online time saver.  Now as I go from computer to computer all of my book marks are saved and can be accessed by myself at any internet capable computer.  As I move from computer to computer, I am able to access the book marks I have previously saved.  This is a great efficiency booster.

More importantly in my opinion is the social aspect of delicious.  For example, if a student (we’ll call her Alice) is searching for information (let’s say Australian bats) and finds a site that has been tagged by Ben, Alice can add Ben to her network.  Let’s assume this isn’t the only site Ben has saved regarding Australian bats.  Let’s assume he has saved three and Ben also has three people networked with him that have saved three sites each.  Alice is now up to 12 sites more that she can begin searching with.

Social Bookmarking 1

As Alice continues to find files and websites, she continues to add them to her Delicious account and Ben will now have access to more information as will his network which is now a part of Alice’s as she added them.

For me, I have begun to add users on Delicious who have similar interests.  At least I think they partially do as they have tagged sites that I am interested in.  This process allows me to search for other sites that the individual has tagged that I am interested in.

This process will continue and continue for the benefit of the users.

I like the Delicious setup.  It adds an easy to use toolbar button that I click on and “voila”, I am able to add basic information to the bookmark which I don’t worry about losing at all because they are stored on the internet.


  1. Dan, I always enjoy reading your blog posts. Also, there is something about WordPress that I find appealing. Maybe it’s your choice of template designs.

    The point you make by equating social bookmarking to a pyramid scheme also makes sense. As an aside, I know a couple in my community who made their initial fortunes through Amway. They have since reinvested their money into real estate, apartments, etc. Perhaps the analogy can continue in the sense that social bookmarking users can cash in in other ways: feeling on top of their work, improving marks based on more efficient use of time, and so on. Libraries are beginning to use social bookmarks (Darby and Gilmour, 2009).

    I also agree with you in terms of my use of multiple computers at work, as well as at home. I had not mastered any social bookmarking applications before, so I was in the habit of saving links to my memory key or emailing them to myself and others.

  2. Dan, Loved the pyramid analogy. I see two aspects of social bookmarking–one is to make my life easier so I can easily access my favourites online no matter what computer I am using (just as you say, your two computers at home and various computers at school). I am sold on that aspect. The second aspect is the one I need to try out more–that social aspect–in which I find others with similar interests as I have and see which sites they have in Delicious and how they have tagged. It is the social aspect in which that pyramid is built.

  3. Great analogy Dan – one I can likely borrow and build upon and then share with business students in order to engage them in social bookmarking!


    ~:) Heather

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