Information Research Through Finding
& Following Subject Matter Experts
When researching a topic, Googling, using Linkedin Answers, searching Twitter, posting a tweet to your peeps, phoning contacts, or retaining an information broker are all good approaches. Another effective tool is mining Delicious bookmarks and, better yet, mining the Delicious user network.
Delicious (formerly Del.icio.us) is the leading online bookmarking service and used by many programmers, industry experts, journalists and thought leaders. They use Delicious for the same reasons you should: it’s a convenient way to keep track of web addresses and articles that you may need to reference in the future.
Unless you’re already a mover and a shaker who has personal relationships with such contacts, finding subject matter experts on Delicious may be a close as you can practically get to phoning an friend who is an authority in the particular conceptual area of your question. Delicious is also a social network, which provides the opportunity to identify emerging industry trends and issues early, before they become mainstream. The site allows you to create a personal “network” of other Delicious users whose bookmarks are of interest, and you can view their networks as well (FAQ on Delicious Networks).
Mining the Delicious user base of experts is simply a focused extension of exploring individual Delicious bookmarks:
- Presuming you already have a well-populated Delicious account or you’ve done a search for bookmarks of interest, you can click on the number of people who have bookmarked a particular site to see those users’ pages. This number is located in the upper right corner of the individual bookmark’s information (#1). Alternatively, you can click on the original bookmarker of the site in the lower left corner of the bookmark’s information (#2).
- Clicking the number will lead you to an intermediary page of all the users who have bookmarked a site. From here you can click on individual usernames in the lower left corner to reach this user’s full list of bookmarks.
- If a particular user’s list is particularly well populated and fresh, you may want to add this user to your network by selecting “Add to my network” in the blue highlighted area at the top right of the page, directly under the search box.
- If you’re fortunate, the user’s bookmark page will include the URL to their blog or Web site at the top of the page, and the page title might reflect the user’s actual name or company rather than just their Delicious account name. This can provide additional clues to the authority and value of following this user.
- If the user has a network, or has subscribed to particular tags, this will also appear at the top of the page, providing additional research opportunities. These options are worth following if you have identified a thought leader or expert and want to understand what other users they find particularly valuable.
- If the user has a network, this alone is somewhat of an indication that they are a Delicious power user. The list of users in their network appears in the right hand column, and flag icons give you an indication of mutual networking relationships. If you recognize names of subject matter experts, thought leaders, industry journalists, colleagues or competitors, these may be worth further investigation.
The overall goal of mining Delicious users and their networks in this way is to identify subject matter experts and add them to your own network. This process will also help you identify key tags to subscribe to using the subscription feature. Once you have a network, it becomes a resource to browse, but even more important, it is a way to narrow Delicious searches by selecting to search “My Network’s Bookmarks.” The result of mining Delicious in this way is targeted access to the same research and Web sites that experts are using within your areas of interest – making you a smarter and more valuable member of your business team.
Delicious’ approach to the social aspects of its tool could use some improvements. Some key enhancements that would improve the ability to mine the Delicious network of experts, and thus make a great tool even better include:
- Improve user search – Currently you need to know a user name to find a delicious user (or be a really good guesser). This is inadequate. One should be able to search by real name and bring back a list of close matches along with corresponding user names. Plus, if I already know the user’s e-mail address, I should be able to use that key to find a user account, just like on Facebook.
- Enhance user profile information and its display – Currently, Delicious will display the user’s URL on their bookmarks page. This could be enhanced by also displaying a short profile description such as appears on the top left corner of Twitter. This would help me confirm the username is the expert whom I’m seeking; provide personal background many people appreciate in social networks; and provide additional keywords that can be used to search for users of interest.
- Provide a browseable user directory – A directory that one can browse by keyword or name would help identify users to add to your network. This directory could display the number of bookmarks and how fresh the posts are, the user’s real name and profile information, and information about how many people have included this person in their network. This latter element would, of course, provide some estimation of authority.
- Promote Delicious badges on user sites — Delicious offers various badges for use on your web site or blog (for example: the network badge, Tagroll clouds ), but these are not particularly popular. An increased recognition of the value of Delicious networks would flow naturally from implementing a method for people to search for networks and ways to personalize the display of their profile information on their bookmark pages. This in turn would lead to more use of Delicious badges and listing of user names on user’s personal sites. Promoting the use of these badges, and perhaps few more badge options, might be worth consideration as well.
- Develop a way to visualize the users associated with bookmarks, tags and networks – Converting Delicious networks into a visual form could help users research other users and networks of interest. The Del.icio.us Network Explorer is a Java application that lets one drill into a Delicious user account and see some connections. An enhanced version of this that functions like the Visual Thesaurus would be an ideal tool to help people explore Delicious as a true social network of experts – tracking bookmark originators, or most popular users common to a tags of interest. Such a tool might also help identify the “followers and following” aspects of Delicious users — such as which other users and networks that a particular expert may subscribe to. From a user perspective, the goal of this visual tool would be to help identify thought leaders of interest and expand one’s own network of experts in various topic areas.
- Provide more statistics about users in a person’s network – Flag icons in the right column of a network page currently indicate new or mutual network “fans.” It would be helpful to know how many bookmarks a user has saved from a particular person in their network, and perhaps how many or how fresh those bookmarks are. This would help identify the most valuable or prolific users in a network.
Some well known individuals that you may be interested in following by adding them to your Delicious network include (note: not all users have fresh bookmarks):
- Leo Laporte – Host of the nationally-syndicated Tech Guy radio show: http://delicious.com/twit
- Lee Hopkins – Australian communication consultant, blogger & FIR commentator: http://delicious.com/leehopkins
- Neville Hobson – Communication consultant, blogger & co-host of For Immediate Release: http://delicious.com/Nevon
- Shel Holtz – Communication consultant, author & co-host of For Immediate Release: http://delicious.com/shelholtz
- Steve Rubel – SVP at Edelman Digital: http://delicious.com/steverubel
- Ogilvy Digital Influence division: http://delicious.com/360DI
- Rohit Bhargava – Author and member of Ogilvy Digital Influence team: http://delicious.com/rbhargava
- Michael Auzenne – Co-host of Manager Tools podcast: http://delicious.com/mauzenne
- Lee Aasse – Mayo Clinic Social Media czar: http://delicious.com/LeeAase
- Greystone.net – Healthcare Web agency: http://delicious.com/greystonenet
- Warren Allan Johnson – Editor of Unsolicited Marketing Advice (yours truly): http://delicious.com/johnsonwarren
Other ways to identify Delicious users include:
- Recognize Delicious icon links included on their web sites, usually grouped with Twitter and Facebook links.
- Look for Delicious links on individual’s Google, Friendfeed or Linkedin profiles
- Search for posts on Twitter made via Delicious by doing a Twitter search for “icio.us.” Obviously, although somewhat unfortunately, this jumps directly to the bookmarked page without providing a hint of the actual Delicious username — unless it happens to be identical to the Twitter username.
- Find Similar Users on del.icio.us – A Python script that searches for similar users. A user-friendly web application of this concept would be great.
- Bundling delicious networks into groups – How to group networks within Delicious
- 8 Tips for Better del.icio.us Bookmarking – Including a neat tip for using the via: tag to give credit your sources
- Becoming a Delicious Power User – Great tips to get the most out of Delicious
- Social Bookmarking in Plain English by Lee Lefever – a great introduction to the basics of online bookmarking