MSDN Bookmarking: 20,000 bookmarks. 2,000 users. 30 days. - - Site Home - MSDN Blogs

MSDN Bookmarking: 20,000 bookmarks. 2,000 users. 30 days.

MSDN Bookmarking: 20,000 bookmarks. 2,000 users. 30 days.

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Our social bookmarking preview got a fair bit of attention when it was announced back in May. We've been eager to see how technical professionals will use it, so we decided to take a snapshot and analyzed the first 30 days of data. First, some full disclosure: we did hold a contest during these first 30 days within Microsoft to help seed the app with some useful content in advance of TechEd. We achieved the desired effect: some great content by experts here in Microsoft.

Some of the findings from our analysis are expected and typical of most social bookmarking apps, which is encouraging because we know that we can learn something from existing studies on Delicious and other bookmarking applications. For example:

  • There's a really long tail. Of our 8,474 unique tags, only 168 (2%) have been re-used over 100 times. That same 2% of tags, however, make up 66% of all the tags applied in the system.

tags long tail

  • Aliasing just a few common groupings of tags would have a big impact. The most commonly applied tag is "office" (2743 times). However, if you combine all the instances of csharp, c#, visual c, visualc, c, visual c#, and visualcsharp, you would have a combined tag total of 4484. Clearly, C# is a hotter topic than office, but you wouldn't know that by looking at a tag cloud, until we do some aliasing.
  • There aren't nearly as many "test" tags as you would think (about 200) for a new preview app. Although I love this one: "youmustenterastupidtag"

There are other findings that are perhaps more peculiar to MSDN and TechNet.

  • The vast majority of the tags are the names of products and technologies.
    • This is great in that we know MSDN/TechNet bookmarkers are using this for technical topics, and not for Britney Spears (at least until I publish this post). There's a few Swedish fish recipes and mountain biking sites, but that's OK. They're drowned out by the volume of great technical content.
    • On the other hand, we need to encourage more creative and useful tagging. For example, this blog appears to be very useful for Powershell scripts. But it's only currently tagged as "powershell" and "scripts". What is Jakob's blog best for? He claims to use PS primarily for DB admin. Perhaps his blog should be tagged with "database" and "automation" as well?
  • People are adding very specific and useful tags. Our General Manager said as we were building this app that he'd love to see a big fat "Oracle" tag on our tag cloud (which would show that people are using it to add interop resources that MSFT may not ever produce). Sure enough, we have 121 Oracle tags in the system. They all happen to be private bookmarks, but at least people are using tags in ways we intended. We also have very specific tags. The prize for the longest tag goes to "csharpcodeprovider.compileassemblyfromsource"

We also interviewed 4 of our best bookmarkers and asked them a few questions about how they're using the app and how they'd hope to see its use evolve. I have audio for two of the interviews and a video clip for another...

  • Mike Gannotti, a Microsoft Technology Specialist based in Raleigh, uses bookmarking to highlight the best of the many Sharepoint resources for his clients. Listen to Mike explain why normalizing tags (csharp and C# should be the same thing) is more important than preserving the differences. [audio - 15 min, mp3]
  • Beth Massi, owner of the Visual Basic Developer Center, is using a feed of bookmarks with the "VB" tag to drive links on her site, creating an easy publishing system. Listen to Beth talk about publishing bookmarks on her site and what role she sees for social bookmarking to play in altering the MSDN site experience. [audio - 15 min, mp3]
  • Phillip Trelford, a developer in the UK, is one of our most prolific non-MSFT bookmarkers. He's new to social bookmarking, but has embraced our app to store and categorize links according to his research interests. Phil would like to see us add bulk tag editing and an ability to filter for the bookmarks that he hasn't tagged yet.
  • I also just had to interview our top bookmarker: Ricardo Jimenez, a Microsoft marketing manager in Costa Rica, who has bookmarked over 4,000 URLs (without a bot or script!). Watch the video on Soapbox or YouTube to see how he does it. Ricardo's got a lot of passion for what social bookmarking can do for MSDN and TechNet.




(Thanks to Mike, Beth, Phil, and Ricardo for taking the time!)

After talking to these folks, as well as the customers at TechEd Orlando, and looking at the usage so far, I'm optimistic that we're meeting a need and are headed in the right direction. Most of the complaints I hear at the moment are things we complain about internally as well, so that makes it pretty likely they'll get fixed :)

I'm going to be spending the next two days showing this off to the rest of Microsoft at our annual Product Fair, so I'll report on what the extended MSFT community had to say later this week.

CORRECTION: Ricardo used 16,000 tags on 4,000 URLs. I'd previously reported 16,000 URLs. This bad number is also in the video, which I don't plan on correcting :)

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  • No interviews with IT Pros? Seems like a gap...

  • Tony, these interviews were primarily about heavy use of social bookmarking that showed a variety of usage patterns, not about audience differences, because frankly, I can't find any. I actually came close to giving you a call, however. Your usage has one of the highest tag-to-URL ratios in the system, which is interesting. I'd love to get more of your thoughts - we can discuss right here in comments if you like.

  • C and visual c are a different product than C#, csharp, visual C#, etc.

    So you can't alias them together.

  • You've been kicked (a good thing) - Trackback from

  • Last week Chris Slemp from MSDN/TechNet interviewed me and 3 other top bookmarkers about how we use the

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