The Guardian has brought its typical idiosyncratic approach to social bookmarking with the launch of ‘Clippings’. But for once I think they’ve missed the mark.
By clicking on the scissors icon () next to a story users can now ‘clip’ an article to their own account. They could do this before anyway – but importantly, the revamped service means they can see others’ saved stories and subscribe to a feed, or publish their own feed elsewhere.
These are welcome additions to an older service, but there are some glaring oversights.
Firstly, although the phrase ‘social bookmarking’ is not used, this is clearly an attempt at that, and it isn’t social. There is no way to discover other bookmarkers apart from, as Inside Guardian suggests, ‘guessing’ their name.
Equally, new articles are not suggested as a result of what you bookmark – although you can click on Guardian-defined categories to see the latest stories about ‘ITV’, for instance.
To add insult to injury if you want to import your old ‘saved stories’… you can’t. You have to visit every one, and clip it all over again. Nice.
Here we have a centralised service which requires you to be logged in and is generally controlled and defined by the publisher.
Why would I use it when I can’t use my own categories? When it doesn’t help me discover new things, or organise old ones in new ways? When I can only bookmark Guardian stories?
Where is the benefit?
So here are my suggestions.
Firstly, allow tagging and user categorisation. Make them into links so you can see what else is being tagged with the same. Allow people to discover each other through shared interests.
Secondly, create a widget/bookmark so people can clip material from – shock, horror – other sites.
But do they make this visible on Emily Bell’s articles? No.
Not even her profile includes a link.
What a missed opportunity.
Every Emily Bell story should include a link to ‘Emily Bell’s clippings’, it’s as simple as that. If I respect her work as a journalist, there’s a chance I’ll want to be reading what she reads. And that’s where The Guardian – and news organisations generally – have an advantage: the editorial angle; the brand; the relationship.
And what a great way to keep readers on your site.
More broadly, I’ve posted previously about the concept of letting readers see ‘What the journalist read to write this’ as part of the model for a 21st century newsroom. And Radio 4’s iPM del.ico.us account is a great example of this in practice. So I won’t repeat myself on that.
Having said all that, I’m guessing this is actually a stepping stone to The Guardian’s planned social networking service, where user profiles will link to their clippings pages and, I hope, allow for more serendipity and linkage.
In the meantime, however, here’s an opportunity to iron out those glaring problems first.