There is a fixture of the modern web that I really don’t understand. And in terms of annoyance it is probably second only to Snap Preview.
Millions of links to social bookmarking websites littering the bottom of every news article and blog post written. You know the ones. “Digg this!” “Send to del.icio.us!” “Pimp-me-do to Reddit!”
A particularly bad example comes from one certain WordPress plugin which appends this awful mess onto every post:
I mean, just what the hell are you supposed to do with that?
It is not just blogs that do this sort of thing. Many major newspaper websites also now incorporate such links pretty much as a matter of course. Thankfully, they tend to show a bit more restraint than that WordPress plugin.
BBC News has become the latest website to add such buttons to its news stories. Thankfully, they too have kept it relatively restrained, with simple links to five of the most popular social bookmarking services.
Ryan Morrison thinks that the inclusion of the buttons is a good move from the BBC (by the way, sorry, Ryan, for nicking your screengrab! I’m not leeching off your bandwidth though, honest). But I just don’t understand why they go to that bother.
I have steadfastly refused to include such buttons on this blog. For one, the advantages of being submitted to Digg are dubious (something like having hundreds of drunk arseholes coming into your living room to violently vomit on your carpet before going away without paying the cleaning bill, never to be seen again).
But this is what I really don’t understand about these social bookmarking links. As Inquisitor points out, surely if you wanted to submit a story to del.icio.us, Digg or whatever, you would already know how to do it. If you make a habit out of Digging a site, you will surely have the relevant plugins / browser buttons installed in your browser. Why rely on the disparate approaches taken by the near-infinite number of websites on the internet when you have that trusty button in your browser?
I am a heavy user of del.icio.us. Yet I have never used one of the buttons placed on a website itself. I always use the buttons that I have installed on my browser. I am familiar with these plugins. I know exactly where to find them and what to expect when I click them.
Most major social bookmarking websites have Firefox extensions or little bookmarks that you can drag into your toolbar. The above image is a screenshot of the navigation toolbar bar in Firefox. Next to the address field are two different buttons for del.icio.us (one for my main account, the other for Scottish Roundup). Then, if I should feel like Digging a story there is a Digg button. Next to that is one for StumbleUpon. Facebook has an entire toolbar if you really want to use it.
You might say, “Okay, maybe that is how you submit stories to social bookmarking websites. But you are an awful geek. What about the rest of us?” Maybe so, but how many normal, non-geek, web users are users of social bookmarking websites? If you took the geeks off the internet, social bookmarking websites would probably not exist at all.
I would be interested to know how often the buttons used on websites like BBC News and blogs are really used. I can’t imagine they are used that much. Why would you, when you can use browser buttons that are so much more efficient?
Still, I guess the links placed on websites must work, otherwise nobody would bother with them. I have pondered installing Alex King’s “Share This” plugin. At least it quite sensibly hides the ugly smorgasbord of links before you actively ask to be shown them. But still, why would you do that when you — presumably — already have your own trusted methods of posting an item to your social bookmarking website of choice?