Tag Archives: social bookmarking

Social bookmarking for law enforcement

Yeah, I know. “Social bookmarking” is a ridiculous term. Brings to mind a visual of tweens giggling uncontrollably in a library. Next I’ll be telling you to read reports out loud to each other around a campfire, right?

Actually, social bookmarking can be a pretty powerful branding tool. It can help law enforcement agencies and professionals alike curate important content that supports what they’re doing.

Say you’re an identity theft expert. Not only could you bookmark items from national news about ID theft; you’d also bookmark stories from local and regional media to show the problem in your area. And you might bookmark interviews and presentations from other detectives on the subject.

It does that by aggregating links to news items on a particular topic or set of topics that you want to draw attention to. That way, visitors to your site have a better context for what you provide.

How I bookmark

I didn’t really get the point of social bookmarking until I started using it for a client. That’s why his list of bookmarks is awesome, and mine is all over the place. (Until I get it cleaned up.)

I start with Google Alerts, sometimes Twitter too. Alerts pull in news items and blogs based on keywords I’ve specified, like “Internet evidence.” I go through the listed items in each email and click on the ones that seem most pertinent to my interest areas. If someone tweets an interesting-looking link, I click on it to read. Then I bookmark and “tag” (organize by keyword) the items I want.

This makes it easy for me to go back and find it again if, say, I plan to use it for a blog entry. For my client, it’s a way to build a portfolio of product reviews, news from around the world that supports his company’s mission, and media coverage.

How this works for law enforcement

PIOs can derive a lot of use from a tool like this. Day to day, bookmarking and tagging items can help support initiatives like crime mapping. Do media stories accurately reflect the statistics? Good reporters should already be referring to maps—many news sites post them—but media perspective will be different from police’s.

In an ongoing crisis, for another example, a PIO might bookmark all the news coverage—local and national. A high-profile issue such as a missing child or serial offender will result in dozens of media interviews, which may result in actionable intelligence.

Aggregating bookmarks in one place is important for the public, too. It promotes transparency, shows your agency is organized about paying attention to what’s going on in the community.

This is true even when there’s a scandal involving an officer. Just as an internal investigation must be fair and balanced, so must its presentation to the community. Bookmarking coverage, again, shows transparency, a willingness to face trouble head-on. It can be one part of promoting public trust.

Individual cops can use it, too. My introductory example was about identity theft experts, but the possibilities are limitless for investigators from all walks: gang officers, detectives assigned to domestic violence cases, school resource officers… the list goes on, and can include officers seeking to educate each other as well as the public.

Bookmarking tools

I use social bookmarking service Delicious, but the problem with that is when links become outdated. Many news sites remove their archives after just a week or so. (I’ve found TV news tends to stay up longer than print news.) Still, tags are limitless and you can make notes on your bookmarks.

Another popular service, StumbleUpon, is more about “social.” I’ve found it can be time-consuming, and recommending your own coverage can get you banned, sometimes unfairly, users believe.

Recently I was approached to blog about iCyte (no they didn’t offer me anything), free social bookmarking that doubles as a capture tool. Bookmarked pages remain intact even after the original host has deleted them, because they are saved on the iCyte server. You can have multiple projects, save some or all of a page, tag pages, make notes, and so forth.

What kind of information can your community benefit from with your bookmarking?

Categories? Tags? What’s the big deal?

Now that we have our blogging platform, and our theme or front end, we need to start working on the backend of the site.

One of the areas that seems to be the biggest hang up for organizations stepping into the social media/blogging realm is the idea behind categories and tags. Which is what and what is which? It really confuses a lot of folks. And it confused me for a long time. I couldn’t quite grasp what each was for and what the difference was.

I am still working on my analogy but I try to explain it to people, potential bloggers like this.

The “Blogosphere” is a Super Wal Mart.

Your blog is the grocery section

Your category is the vegetable aisle

Your tags are the different vegatables in the aisle

Example. Your blog is titled Groceries at Super Wal Mart. Your blog post is titled Potato Chips. Your category might be Snack Foods and your tags would be Lays, Wise, potato chip, Cheeze Doodles, Cheetos, pretzel sticks, pretzel knots and my personal favorite, Munchos.

Did I completely lose you in the bread aisle?

ScreenShot001My main blog, Scott’s Morning Brew, has 7 categories.


Currently, I have about 400 tags.

One of the trickiest tasks involved with setting up my agency’s blog, was choosing the categories. Each section of a magazine theme is generally defined by a category. There are five secions on the front page, not including the sidebar. I wanted to make sure that the sections displayed on the front end of the blog were relevant, interesting and provided enough information that visitors didn’t have to dig to deep. The categories on the front page are self explanatory and the reasoning behind choosing them is probably pretty obvious. If not, ask me.

Press Releases

A sixth category is General Information and is not displayed on the front of the blog. It is the catch all and the category that I move some entries out of other categories to. For example, an event that has passed would be moved to General Information for historical purposes. That way it stays a part of the site but not on the front page in the events section.

*The Featured category is a hybrid. Any entry from any other category could go here. This is the article, or blog entry that is in the top left most corner of the blog. The “FEATURED” section. The entry may also be in Press Releases, General Information or Announcements. Once it’s usefulness of being a featured article has passed, it is removed from this category and place in a category of it’s own.

Since my agency is a police department, an example might be an article concerning a bank robbery, where a suspect’s photograph was taken. The investigators release the photo to the public along with a press release describing him/her. We put the photo in the FEATURED category and it displays foremost on the site.

Once that suspect has been dealt with, or another entry takes precedence it is moved down to it’s preferred category. In this case, press releases.

Using that same example of a bank robbery, we might add the tags of Bluebird Bank and Trust, robbery, armed, and firearm.

Once the blog starts getting populated with information, visitors can then search on “Bluebird Bank and Trust” and find all entries, regardless of category that mention it.

Tags can also be useful for SEO, or search engine optimization as well as on sites like Technorati and other social bookmarking/catalog sites.

I hope this clarifies the Category/Tag difference and their usefulness. If I managed to muddy the waters for you, please let me know. I will try to explain further.