Teachers. Technology. Together.
Symbaloo is my current visual bookmarking choice.
Pros – There’s a lot of great features about it including a great visual display of links, the ability to link to documents, and embedded videos that display inside the Symbaloo webmix. I love the ability to manage the size of the webmix so I can embed it in the size I need on my blog or the campus webpage. I have currently created 15 Public Webmixes for educators but I have a host of webmixes that aren’t shared that cover everythng from my everyday favorite links to my grad school links. There’s a Firefox add-on for easy bookmarking and a new iPhone/iPad app. It is possible to change the backgrounds of the webmixes, as well. You can choose icons for your webmix tiles from those given by default, a selection of clipart, or you can upload your own. Students love the look of the links on a webpage and were not hesitant to share that they much preferred the visual square look of the links as opposed to the traditional list of links.
Cons – While I adore this site, there are a few problems and one is becoming a big problem for me. If you use Symbaloo as a “power user” which I guess I must be, you quickly find that the tab system for webmixes becomes cumbersome and hard to navigate. I must continuously scroll through my webmix tabs to find the one I need. In addition, you cannot choose which webmix to save your tile to from the Firefox add-on. Instead, Symbaloo places it on whatever webmix is open. This means that I have to always be sure I have the correct webmix open or I have to drag the tile to the correct webmix. This wouldn’t be a problem but remember that I have to scroll through a ton of horizontal tabs to find the right webmix. Again, not easy.
Another problem I’ve encountered is with the backgrounds. The backgrounds literally flood the interface of the tiles and impact the look of the tiles instead of sitting behind them. It would be nice if this could be changed.
Some smaller problems such as the inability to change pictures on the tiles if they are added from the Firefox add-on instead of through the site is inconvenient but certainly not so much so that it stops me from using the site. There is also a limit as to how many tiles you can add to a webmix. I believe it is 11 rows. A twelfth row can be added but is near impossible to be manipulated. While some may think this is plenty, when creating webmixes for schools and educational organizations, it’s very beneficial to be able to add more than just 12 rows.
The final comment I have to share is actually one that I hope Symbaloo will read and take to heart because they have a great thing going and can really make a difference to educators. First, I immediately paid to become Symbaloo certified because I was so impressed with the application. However, I didn’t hear anything for a long time after paying my money and only received communication after seeking out help from their forum. Emails to Symbaloo were ignored. The impression I had was that the certification program was an afterthought and one that they did not prioritize. Instead of a sense that certification made you more a part of the Symbaloo team, I definitely felt less than a concern. After completing the certification, I had to go through the same process to receive the certification badge and certification.
I’ve also created a well-designed tile for Symbaloo for MyWeb4Ed and submitted it through their outlined process. It’s been so long since I did, that I’ve lost track of the time but I can tell you that I’ve heard nothing back from them and it certainly hasn’t been added. It would be nice if there was a response when these were submitted if only to explain why it could not be added or how to improve the service.
I have commented to them on Twitter and through their board about the problem with the tabs and the difficulty I’m having. I was told they were going to check on the process of a solution on that but I never heard back again. My forum post on July 9th about the tabs problem has received 19 views and no responses.
So, I would not rank customer service among Symbaloo’s strong points.
So, while I love Symbaloo and want them to be my virtual bookmarking service, I’m looking elsewhere to try to solve the problem I can’t get them to address in any real manner. They could sway me back with some concerted effort and caring about their educational users. But, with that not seeming to be a strong possibility, I’m checking into the sites I’ve shared above.
I’ll be sharing what I learn about them as I investigate them for their use in the educational arena!
Updated at 7:57 pm (CST) to note that @klaaslameijer replied with the following on Twitter after this was posted:
@MyWeb4Ed tabs problem! We are working hard on it with a small team. But we just don’t have a deadline jet. Will take another two weeks.
I am assuming this is a Symbaloo representative and that it will be updated in two weeks? If so, this is reasonable. A response in the forum and possibly even an announcement on the site might be a great idea since I’ve read of others with the same concern.