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Feb 07, 2005: Damned Addiction

WARNING: narcissism ahead

I remain skeptical about the value of folksonomies as retrieval tools (studying it further, get back to you soon, promise). But I've got to admit: Flickr is pretty damned addictive.

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Comment: tanya (Feb 7, 2005)

Over the holidays, I really enjoyed viewing the latest pics tagged "christmas." I was visiting the parents and stuck in the guest room/office with the family computer perched nearby. From my time zone in the midwest, on christmas eve, it was fun watching the christmas morning photos start to roll in -- first from places like Australia and on around the globe. They were typical family pics of kids tearing into their gifts -- but there was just something nice about the real time shared experience of it all.

Comment: vanderwal (Feb 7, 2005)

The greatest value of folksonomy is for retrieval of information that a person has already found and for finding related information through a community of tagging. I have yet to find a person that has not found this functionality extremely valuable. Even the bare del.icio.us interface gets raves from non-technical folks.

With the web changing with regard to how people find information, Google and drop into a page on a site and if it is not right it is back out to Google (or other global search tool) and drop into the next page. People are looking for a direct attraction to the exact term or set of terms and are back out after a quick scan. If they find what they are looking for they may check other places in the site.

Comment: Lou (Feb 7, 2005)

Thomas, there is certainly value in folksonomies, but they're not a panacea (nothing is). I'm not suggesting you feel this way, but many seem to, and it's unfortunate. That's why we need skepticism. A lot more skepticism...

I continue to be interested in how folksnomies can work with other means of finding information. You're actually describing one such combination: web-wide search + folksonomy. James Melzer's also headed in this productive direction: http://www.jamesmelzer.com/bearings/000112.shtml


Comment: James Melzer (Feb 10, 2005)

I recently redeployed by site, and the page id's all changed... this link is now: http://www.jamesmelzer.com/bearings/archives/2005/02/implicit_folkso.html.

Comment: RTodd (Feb 10, 2005)

I look at the folksonomies as the consumer taxonomy. Understanding that knowledge assets have producers, consumers, and brokers is key to seeing the value in folksonomy. I don't see it replacing taxonomies, ontologies, or hierarchal classifications systems from the producer point of view. Keep in mind the producer and broker may manage 1,000’s of assets while the consumer only a few dozen. Perhaps the question is how can these technologies be merged into a single view?

Comment: mantruc (Feb 13, 2005)

Hybrid Classification …?
Wouldn't user tagging be a great way to fill a hierarchical classification… or many?
I'm just starting to dive into these social classification systems. What I've seen is nice, but limited. Keyword-only systems allow for horizontal movements only (into terms that are not necessarily related). What I'm thinking about is the idea of matching keywords to categories, and then users could move randomly though tags as now, but also move into broader terms and thus find ‘brother' categories.
Of course, as we know, a hierarchical classification will never be unbiased: the way we organize the categories will reflect some of our values and priorities. But I'm sure we could find some means for tracking and incorporating hierarchies that emerge from the users.
I once had to build taxonomy for a company where we had a big team of journalists; all of them specialized in their field. The old manual archiving process involved a team of 20 archivists who would tag the hundreds of articles and photographs that came in every day. I remember they had a great model for tagging images, their descriptors would cover time, location, characters, background elements, character's facial expression, character's outfit, and more.
My approach was to have the journalists assign keywords to their articles (or pictures) under some given framework (based on their old archive), and this would allow us to assign the articles to relevant categories with considerable precision. We were later forbidden from having access to the journalists' workflow, and forced to categorize through software based on the articles' copy, which never worked as desired.
I'm sure that if we'd had access to those field-specialists for assigning tags manually before using the software to match the tags to certain category, it would have all worked a lot smoother.
So now I look at these folksonomy-powered systems and I wonder, why leave it up to there? Why so flat? These systems are offering thousands, probably millions, of volunteers for tagging content for subject matters that they have particular interest and knowledge on. Why not take this further?

Comment: Bud Gibson (Feb 15, 2005)

I couldn't help but notice the silos on your banner as I read the post. I think the central issue you face in breaking these silos is actually derivative of the centrally controlled classification of activities that produced them.

I liked RTodd's take on folksonomy. With a folksonomy, you are essentially letting people provide their associations for concrete items to be classified. An issue many organizations face is that they are frequently talking about the same thing but using different words (I'm sure this will be central somehow in your talk on the topic at the IA Summit). Folksonomy seems like a great data gathering tool not to come up with a *formal* classification as you have previously intimated but to come up with a topic map.

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