Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Anil Dash: Accountability and Culture in a Loosely Coupled World

Anil Dash: Accountability and Culture in a Loosely Coupled World:
So, to the point at hand: Technorati's invented a system of public aggregation. There's prior art, certainly, since at least 3 others had made taggregator applications. But mindshare makes a big difference, and Technorati's arrival here reflects that. Now I'm curious: How will this affect weblog culture? And since the service is new, how can it be changed or evolved to influence people to be more, well, social?

An interesting look at the social questions surrounding tagging as it relates to blogging. Anil dash is an executive at Six Apart, and extremely influential company in the blogging world. They are responsible for the Movable Type blogging package and the TypePad hosted blogging service, a fee-based competitor to Blogger's Blogspot.

Ontology of Folksonomy

Ontology of Folksonomy

Very interesting essay by Tom Gruber that gets to what I am coming to believe is a central point in the tagging debate:

The attack on "ontology" is really an attack on top down categorization as a way of finding and organizing information, and the praise for folksonomy is really the observation that we now have an entirely new source of data for finding and organizing information: user feedback. For the task of finding information, taxonomies are too rigid and purely text-based search is too weak. Tags introduce distributed human intelligence into the system.

The problem is that the anti-ontology camp misses the point (And does so "so beautifully", as the article puts it.) Gruber posits that the tagging enterprise is a systems engineering problem, not a classification one. Well worth reading.

The challenge of tagging

So what is the significance of tagging for the librarian?

For the more radical thinkers in the tagging space, folksonomies represent a revolution in the knowledge classification - as emergent, evolutionary ontology rather than the authority based systems we have had in the past. To these writers, Clay Shirky chief among them, tagging rings the death knell for the traditional systems of library classification, replaced by a fluid system of self-created categories that evolve with use.

The question is essentially one of centralization. What works better - a swarm of "virtual catalogers" all tagging away towards some rough consensus, or a centralized authoritarian body classifying to a strict schema, a "priesthood" of information? Does the system evolve from the top-down, or bottom-up?

For many in the library world, this is understandably their worst nightmare. Librarians are not to be faulted for feeling as though the hard-won lessons of the profession are in danger of being swept away on yet another rising tide of revolutionary rhetoric. The organization of knowledge is the very fundament of the library profession. If librarians are nothing else, they have been the keepers of the Great Outline of human knowledge.

So is the profession doomed? My guess is that, as with so many other areas condemned to death by the technological pundits, we will eventually see a middle ground. While we can't expect to see people start tagging their posts with Dewey numbers, we can perhaps hope to see some agreement and refinement of the universe of tags. Such a step would perhaps limit the bottom-up, emergent nature of folksonomy. In the long run it could provide a rudimentary authority, increasing its utility and efficiency as an information resource.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


You’re It! - Amazon Tagging:
Have I been asleep at the wheel? I was browsing Amazon this morning looking for a replacement filter for my Philips coffeemaker (and not having much luck) and I noticed an entry box at the top of a listing enabling site visitors to add tags.

I'm not quite sure what possible utility this could have beyond "Me too!" - but amazon is a pretty clever company and I'm sure they must have some purpose in mind. Off the top of my head it could be yet another aspect to the recommendations engine - "Here's what other people have tagged with 'creole cooking.'"

Technorati Tags: ,

Monday, November 07, 2005

Where Tagging Works: Searching for a Good Game

Where Tagging Works: Searching for a Good Game:
The problem with the web, of course, is that most web authors aren't trained information professionals nor do they use a controlled vocabulary when creating tags. Combine that with the subversive use of metadata by spammers to manipulate search engine rankings, and you know why search engines have virtually ignored metadata since day one.
Apparently not everyone has unequivocally accepted tags as a panacea.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Absolutely (ok, ok) collection of various tools and hacks for, continually updated. Looks great, but it could take hours to go through them all.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Boxes and Arrows: Ambient Findability: Talking with Peter Morville

Boxes and Arrows: Ambient Findability: Talking with Peter Morville:

People have been predicting the end of hierarchy since the beginning of hierarchy. But it’s not going away. In fact, I dedicate a whole chapter to explore the hyperbole that swirls around social software and the Semantic Web. I make the case for a “sociosemantic web” that relies on the pace-layering of ontologies, taxonomies, and folksonomies to learn and adapt as well as teach and remember.

Interesting article from someone with a foot in each camp. Peter Morville wrote Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, often popularly called the "Polar Bear" because of the animal on its cover. Ambient Findability, his new book, looks to be a good read for anyone looking at the new self-organizing hierarchies.