Technorati just launched Tag Search across blogs
wikis. Here's a zeitgeist
and a search for social software
How It Works
Their implementation goes beyond the concept of Taggle and implementation of Taggregator to break down social silos in some fascinating ways.
Scraping Flickr and del.icio.us tags seems to be the easy part. They also infer tags from blog post categories in major blogging platforms like Blogger and Typepad. You can also include a tag within a post with a simple rel="tag" statement added within an html link, like this indicatr. Socialtext added rel tags to its categories enable open discovery of tagged wiki pages.
But as tagging goes global, its a good time to consider even more why tagging and folksonomy work.
What Flickr and del.icio.us do really really well is provide both personal and social incentives for participation, which fits the networked individualism model. People are not bound to a single group or themselves alone, they are the center of a network that ebbs and flows through multiple communities with different facets of their identity. You own your photo collection or bookmarks and tag them first for your own benefit. The individual incentives are strong for collection, and the interface for tagging lowers barriers to doing so. Group incentives for sharing, such as attention, feedback, implcit reputation and group forming itself encourage meaningful classification.
There are strong similarities to how wikis and tagging works. Tagging lowers transaction costs for contributions and fixing mistakes. This increases participation and the probability of the right data actually existing in the first place. It also enables a dedicated community to self-govern (and note that as in the case of Wikipedia, the enthusiasm hasn’t worn off)
A single tag can be applied in error, and be fixed locally, but that matters less when viewed in the aggregate. Larger patterns arise that are statistically significant.
The other day I was listening to an interview with Malcom Gladwell about his book Blink, which posits that snap decisions are better than carefully considered judgements. Especially when made by experts who have developed a muscle memory of the brain. One of the callers pointed out (at 9:00/30:15) we are better than making snap decisions work better at discrimination (does it belong in the good category or the bad category) between things than characterization (determining the nature of things). Fine, I thought, that's tagging.
Gladwell's theories seemed to run counter to those of another popular book these days, The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki, which holds that group decisions are better than those of individual experts. But not only are these two views complimentary, Surowiecki and Gladwell are having an open conversation about it this week.
So just think about the emergent intelligence mechanism we are creating with a neural network overlaid on the net. Considered blog posts gain authority through link attention. Consensual wiki pages gain authority over time. Links and snapshots bridge across places, physical and virtual. Tags are applied in the blink of an eye and patterns emerge from the crowd.
But below all that global heady stuff, what tags do really well is aid social discovery. Technorati's tag search may be disconcerting at first, it plugs structural holes between clusters in ways usually left to people as boundary spanners. Facets of identity may be impacted by context shifting. But social software services are adapting to support context within group forming. On Flickr, you have friends and family privacy with the social network as a filter. On Socialtext, you have private spaces defined by the group of participants. The open affordances of tags have led to local/global/local navigation and easy group forming. But the same opennes raises interesting questions about tag spam and the tyranny of the majority.
UPDATE: Technorati’s official launch
Full Disclosure: Technorati is a customer of Socialtext and I have lots of friends who work there. I also happen to think this is very cool stuff.
Tags: socialsoftware, tag, folksonomy, flickr, technorati, socialtext, del.icio.us.