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January 20, 2005
it's the social network, stupid!
Seems my post on folksonomic flaws is getting a lot of reading. Now that I’ve had a chance to sleep on it, and read other people’s comments (including the del.icio.us annotations, which I often find interesting—given only a line or two to comment, what will people pull out?), I’ve had a few more thoughts on the issue.
One of the things that I’ve tried to emphasize every time I’ve talked to people involved with search engines is the growing uselessness of ranking algorithms that take the search and linking habits of the whole world into account. I don’t want to know what the average eight-year-old calls an image. I want to know what my friends and colleagues call an image. Or a link. Or a photo.
Flickr and del.icio.us work so well for me not because they aggregte the world’s tags, but because they allow me to aggregate my social network’s tags, links, and photos. I don’t want to see everybody’s links on productivity, but I do want to see Merlin Mann’s. I don’t want to see everybody’s links on blogging, but I do want to see danah’s. I don’t want to see “research” resources from a molecular biologist, but I do want to see them from a sociologist studying online social networks.
Seb alludes to this is in his response to my piece. We need multiple ways to get at content. Global tagging and aggregation is great if you’re a non-expert trying to find resources on a subject where you don’t know the jargon. But what I want are tools that let me tap into my trusted network. That’s why the del.icio.us inbox is such a beloved tool, and it’s why I suspect that far more people on Flickr look at photos from their contacts than photos from everybody.
It takes me back to voice and authority again. This is why anonymous wikis are inherently problematic for me. It matters to me who wrote something. The more specialized your information needs, the more important trust and reputation and authority become. And while I value collective authority and reputation, in most information-seeking contexts I value it more when that collective is one that I’ve chosen, or that has self-selected around a specific topic or concern.
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