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« Wikipedia and the Future of Social Computing | Main | why sxsw? »

March 16, 2005

Folksonomies at Etech

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Posted by Ross Mayfield

A transcript from a talk with Clay, Stewart, Joshua and Jimmy.

Clay: Not a debate about the meaning of folksonomy. This is about allowing a large group of users in on organizing a large volume of material. this is usually a function of professionals, why did you do this and what have you observed:

Jimmy: launched in June, didn't have software to support it before. First few weeks was a madhouse in English. Germans held off but then the floodgates opened with order. Became more sensible as people adjusted the categories. We let the masses categorizes because its the crazy wikipedia way.

Stewart: Activity is for the individual first. Because of the word folksonomy, people assume it is for categorization.

Joshua: started with a text file collection of links. Started putting short descriptions in, hash mark and some text to find links. Built a web version so I could point friends at a URL. Then made it massively multiplayer. Behavior around tags that have nothing to do about categorization. tag: to_read is quality of document and context of the user combined. Groups, workflow, RSS stuff, multiple unintended uses.

Clay: you both emphasized value of individual, what tensions arise and how do you resolve?

Jimmy: Entire community organized around high quality Wikipedia, so tension is between individual and the goal. Category scheme doesn't allow people to categorize individually, which is against the goal.

Joshua: but (with wikipedia) there is some consensus on how it fits together. Sometimes its clear, sometimes not. What category something is in may requires consensus. In Delicious, Wikipedia (free, encyclopedia and reference), reference is not a word used by Wikipedia itself.

Stewart: less of an issue dealing with the individual than a group. A person went to Tijuana, used the Etech tag, but for everyone else they want something else under the tag. At the group level, need to filter these things out. Pictures of hotel rooms in Tokyo aren't interesting to people looking for Tokyo.

Clay: Circle and square pattern. Some social activity has arisen despite the social bias. People using the comments field within delicious for conversations.

Stewart: First uses of tagging were for group forming on Flickr

Joshua: why distinction between groups and tags?

Stewart: there are differences

Marc Canter: now that we have tags, can we connect them between different systems?

Jimmy: very interested in this, talking with folks at technorati, should share dumps of tags.

Stewart: to a certain extent Technorati is already doing that. Lots of collisions. 200k tags in a shared space, not sure what the utility is.

Joshua: 190k tags, mostly single use. Need more tools to trim the hedges in the data garden. Flickr you tag for yourself, delicious mostly the same, Technorati you are tagging for someone else. Does it make sense for these different kinds of tags to be brought together, need more understanding.

Clay: the pull and reuse model, having Rest-like APIs may make this happen. Bring tags into remix culture.

Alex: how are you giving the user feedback to help their tagging get better?

Jimmy: once you get involved, its a community of 600-1000 people who do the bulk of the work.

Stewart: In Flickr there are no bad tags. Point is giving people to have tools that create happy accidents (Ward Cunningham's term) at a global level.

Joshua: two types of feedback, your own tags and the experimental interface that gives you your tags, top couple of tags for the thing you are bookmarking and the intersection between them. Don't want to have people dominated by groupthink.

Clay: User and time as impermissible categories usually. But it allows you, however context dependent, something responsive to user interests.

Stewart: Wikipedia model of large group and core group to develop semantic web approaches might work.

Jimmy: To create a large scale category system, a large group with feedback and monitoring will out perform a small group of experts.

Clay: Switch motivations from intrinsic to extrinsic

Stewart: Philosophical issue of meaning, cleaving nature at the joints.

Joshua: one thing that bothers me about semantic web is that it doesn't pay attention to what people are actually trying to do. They want to find and remember things. A natural scale. Tagging too broadly or to narrowly doesn't serve yourself or groups.

Audience question: What happens with Technorati is searching more tag services?

Jimmy: Google is the real answer to that question.

Joshua: tagging for you to find vs. for others to find

Dozed off on a question about RDF

David Weinbeger: trying to make sense of this mess about mass of tags. Need metadata about the tags, who what when where why? How much meta meta?

Joshua: if you say this tag is a child of other tags, they we are back to hierarchy. But the thing is they are easy to type, use, lower barrier to entry. If you encumber them and make them complex entries.

Stewart: has to happen after the fact, cant force people to specify language.

Jimmy: Cardinal baseball and bird, fits into hierarchies.

Joshua: like that you can type java and perl instead of categorizing. May do two level tags, letting you bundle them.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software


1. anon on March 16, 2005 9:01 PM writes...

Sentences contain nouns AND verbs. Man, this was an annoying to read.

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2. me on March 17, 2005 5:47 AM writes...

Folksonomy is user-centric, user-defined; thesauri/ontologies can be used to bring together revevant search results and provide alternate tags and suggestions

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3. Fred on March 17, 2005 9:20 AM writes...


two days ago I blogged about the problem of tags and proposed a partial, intuitive, solution provided by semantic web:


How could we upgrade the tagging idea to get rid of such feature and remove a part of the responsibility of the tagging authors in the whole process? I think that the principles of the semantic web would help us to upgrade the tagging idea.

How would this work? Intuitively it would work like this:

1. Consider the group of tags that describe a resource as a resource in itself.

2. Systems like Technorati would scan posts to extract these "tag resource".

3. After the system would semantically link all these "tag resource" according to an ontology to relate, semantically, each "tag resources".

4. Finally when a user would make a tag search query, results would not only be the resources with the specific tag but also all the other resources according to the semantic of the tag(s) searched.


The entire post is there:

Your comments are welcome ;)



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4. Tom Foremski on March 17, 2005 10:27 PM writes...

Hey Ross, thanks for the report on the tagging panel, it's a fascinating subject. I think it's part of the "Layer 8" and tagging might even reveal interesting artifacts of meaning within the global culture.

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5. peterme on March 18, 2005 1:59 AM writes...

Nothing came up here that wasn't mentioned at the IA Summit's panel on social classification.

And our group addressed important issues in classification/categorization that weren't mentioned here.

Is eTech just not where the interesting discussion is?

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