Our friends at Technorati have launched a service that pulls together a view of the blogosphere through the lens of user-defined tags. The growth of user tags in services such as Flickr and Del.icio.us have broken through the dilemma of the Semantic Web which was struggling for a standard taxonomy to help define it.
The debate over a "folksonomy" vs. a structured taxonomy is ongoing but this new development, coupled with the blogger megaphone effect may push things over the tipping point in favor of the 80/20 efficiency of user-generated tags. Google came to become the resource of choice much to the chagrin of professional librarians that knew that no one really scanned past the first few pages of results. The search engine relevance ranking convenience eventually won out over the professional researcher’s judgement – lament the loss but people are lazy and will always go for the quick and easy solution, even heard journalists talk about Google as their research tool of choice leaving one to worry about what they miss.
Any comparison of the advantages of folksonomies vs. other, more
rigorous forms of categorization that doesn’t consider the cost to
create, maintain, use and enforce the added rigor will miss the actual
factors affecting the spread of folksonomies. Where the internet is
concerned, betting against ease of use, conceptual simplicity, and
maximal user participation, has always been a bad idea.
But in the ever increasing amounts of data that are being thrown at us, user-generated tags and a way to harvest them is a necessary evil. Sure it’s going to miss sometimes, tags will be mis-applied, misspelled, and mis-interpreted, but in order to get things tagged at all, you need to harness the power of the many. You can’t ask people to consult some taxonomy guide nor can you ask them to label their docs using a form that gets in the way of the data (does anyone ever fill out the "properties" of their Microsoft Word files?)
Play around with it. Try some tags. Click here to see Technorati’s harvest for the tag macworld
In the meantime, I’ll do my bit and will load up this post as related to: