Folksonomy


One of the things I have been missing since moving my blogs from a self hosted WordPress.org blog to a free hosted WordPress.com blog is tags. Also I found it disconcerting that often in the forums the terms tags and categories were used interchangeably as if they were the same thing which they are not. This led to confusion in the minds of some of my students, which was most frustrating!

This morning when I opened my dashboard I discovered this at the bottom of my write post panel and immediately did a little happy dance.

I don’t see using tags or categories as a “which system should I use?” question but a case of using both as both have advantages. For me categories are broad classifications of a particular subject area whereas tags are more detailed keywords. For instance if I write a post on a mixed media artist that has work in Second life, a gallery of work online and keeps a blog. OK within this blog I could select three categories to the post, Art, Blog, and Second Life but I might want to note that this particular artist is a mixed media artist yet not have a whole category titled mixed media and have it added to the categories in my side bar. This is where tags come in as I can tag them mixed media yet have a side bar that is kept in control. Tags can further subdivide categories and it is often useful to do so.

These micro categories are picked up by the big sites like technorati . On the WordPress.com blogs when a reader clicks a tag they see posts from all WordPress.com blogs but when they select a category they see you’re your posts in that category. So with tags readers can leave your blog with categories they stay in your blog. Categories are found in the side bar and tags are now just under the title of the post where it says “Posted by sharonb under”. For anyone who is new to reading blogs and there are still many people out there who are this can be confusing. Basically although I enjoy tag surfing I don’t like anything that disorientates new readers or bloggers. I would really like to tags simply listed at the base of a post.

As a side note as we discussed in class last week you can surf tags of WordPress.com blogs via the tag surfer and by the way if you are using a Mac the tag surfer still crashes when using in Firefox but Safari works fine.

As usual Lorelle on WordPress has covered the news well in Tags Arrive on WordPress.com Blogs so toddle over there for an in depth piece on the changes

This week in class I will be talking about tags and tagging and the implications of Folksonomy

What are tags?

Tags are short keyword descriptions of chunks of information online. In short they are a type of label. You can tag not only blog posts photos and bookmarks, but media files like podcasts, and etc and are a way to organise lots of information and a popular way to categorize web content.

How is Tagging different from creating a traditional browser bookmark? Tagging is social. By searching under a tag you can find websites others have discovered and considered good enough to bookmark. For instance take a look at Rashmi Sinha A social analysis of tagging (or how tagging transforms the solitary browsing experience into a social one)

Our Media describe tags as “a new grassroots, bottom-up social phenomenon to create organization around social media” In other words tagging is an example of bottom-up building of categories instead of top-down imposition of categories. Tagging lets us organize the web our way. Folksonomies are a cooperative classification system built by people using the information rather than how expert cataloguers think the public might access the information. In other words just a ordinary people are creating, publishing and sharing their own media tags allow them to organise it.

A survey done in December 2006 by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 28% of internet users have tagged or categorized content online. [ The PDF file can be found
here ]

Examples for students:

Flickr and flickr tags

For any one who is just coming to flickr or does not understand things like tags and tapping into the flickr community Josh Lowensohn’s Newbie’s Guide to Flickr is a useful introduction to this popular free photo hosting service.

At You Tube a video-sharing site, and their YouTube tags

del.icio.us a social book marking site
Note: in the teaching labs you can not install the browser buttons to bookmark a site. Students will have to log in to their account and use the posting page

Technorati and Technorati tags

Keotag allows searching across over different websites for keywords and topics that have been tagged. Keotag then presents you with a number of blog search engines you can use. Since pages are loaded by AJAX you are not forever clicking through pages of results. It’s a good way to search by tag!

The Tagging Toolbox: 30+ Tagging Tools is a list of tools

Articles and posts

Joshua Porter has written a thoughtful piece on The Del.icio.us Lesson

Folksonomies – Cooperative Classification and Communication Through Shared Metadata is an academic article by Adam Mathes

Other links this week
These are some odd links I turned up through the week which I think people will find interesting or of use.
Hack Attack: Getting good with Google Reader

Pageflakes is a personalized online start page with an RSS feed. You can also check your email, search the web and access a variety of services like Del.icio.us or Flickr. Basically it’s all your daily information and needs in one place

Keotag allows searching across over different websites for keywords and topics that have been tagged. Keotag then presents you with a number of blog search engines you can use. Since pages are loaded by AJAX you are not forever clicking through pages of results. It’s a good way to search by tag!

Tagging or Folksonomy is becoming more popular.

Just as the internet allows users to create and share their own media, it is also enabling them to organize digital material their own way, rather than relying on pre-existing formats of classifying information. A December 2006 survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project has found that 28% of internet users have tagged or categorized content online such as photos, news stories or blog posts. On a typical day online, 7% of internet users say they tag or categorize online content.

Pew Internet and American life have published an interview with “David Weinberger Describes How Tagging Changes People’s Relationship to Information and Each Other” by Lee Rainie, Director, Pew Internet and American Life Project January 31, 2007

Apart from being useful Weinberger sees Tagging is an example of bottom-up building of categories instead of top-down imposition of categories. Folksonomies create patterns that reveal how the public is making sense of and using something, not just how expert cataloguers think the public ought to be thinking.Tagging is social. Tags are public and this means that by searching under a tag you can find websites others have discovered and considered good enough to bookmark. This allows groups to cluster around similar interests.

The full interview is in pdf file format is here .

The Tags Networks Narrative is a project based in the Institute of Creative Technologies (IOCT) at De Montfort University. This research is examining the potential for collaborative Tagging or Folksonomy in narrative research. The project also has the TNN – Tags/Network/Narrative blog up and running.

The Art Museum Community Cataloging Project is a prototype of a possible folksonomic tool which is under development. David Bearman and Jennifer Trant in Social Terminology Enhancement through Vernacular Engagement discuss the advantages of enabling the public to ‘tag’ museum collections. Recognising that the way archivists describe collections seldom meets the on-line needs of the broad public they suggest that a solution could be ‘tagging’. Bearman and Trant suggest that the public could engage with museum content using social software applications similar to del.icio.us and technorati, in the process also producing communities of practice around a museum collection.

David Sifry of Sifry’s Alerts has published part 3 in the State of he Blogosphere series. This part is on tags and tagging. As founder and CEO of Technorati his findings are worth reading. According to Sifry the pickup rate of using categories and tags in blogs has been remarkable. There are also high adoption rates of Tagging in other languages. Approximately a third of all blog postings use tags or categories and people are using services to tag photos and links.

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