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expi.ali.doc.ious January 18, 2006

Posted by unamable in Folksonomies, Tagging.

The Marieke Guy and Emma Tonkin at UKOLN have been worrying away at those darned tags and coming up with some profitable thoughts. The whole issue of “sloppy tags” – (sloppy to some or all is often very precise to the tagger/author) begs the question whether consensus or convergence is really desirable – if we are looking at preserving the diversity of personal “worlds”.

The article also shows the strength of diversity and local usage by quoting form Thomas Hardy’s An August Midnight which benefits from his dialect:
On this scene enter – winged, horned, and spined –
A longlegs, a moth, and a dumbledore

….somehow saying cranefly, moth and bee doesn’t cut it in the same way as the words Hardy carefully chose. [Harry Potter fans will notice the name derivation of the Headmaster of Hogwarts].
But on the other hand they do quote Ali Mejias‘ suggestion that a number of tag selection “best practices” would not go far wrong

  • using plurals rather than singulars
  • using lower case,
  • grouping words using an underscore,
  • following tag conventions started by others and
  • adding synonyms.

and that personal tags could be mixed in with more generic tags. Compound tags such as “the _only_tag_like_this”or “is+this+a+tag+I+see+before+me”, or by separating words by means of CamelCase are also looked at. A folksonomy’s strength, they suggest is its openness, “the ability of any given user to describe the world as he or she sees it”

As far as I can get it, they seem to think that convergence and consensus will out. Divertingly they refer to Steven Pinker’s “Language Instinct” as a likely mode of evolution for the tagging species – where Pinker shows that initial pidgin morphs into more established creole before totally formalising. [thought that pidgin and creole came out of different language streams rather than being connected – but no matter].

Our library/knowledge world has been bounded by classification and authority-based headings up until now – which, let us not forget, are based on convention, habit and disposition, prior to being accepted and then made into standards. However, it cannot be said that these standards have served us well in the last 30 to 40 years – too many discrepancies with how language is used, coupled with the difficulties of keeping pace with the way language develops. This new coining of access points should be embraced, particularly since it comes with a selection of ready-made “indexing or ordering engines” such as del.icio.us, tag.alicio.us, extisp.icio.us and facetious. For once we are not telling others what’s best for them and somehow I feel that if things become too chaotic people will generally move toward order – although the order may appear to conflict with the previously established “natural order” The bonus will be that those who continue to find value in what we do (help people to find things?) will understand where we are coming from and maybe, just maybe,as the UKOLN article suggests, they’ll ask our advice – building a new bond between patrons and professionals.



1. peter - August 15, 2006


google like it?

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