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Folksonomy Tales January 19, 2006

Posted by unamable in Folksonomies, Tagging.
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Just a footnote to the post below expi.ali.doc.ious – it occurred to me that just as it is now suggested that Margaret Mead “got it wrong” with her studies of Samoa – we are in an anomalous position with regard to folksonomies – except this time we know that what we are being told is liable to be biased, invented and fanciful – in the sense that it has no empirical (consensual base) but we still look for value and insight in what is happening and how it is happening.


expi.ali.doc.ious January 18, 2006

Posted by unamable in Folksonomies, Tagging.
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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.

Nomicons December 20, 2005

Posted by unamable in Folksonomies, metagraphic, Tagging.
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The other thing I suppose I could say is that “unamable” looks sideways at is – what librarianship, if I can use the old form of address, does and maybe, occasionally specifically, at names and things that identify or describe other things. (That is a bit of what us librarians do isn’t it?)

Ooh dear it’s all so confusing for one who remembers the metal-on-wood slidesound of the card drawer and the pleasant dusty dogeared sensation of riffling through those ole cards…..

To be told that users will soon be able to write our records for us. I mean, steady on. Where will all the pedantry, nitpicking and terminal exactitude go which attended the careful “boiling in the belly” of a carefully crafted card – I ask myself. You can sense that I style myself one of the maverick breed of librarian from that remark.

I never felt satisfied by any of my efforts at describing an item – I was following rules which were logical and rational – but somehow it never quite touched the wild hardback/paperback beast I had in my hands. And I can only begin to imagine what a metadator (or whatever the naming convention is) does to less tangible, more complex and rich content items such as a webpage… my heart goes out to them. Of course OCLC has done some luvly things for us all and Open World Cat really brings to put together correct form with a juicier set of user-based fruits. But I am reminded of my high-minded browsing of Amazon where the neutral tone of an Amazon reviewer is rapidly undermined by a “hey dude dig this ‘lume” or some such enthusiastic fan-type response. Yes I know it is the voice of you and me and I should not be so snotty … but can I quite stomach such descriptive content in my library catalogue? If this is the price libraries must pay to stave off extinction, then I guess it’s o.k. ….just about