Folksonomy recapitulates Ontology

by coelomic

One doesn’t have to stray far to come across the neologismsFolksonomy” and “Tagging” on the web these days.
Companies are developing business models on it, hundreds have taken to it with great passion, and it has been hailed as an integral part of web 2.0. Mildly piqued, I tried the services “” which is definitely a fantastic service, in making sense of the burgeoning content on the web.One does not have to spend much time on the service to discover new content or see pages on content you never knew existed.
I have now copied all my bookmarks to this service.
Here in the following paragraphs I shall try and put forth an argument why the concept of “tagging” will remain the bastion of the early adopters.Though very interesting, it will remain just that and not help us break new ground in bringing order to the web or analyze its content in a more efficient manner.

For starters I am going to use the habits of wildly successful users as enshrined by “slacker manager

Habit One: Make many marks

Wikipedia describes tagging as such “a practice of collaborative categorization using freely chosen keywords”. If I see an interesting web page, in days gone by I would bookmark it, in the process I stand to lose not knowing whether there are other such sites, that people with similar tastes, found interesting. Lets not dwell on the morality of stashing a good link without sharing it! Enter tagging. I now have to assign apt keywords that would help me find the link using search and also convey to others who come across the link, what the content is likely to be. That is quite a job. It transfers the act of bookmarking from the computer to the person doing the tagging. In essence it is more work and takes more time. 43 Things, delicious, technorati maybe all the rage, but the truth is that these ecosystems are sustained by early adopters who are eager to adopt new technologies. The majority of computer users do not have the time or the initiative to tag, either for themselves or for the community. They browse and search online for information and expect smart algorithms to do the searching and cataloging for them.

Habit Two: Sir Tag-A-Lot

Yahoo! is betting on the community to give their search results a human touch thereby delivering people more relevant search results, that have been looked at by taggers who have given it their seal of approval. Tags are after all loosely bound metadata.
The problem with this approach is that it makes two highly unlikely assumptions.

1) every tag ever assigned to a link is relevant and,
2) just because a tag has been assigned to a link means that it is valid.

There is absolutely no way of verifying that. Now comes the call to tag a lot. Lets take the example below. Tags are also assigned according to the point of view of the individual tagging and what he/she sees in a post rather than the actual contents of the link. Thereby links quickly accumulate a huge array of irrelevant tags that have absolutely no bearing on the actual contents of the tagged matter. If such a database is searched then the chances of irrelevant results turning up are quite high, for the results are not verified as to their authenticity. Whereas Google follows a method wherein links would be linked to content of a similar nature and has a higher chance of turning up results of a relevant nature when searched against.

A tag is a tag is a tag

It is not odd to find absolutely ludicrous tags in the tagosphere. I quote a few examples below;

* system:unfiled
* 73
* todolist
* todonovember
* toread
* smartmon
* the_process_of_manufacture

When does a tag cease to be a tag? With no standardizations in place anything goes. what means something to me maybe total garbage to you. It is made worse by using utilities such as “lazy sheep” to copy tags added by others. I am not sure that the practice of tagging has made the internet more organized? It still remains to be seen but tagging sure is keeping a few of us occupied, me included.

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