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Folksonomy Talks: Information Architects Surpass Techies

Yes, I’m biased, but, based on the notes I’m reading about the folksonomy discussion at ETech, the IA Summit panel on Social Classification was a far richer and more robust discussion (note: I was on the IA Summit panel).

The etech discussion didn’t really get beyond what you can read on blogs.

The IA Summit discussion had delightful grenades lobbed by Peter Morville(PDF), and a good question and answer, where we actually bothered to be critical of folksonomies (discussing how many women with social science backgrounds (Shelley, Liz, Danah) have taken strong issue with the folksonomy-utopianism of all the young white guys), talk meaningfully about extending them (integrating them with other modes of classification), and recognize the visceral poetry of free-tagging (it’s all about me).

It’s worth noting that the folksonomy discussion emerged from the information architecture community — a group of people obsessed with issues of structure, shape, accessibility, meaning, utility, and other facets of information. Folksonomies aren’t interesting from an “emerging technology” perspective — they’re interesting from a social and cultural perspective. And it seems that Etech is lacking that breadth in perspective in spades.

  1. I am largely in agreement as I did not see one comment from Jimmy of Wikipedia that really added anything to the discussion. It seems he had been reading the wrong definition of folksonomy that was on Wikipedia for so long. He really should have turned to an authoritative source.

    Joshua understands the concept insanely well as it is people tagging for their own retrieval and these tags are shared. He also nailed the Technorati Tags difference, which is people tagging for others and leads to a different cognitive approach.

    Stewart was good, but only reading a handful of blog notes he did not say much outside of what is widely known. I know he has far more depth than that.

  2. Peter, Any chance you could fix the time on your server? While the article is interesting, I don’t really want it lying at the top of my aggregator for the next day or so…

  3. This could be a function of the format, as well: the morning sessions at e-tech were fairly rapid-fire, with this four-person panel discussion lasting for just half an hour and bracketed by unrelated tech goings-on. The group was mostly composed of makers rather than thinkers. Clay Shirky was the only academic on stage, and he performed the role of moderator.

    Wikipedia was a strange addition, since Jimmy made a point of saying that it has an explicit (though user-defined) hierarchical taxonomy of topics. I think he effectively identified the risk of tags devolving into meta-keywords, and Joshua really groks how to prevent from doing too much and losing value. (e.g., no predictive tagging). I sat in on the Trees + Tags BOF as well, which was less than useful. Lots of thrashing about, not much learning.

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