Folksonomy in Action

A trend in Web 2.0 to organize and find information is user/author generated tagging of objects at a social site to create "folksonomies." Adam Mathes -- http://trenchant.org/ -- while at the University of Illinois in 2004 said this about folksonomies:

 
"Metadata -- data about data -- allows systems to collocate [lump together] related information and helps users find relevant information. The creation of metadata has generally been approached in two ways: professional creation and author creation.

 
"In libraries and other organizations, creating metadata, primarily in the form of catalog records, has traditionally been the domain of dedicated professionals working with complex, detailed rule sets and vocabularies. The primary problem with this approach is scalability and its impracticality for the vast amounts of content being produced and used, especially on the World Wide Web. The apparatus and tools built around professional cataloging systems are generally too complicated for anyone without specialized training and knowledge.


"A second approach is for metadata to be created by authors. The movement towards creator-described documents was heralded by SGML, the WWW, and the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative. There are problems with this approach as well -- often due to inadequate or inaccurate description, or outright deception.

"[There is a] third approach: user-created metadata, where users of the documents and media create metadata for their own individual use that is also shared throughout a community."

An example of folksonomy-in-action is del.icio.us.  

Using tags (keywords) that are generated by users and authors results in a flat -- not hierachical -- organization. At del.icio.us, users store their own bookmarks and can provide their own set of tags. Then, when other people search del.icio.us using that particular tag, they'll find that bookmark among the search results. del.icio.us, meanwhile includes that tag in calculating the most popular tags, a regularly updated list at the home page.

The folksonomy phenomenon is a response to the overwhelming volume of information on the Web. How did we end up with such a daunting super-abundance of information? And, more importantly, how do academic libraries respond to it? Take a peek at http://www.oclc.org/ to see what's coming.

About the Author

Trent Batson is the president and CEO of AAEEBL (http://www.aaeebl.org), serving on behalf of the global electronic portfolio community. He was a tenured English professor before moving to information technology administration in the mid-1980s. Batson has been among the leaders in the field of educational technology for 25 years, the last 10 as an electronic portfolio expert and leader. He has worked at 7 universities but is now full-time president and CEO of AAEEBL. Batson’s ePortfolio: http://trentbatsoneportfolio.wordpress.com/ E-mail: trentbatson@mac.com

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