Updated: 12/27/05; 8:02:03 AM.
Connectivity: Spike Hall's RU Weblog
News, clips, comments on knowledge, knowledge-making, education, weblogging, philosophy, systems and ecology.

 Saturday, June 11, 2005

Summary: Paolo Valdemarin voices concerns that I share. Using some commonsense usability ideas (see his entry below) he finds that rule-free Technorati, Flickr and CCMixter tag systems are dysfunctional. The loss between sender/tagger and receiver/tag searcher is too great. Too many items that should be found, aren't, too many that are found, don't fit need.

On the other hand there's Wikipedia -- careful development, more front end learning load, yes, but, contrary to the three examples above, "the whole system is blooming beautifully".

One Million Tags: "David Sifry is reporting that Technorati has now indexed one million distinct tags, found in 14 million blog posts. It looks like at least some people likes to tag what they write and to contribute to the building of a meaningful web.

I must admit I am still not completely sold on tags.

It's not that I'm not fascinated with the whole concept of a bottom-up, social driven, taxonomy: it's quite similar to what we used for K-collector, what leaves me a little cold is the lack of coordination tools and rules. Are my posts about my computers supposed to be using the 'Mac', the 'MacOS' or the 'Macintosh' tag?

Last week I went to a conference in Florence, took some pictures and posted them on Flickr using the name of the event: Nuovo e Utile. Later I discovered that other people were posting pictures under the name of the sub-event we were all participating: Neuweb. It's obvious how we could have gotten in synch by other means, and partially we did: I did found out about the second tagging and added to my pictures, but not everybody did, and this is leaving both tags incomplete.

I might be a little frustrated because when we went through this stage first, a couple of years ago, we decided that it was broken and tried to fix it adding tag sharing and tag gardening tools.

While today everybody seems to be enthusiast I keep going to the main tags page on Technorati and thinking that none of those tags would be helpful to find information in a sea of 14 million posts, simply because these are the most popular tags and consequently they are not very helpful. Until some time ago the most used tag by far was 'General', now it's not there anymore, somebody has removed it, it think it was a good idea but who did it? Using which tool? How was the decision taken?

A few days ago I visited for the first time CC Mixter, because I was thinking about a similar service (music track sharing). I visited their tags page in order to get an idea about the content and, again, to me the page looks totally useless: the most used tags are 'MP3' and 'Stereo' which is hardly of any interest if you are looking for a song title. Imho in this case a good old directory based on Artists and Songs would be the better way to navigate in this database.

Every time I mention adding some rules to these systems I get one of those 'he's not a true believer' stares.

But look at Wikipedia: it's a totally bottom-up project which has some very simple but strict policies and guidelines about how it should be developing. Writers are respecting these rules, finding new ways to enforce them and the whole system is blooming beautifully."

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Spike Hall is an Emeritus Professor of Education and Special Education at Drake University. He teaches most of his classes online. He writes in Des Moines, Iowa.


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