"... on Maikhao beach in Thailand, a 10 year old British girl, Tilly Smith, recognised the signs when the tide rushed out
and boats on the horizon began bobbing violently. She told her mother she had just been studying tsunami in geography at school
and that they should leave the beach. Her parents warned others on the beach and so this was one of the few areas where no-one
was reported killed or seriously injured"
Efforts at standardizing and organizing knowledge into
taxonomies and ontologies in a centralized, controlled fashion help bring order
and provide a common reference point in particular domains of knowledge or, in
some cases, between such domains. However, achieving success in construction
and, further, in bringing about adoption and actual use of the resulting
structures is very challenging in today's knowledge work environments, which are
typically characterized by rapid change and high complexity. Many issues are
effectively only understood and described in a fragmented manner. Nevertheless,
work often cannot wait for a detailed conceptualization and decisions have to
be made with that incomplete understanding.
In this contribution, we describe two deployed systems that
use a distributed approach to the construction of shared metadata taxonomies,
which enables a common vocabulary to emerge progressively in the absence of any
authoritative body and with little coordination between users. The common
principle behind these systems consists in letting users build personally
meaningful taxonomies and providing them with awareness of points of contact
with other participants' taxonomies.
We analyze the extent to which shared categories
emerge within these systems. Results suggest that user behavior generally
evolves towards consensus on the use of categories, even if no control is
enforced to drive things in that direction. The differences and similarities
between the two systems are also examined.