Folksonomy and Tagging
What is Folksonomy and Tagging?
The term folksonomy (derived from "folk" and "taxonomy") was coined by Thomas Vander Wal and refers to a form of organic categorization that comes from internet users as they encounter new information. Think about when you are looking at an image or a web site, you may think of a number of key descriptive words that help you to remember that resource. These keyword descriptions are referred to as tagging a resource.
Combine these tags with software that makes the categorization of these resources relatively simple and you have created a personal searchable database of information. By doing the little bit of work it takes to organize your own resources, you are spreading the workload in organizing information on the internet. When you look at all of these personal databases as a whole, patterns begin to emerge where similar resources have similar tags.
The categorization process on a macro level evolves in a democratic type of process, where certain tags gain prominence over other tags when used to describe types of resources. General categories emerge and are followed by sub-categories, but these are all defined through a consensus model based on group interaction.
Issues Around Tagging
Tagging and folksonomies are not without its share of challenges. One of the common problems that are identified in tagging is the misspelling of tags within the tag cosmos. The result is leaving orphaned content that has little benefit to the group at large.
Another issue is deciding on what the content you are tagging is actual about. Everyone has different perceptions of what they are reading. In this case, services that create folksonomies that appeal to a particular group of people, would be more successful in tagging material similarly. An example would be K12 educators tagging resources using the same service ScuttlEdu.
Ideas Around Folksonomy and Tagging
1. categorize lesson plans and learning objects at the province/state, school board, or school levels.
2. categorize documents at a school or school district level in order to create a searchable structures that use descriptions based on those who use those documents
3. connect educators together who share similar interests through tags
4. unintended learning through the discovery of resources and information shared by others (high-value serendipity effect)
A shared tag is a great way for a large group to benefit from each person doing a small bit of work. Each individual would use a unique tag to identify a resource for the large group. For example, a group of educators attending the NECC 2006 conference, might decide to use "necc2006" as the unique tag on del.icio.us for any great resources related to the conference. As people find new resources and tag them with the "necc2006", others benefit from the groups knowledge because they are able to easily find the aggregated resources.
Where to find Folksonomy and Tagging
You can find folksonomies and tagging on many different types of web services that include but are not limited to social software components, blogs, bookmark storage, and photograph sharing.
A few examples are:
http://www.flickr.com/ Photo Sharing
Ontology is Overrated: Categories, Links, and Tags by Clay Shirky