Thomas talked about a variety of topics, but some of the things that struck me revolved around his discussion of folksonomy. Thomas says that he does not like the definition included in Wikipedia because the site allows users to constantly add or remove content to define the concept. He provided us with the following descriptors:
- Actual vocabulary used for objects in a community and across communities;
- Network-based selfish bookmarking;
- Socially shared; and
- Externally structuring content
There were a few concepts that clicked in place and resonated with me. First, something clicked when Thomas explained that folksonomy is the “anti-Google.” Essentially, Thomas argued that search tools build algorithms to help you “find what you want.” However, the concept of folksonomies, manifested in collaborative bookmarking tools (such as Flickr, Del.icio.us, etc.), help you “find what you don’t know you want.” He explained that while a majority of people might want results that are in the mainstream, folksonomies let users find information that might be in the long-tail:
Secondly, I really got hung up on the idea that folksonomies involved “selfish bookmarking.” For instance, when my wife bookmarks an article about Apple’s iPod, she might only use the term “ipod” to tag her bookmark, because she only cares about classifying her article so she can find it later. On the other hand, even though I know I can later find the article by searching for “iPod,” I might try to use multiple tags to help others locate my article. I might additionally use the terms “Apple,” “mp3,” “music,” and so on. However, Thomas cuts through this by explaining that if you choose to assist others this way, then this is really your selfish method of bookmarking.
Thomas’ concept really involves no moral, ethical, or “responsibility of the user” argument when it comes to practicing folksonomies. However, as I’ve argued before, for some reason I am stuck on the responsibility of the social tagger. My ideal would be that taggers use multiple tags to describe the content that they choose to bookmark. That way, it becomes easier for other persons to find their content. This does not negate the concept of folksonomies. The social component to this phenomenon is such that we learn to trust others and the tags they use to describe content. Therefore, I still propose that other services that incorporate folksonomies into their systems provide a mechanism for rating taggers on a “trustworthy” scale.