Humpty Dumpty Metadata

Humpty Dumpty Metadata.

The big problem with LiveJournal (and again, it's not so much a problem as an omission) is a problem shared by all the other blogging services/utilities I've tested: There's no standard vocabulary for tagging. Everybody makes up a personal tagging vocabulary (idiodically called a “folksonomy” even thought it takes more than one person to be a “folk”) and just uses it. If everybody uses a different tag for nominally similar entries, who cares?

LiveJournal uses tagging correctly as far as it goes: You click on a tag at the end of a tagged entry, and the view changes to only those entries to which that same tag has been applied. If I tag a certain number of my entries with the word “filesharing,” you can click on the tag in any of those entries and see all my entries tagged with the word “filesharing.”

The problem comes up when I want to see what other people on LiveJournal have written about filesharing. Some people might also use the tag “filesharing.” However, that would be simple good luck, as there's no master list of suggested tags anywhere. Another person writing about filesharing may tag pertinent entries as “file sharing” or another “peer to peer” or “P2P” or even “downloading.” . . .

I'm going to sniff around a little more and see if anyone has suggested a standard vocabulary for tagging blog entries. Eighty or a hundred tags would probably be enough; hell, LiveJournal's pull-down menu for moods holds 132 standard tags for moods alone. If I can't find a standard vocabulary for tagging I'll just invent one and post it here for discussion. I've studied cataloging and classification systems in depth and spent a couple of years creating a “knowledge explorer” category schema for tagging Web sites. That's a separate story that I'll take up here at some point.

The problem with “folksonomies” is that they work against community understanding. There is a common view of the universe that we all share, at least in approximation. (And human life could be defined as a very large number of approximations.) In a folksonomy, a tag means precisely what I choose it to mean, (as Humpty would say if he were a blogger, which if he were real he certainly would) and if nobody can do a global search on blog entries, well, what do I care? Blogging is all about me, after all.

As one who's been doing it since 1998, I'd like to suggest that blogging, if we must call it that, is not about individuals but about the global community of thought, within the context of our collective understanding of the universe. Searching that requires a controlled vocabulary for tagging. Sooner or later one is going to happen.  [Jeff Duntemann's ContraPositive Diary]

Leave a comment