Sunday, April 03, 2005

Kudos to Technorati: Now that's responsive customer service (or, Folksonomy Vs Taxonomy)

Libraries and librarians have been talking about taxonomies and metadata. I think we're in the midst of quiet revolution in the Blogosphere, where the rise of the Folksnonomy has already started.

This post also demonstrates the power of conversations generated by blogs, and the speed in which learning and knowledge sharing occurs in the Blogosphere.

The story (from my perspective) begins from what I described in my 29th Mar 05 post, "Proposed Singapore Blogger's Conference: Observations and lessons learnt". Here's a recap:
    1. Some SG Bloggers took issue with Shel's comment (posted 23 Mar 05) that blogging was non-existent in Singapore about a year back (in 2004).
    2. Then Mr Brown deduced that SG Bloggers appeared to be non-existent was because we were not Technoratifed. He offered a quick lesson on how to get listed (originally posted 26 Mar)
    3. The next day 27 Mar, Preetam followed up with a tutorial complete with screenshots. Mr Brown updates his post on 28 Mar.
      The story for me continues as follows:
      • I read Kevin Lim's post dated 31 Mar 05, where somewhere near the end he mentions this that caught my attention: "Which comes down to this: If you’re posting any news related Singapore, what should you do?... If you do want to be found quicker or help do good for the blogosphere, insert Technorati tags like “” into your blog posts..."
      • On 1 Apr, I commented in Kevin's post that Technorati should make available a country-specific browser-toolbar add-on that users can install. This would allo users to drag and drop the Tag to their posts.
      • That same day, 2 Apr, I replied in Kevin's post that I'd emailed to Technorati with a suggestion that they consider a “Taglet”, like the "Technorati Searchlet" they offered to registered members.
      • On 3rd Apr, I received an email reply from Niall Kennedy, Community Manager for Technorati.
      I'm really surprised 'cos I didn't think my suggestion was worthy of a reply. Technorati has a loyal user, I can tell you that (BTW, I'm also a fan of Blogger 'cos their Helpdesk actually writes back rather than give you some standard reply that you can easily read off the FAQs).

      I thought it'll be useful to share the email exchange between myself and Technorati:
      Apr 2, 2005, 7:13am, I wrote to Technorati:
      I like your Searchlet. Wonder if you guys can create a "Taglet" or something. Just like how we install the code to our blog, the Taglet could be installed to our browser toolbar or blog. The idea is to allow the blogger to easier build and pick a list of tags to add to the post.

      Apr 3, 2005, 4:35am, Technorati replies:
      Thank you for contacting Technorati! We are currently working with weblog tool builders on tagging solutions. Some vendors have discussed predictive tagging based on a post's content, which seems like exactly what you are looking for.

      If this feature were available to you in a toolbar what functionality would you like to see? What information, if any, would you like to pass from your currently viewed browsing page into your weblog editing tool?

      Niall Kennedy
      Community Manager

      Apr 3, 2005, 9:40pm, I replied:
      Hi Niall, I'll try to describe in "layman" terms 'cos I'm not a web developer, so bear with me.

      1) The idea is to have a kind of dropdown menu where I can either (1) pick a tag or (2) type in a pharse and check if such a tag exists, or what's the closest to it.

      2) The "Taglet" may also suggest related terms, so that I can add more than one tag.

      3) I'm more familiar with Blogger -- so I'm thinking if Blogger can have a spellchecker, then why not a "Tag This Post" feature.

      4) Or maybe I don't use Blogger, that's ok. I can install it to say, my broswer toolbar (Firefox, for instance). Then when I want to tag my post, I go to the "Tag This" button on my browser toobar and choose an appropriate tag. I could either drag it to my post or it helps me generate the code.

      5) Say I'm writing a post that's food related. I can then choose from the "Taglet" menu and look for the tag closest to "Food". I'm thinking the "Taglet"would pull some data from Technorati so that it displays currently available tags. I could also type in a term and Technorati would let me know if such a tag exists. It could also allow me to build my tags (i.e. my personal list of tags)

      6) This "Taglet" could also suggest the top 10 or 20 most popular tags. Or it could drill down to 2 or 3 layers.

      I think the hardest part is in deciding what are the categories or tags to offer to users. Libraries have done this using Dewey Decimal Clasification (DDC) and Library of Congress Subject Headngs (LCSH) and it's not exactly layman-user-friendly. The Taglet may have to allow certain flexibility to users in how they classify things, i.e. Folksonomies Vs Taxonomies.

      I hope I have been coherent in my explanation.


      I'm sure you folks can give better suggestions to Technorati than what I did. Here's their contact page.

      BTW, I recommend David Weinberger's posts if you're interested in Taxonomies and that sort of stuff (in reverse chronological order):
      • Trees and tags - An introduction: What are taxonomies, tags, faceted classification, folksonomies...? And do they matter? (3 Mar 05)
      • Trees vs. Leaves: Tagging may be shaking the leaves off of taxonomic trees, affecting not only how we organize ideas and information but how we think about organization itself. (28 Jan 05)
      • The end of data: In the new world of classification and categorization, data and metadata are indistinguishable. (15 Oct 04)
      • Why Dewey's Decimal System is prejudiced: The DDC's aging value system shows the pernicious influence of reality. (3 Sept 04)
      • The Three Orders of Order: The third order is new, and it's ripping up the rules for how we manage, navigate and understand our world. (25 Jul 04)
      • Chains and links: The tree-like structures we've grown up with are being challenged by messy webs. (6 May 04)
      • Metadata and Desire: Metadata, that most abstract of abstractions, is rooted in human desire. (15 Oct 03)

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      1. Anonymous1:41 am

        Excellent overview Ivan!

        Folksonomy is all the rage this year (flickr,, technorati) but one of the my biggest concern is picking the right tag for the right situation.

        Being so open ended, web users who are not in tune with common tags may end up with too diverse a set of tags, that they may end up never being found.

        I wish it could be better to, but once tagging gets mainstream, we'll start to see content pollution in the form of "tag spamming". I hate to say it, but I bet that's the next "big thing" to happen. If it should happen, we may have to reassess tools like technorati.

        Hopefully we will have transparent authentication solutions by then, so this won't have that great an impact.

      2. A quick tutorial on technorati tagging for Blogger.

        It's inevitable that tag spamming will take place. I can think of some workarounds e.g. folksonomy searches that only respond to the first 3 or 4 tags so bloggers/posters have to prioritize what's important to them. More sophisticated users can configure this setting to fewer or more tags.

      3. You know, it occurred to me that the development of Folksonomy could draw parallel with the development of library classification systems. Would make an interesting thesis I think.

        I read a Sci-fi story on how this guy developed a system to deal with spam. I can't remember the title or author... have to go search for it...

      4. For those of you that have discovered ecto, there's an easy way to make any word into a tag in the latest version.


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