Ontologies And Tags

I was recently a speaker at a librarian union, where persons brought up the tagging functionality as important for users. Some saw their own role with Wave as someone who had to perform work with helping users create ontologies or taxonomies for the data stored in the wave. This made me think a little more about how the tags in Wave can be applied and the reasons to do it.

Source:  http://www.labnol.org/internet/google-on-business-card/6991/
Source: http://www.labnol.org/internet/google-on-business-card/6991/

Taxonomy is the practice and science of classification. Tags can be found in almost any Web 2.0 application, and is a way to organize data into some more user friendly categories. Tagging can be done by the user who submitted the content or by anyone who has access to seeing the data.

Source: http://www.google-success.com/
Source: http://www.google-success.com/

While people use tags, it just takes up extra time when browsing. According to Gene Smith in Taxonomy of tagging systems , tags are used to help with:
1. Future Retrieval – marking something so it can found later (aka refindability)
2. Contribution and sharing – adding tags for the “value of known or unkown audiences”
3. Attract Attention – “to get people to look one’s own resources”
4. Play and Competition – formally in the ESP Game, informally in tags like squaredcircle (over 40,000 photos!) and sometaithurts
5. Self Presentation – “to write a user’s own identity into the system as a way of leaving their mark on a particular resource”
6. Opinion Expression – making value judgements, e.g. bullshit

All these points make sense from a business perspective, where we want more structure of the data.
If the user cannot find the document fast, it actually does not make a lot of sense in to create it in the first place. Then the information will only stay within the person(s) head, who created the content in the first place. This might be correct in some instance where you just want to create some feedback and create a decision on something. If the content is something, which needs to be published, it does make sense to organize it, so it is easier to find for other people.

I also think attracting attention is interesting, and something which underline the statement above. If you can get people attention and show you have created something useful, you will be seen more as a person who is useful for the organization. This has also something to do with self presentation, where the individual has the power to learn information.

There are some content where tags are unnecessary, because it does not fulfill the properties above. That will be a natural behavior, it also says something about that the content is not worth anything for someone else. Content without any tags can then be prioritized lowest for the voting principle.

A problem with tags is:
“Two people choose the same main key word for a single well known object less than 20% of the time.” Study from 1983 quote by Joseph A. Busch from www.taxonomystrategies.com.
This is an old study, but I don’t think that much have changed in the field. So I would guess this still to be valid. But it shows that we need to use more than just one tag, to make it much easier for people to see the same information.

It would be useful for organizations to teach about how they want to use tags. Much of the tagging should be self explanatory, so new employees can use it. I think it can be allowed to use a more specific organization taxonomy. I also think that giving people some education in how they can best create tags will make it much easier for them to find the content.
The problem without strict control of the tagging, will mean that people are less inclined to use the ideas and just skip tagging.

For organizations it will make sense to use some of the knowledge that the libaryans already has learned the hard way. They should just somehow be able to teach the other on how we can implement tags our self. It will probably be different to use tagging in Wave than in other applications, but the systems can be adopted.

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Daniel Graversen

Founder of masteringwave.com and SAP Integration consultant at figaf.com

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