The following are on my list for bedtime reading in 2007:
Lawrence Lessig: The Future of Ideas "The Internet revolution has come. Some say it has gone. In The Future of Ideas, Lawrence Lessig explains how the revolution has produced a counterrevolution of potentially devastating power and effect. Creativity once flourished because the Net protected a commons on which widest range of innovators could experiment. But now, manipulating the law for their own purposes, corporations have established themselves as virtual gatekeepers of the Net while Congress, in the pockets of media magnates, has rewritten copyright and patent laws to stifle creativity and progress. Lessig weaves the history of technology and its relevant laws to make a lucid and accessible case to protect the sanctity of intellectual freedom. He shows how the door to a future of ideas is being shut just as technology is creating extraordinary possibilities that have implications for all of us. Vital, eloquent, judicious and forthright, The Future of Ideas is a call to arms that we can ill afford to ignore." http://www.amazon.co.uk/Future-Ideas-Lawrence-Lessig/dp/0375726446/ref=pd_sim_b_3/026-7657051-1831628
Where is 'search' going next? Are the limits of search technology in terms of ability to improve relevancy going to beat generic search engines? is search really dead?
Human intervention seems to be experiencing a come back - Googles co-op shows a new motivation for search engines to introduce human intervention in recommending search results.
But what about a search engine that combines the 'power' to search the deep web (reaching the parts that Google can't reach) and combines a human element of recommendation...and expertise to assist your search. The expert is not dead yet then...
See this interesting BETA search engine (thanks to Mr Robey)
Whether a taxonomy sourced classification category or a folksonomy sourced keyword - tagging any content is an act of deciding what it is 'about'. When content classification is done by authors or editors it's done with a view to optimising findability of that content. When information users tag content - something extra is added - an indication of 'value'. This is peer to peer recommendation and that seems to be something very different from classification alone.
Otis ignores the importance of 'value' and 'recommendation' in user tagging behaviour.
This is in response to the following question I was sent offline:
"Folksonomy seems to be the best environment for very large heterogeneous information sources without clearly defined boundaries of subject. This allows for a bottom up approach which in turn allows for a democratic tagging system using the language of the user.
Taxonomy exists for information sources that are less dynamic and more able to be caged for a longer period of time. This is more autocratic but, when people are using the sight for quickly finding answers rather than for discovery and surfing.
If a website contains a small repository of structured directory type listings data which people are generally not browsing then a traditional taxonomy is the right approach - when we introduce editorial from our mags or other sources then a folksonomy comes into its strength. Is this the common way of thinking?"
Hi D: in terms of organising information and 'publishing' it as an information resource then current models are still around taxonomy (or more progressively ontology) alongside search engine powered keyword search.
I dont know of anyone yet who has let a user tagging environment prevail as the primary information architecture in a directory or search engine. However tagging is a user centred approach to gathering metadata to imprpove search engine indexing and as directories increase their repositories of information it could supplement author and editorial tagging.
Enterprises are starting to apply user tagging as way to organise and support search for information on intranets and networks and this work tells us there is a LOT to learn about user tagging behaviour before we would let users loose on a commercial site!
User tagged information appeals because peer to peer networking and recommendation is a key physchological driver in our decision making...I want this book because my friend says it's good...I want that dvd because Amazon tells me that other people who bought the same dvd as me bought that one too..I want to view this page on the web because another user who is interested in the same things as me has tagged it and that tag recommends its value as a source...
Even without going the whole user tagging route, formal taxonomy and navigation scheme could easily be supplemented with features to allow users to save their favourites or recommend a link, or rate a link - although this might conflict with an advertising revenue based model.
www.trexy.com is a neat BETA site with a new slant on folksonomy teamed with search the search - allowing users to search and follow the search trails others users have left behind.
I heard David Gurteen brilliantly remind us recently that Information is not Power - but the ability to do something with information is. Like me you might have noticed that there are often people who possess immense amounts of knowledge and information, but don't really have the personal skills to use it. There are those people also who are born to create traction, they are often knowledge parasites, but they get things moving and make things happen.
Social networking has to be as much about connecting different skills sets as about just connecting people with knowledge to people with shared knowledge. That's why I don't feel bad about the small percentage of people that are presumed to actually contribute to blogs and community spaces. It will always be the case and it might be the 'lurkers' that put the shared knowledge to good use.
So gathering collective intelligence is one thing. But what we gonna do with it when we've got it and can we really do it collectively? Is it really possible for individuals to collectively use shared knowledge?
An exciting experiment is taking place to prove just that>
"The central premise of We Are Smarter Than Me is that large groups of people ("We") can, and should, take responsibility for traditional business functions that are currently performed by companies, industries and experts ("Me").
A few books have recently been written on this topic, but they all fail to confront one central paradox. While they extol the power of communities, they were each written by only one person. We're putting this paradox to the test by inviting hundreds of thousands of authors to contribute to this "network book" using today's technologies."
Although largely a lurker and a parasite, they seem to have accepted my application to help author.
This is probably going to make me extremely unfashionable. I know it's not cool to mention 'taxonomy' these days.
Many of us have embraced the idea of folksonomy approaches to content classification (unstructured keyword tagging by information users) as opposed to what we see as structured formalised classification systems (taxonomies created by information experts).
I wouldn't try to deny that there are massive benefits to a folksonomy approach to organising content:
1. It's user centred and more objective (how information users see content)
2. It does the job of building the classification system and connecting it to content at the same time
(rather than a) build the taxonomy b) try to connect it to content)
3. Delegating the job of classification to users gets the job done quickly where information resources are industrial scale
Only if we assume - that information users have low expectations of consistency and comprehensiveness in their search results. Keyword tagging, only works for a large corpus and we mean vast because it relies on the same user satisfaction principles as generic search engines: users only ever retrieve a fraction of relevant results, but they are happy because a) they don't understand the size of the corpus or the quality of what's missing b) there is so much retrieved anyway that its more than enough to satisfy their hunger.
However search engine trends show us that users are navigating towards a growing number of specialised search engines or search engines that search across search engines www.rollyo.com or www.goshme.com that retrieve more of the relevant quality results than general search engines.
Elaine Peterson brilliantly sums up the philosophical and practical issues with folksonomy tagging
I would argue that a more formal information architecture: whether taxonomy, ontology, topic map or semantic wordnet does far more to advance user experience that merely to enforce constraint.
In all of the above, the keyword tags are formed into a structure that has meaning. Meaning that a computer can understand and employ to help users navigate specialised AND vast repositories of information. This embeds more artificial intelligence into the search environment and creates a far more sophisticated user experience.
The argument for ontologies is that they are a knowledge resource in themselves and as an information user they help me to navigate information because they understand the relationship between terms and overcome many of the semantic issues described by Peterson.
1. is a knowledge base in itself, explains the meaning and relationships between concepts
2. supports information seekers with different levels of knowledge to understand terminology
3. ensures consistent and comprehensive retrieval
I,m currently exploring the use of folksonomy in an enterpise environment as a source for developing user centred ontology.