You may or may not have heard of folksonomies, sometimes referred to as social tagging. These words have been getting quite a bit of press of late in the library world. So just what is it?
Folksonomies provide a way for people to classify things on the web. These one-word classification terms are often referred to tags and act, in some ways, like LCSH headings by organising information into subject areas. You can “tag” digital photos, websites, blog postings, all sorts of things! The big difference between folksonomies and LCSH heading is that these tags are not controlled by a list of preferred terms therefore you can “tag” your “item” with anything you like. Because these tags are produced by individuals, often produced “on the fly” and also often in a social setting, they may only make sense to the person who produces the tag. While I may tag a photo with “cat”, someone else may tag it with something completely different, like “kitty” or “tiger” or even “Spot” if they happen to be on a first name basis with the cat. This can produce quite fascinating results. However an obvious problem is that when you want to search for something, like this particular photo, you have to guess at what another person has called their item. If you never think to search for “spot” you will never find the photo. Unlike our library catalogue, which uses the authority file to direct users to the “preferred term”, there are no preferred terms with folksonomies–anything goes!
Some interesting online uses of folksonomies include Flickr, a online community devoted to sharing photos; you can go to Library Thing and tag your personal library; and check out 43 Things for a fun use of social tagging. Technorati is an online service that allows users to tag their blog postings, making searching and sorting of blogs easier. Like Technorati, Del.icio.us allows blogs to tag content, it also allows you to store and sort your bookmarks into subjects. I have used Del.icio.us to tag posts on the YorkBibBlog and a “tag roll” has been created on the right hand side of the blog. I have used tags that make sense to me and each post has several tags. This should make content on the blog easier to find.
I will be posting further information about folksonomies in the days to come. In the mean time check out the new YorkBibBlog tag roll!
For further information about folksonomies check out the following:
Wired News: Folksonomies Tap People Power by Daniel Terdiman
D-Lib Magazine: Folksonomies: Tidying up Tags? by Marieke Guy & Emma Tonkin