August 7, 2005

Practical Tagging and Folksonomies?

We all know about tagging on Flickr and, and we also know of how it’s being used in some fringier sites like Consumating or Dinnerbuzz.

My question: are tagging and folksonomies occurring in more mundane enterprises? In an essay I wrote, I imagined a tagging interface for an intranet. Has that happened? Gene has told me of how he developed tagging for an internal employee directory (where you could tag your skills), but that’s pretty much the only mundane example of heard of.

Anyway, please post comments if you’re familiar with tagging and folksonomies in less fringe-y web use.


  1. In my consulting with businesses and nonprofits I frequently find myself recommending that they at least consider using tags as a tactic, depending on their overall content strategy; for example, when a large legacy document store needs categorization but it can’t be handled programmatically and there isn’t a qualified or available internal resource.

    Comment by xian — August 7, 2005 @ 11:14 pm

  2. strikes me that many content management endeavors inside the enterprise over the past 10 years HAVE been using a sort of “folksonomy” approach. tools which ask a staff user to “tag” content by typing “keywords” (sans any particular taxonomy or controlled vocab) into a free text field in a GUI and then aggregate “related links” or “see also”s based on those keywords; so, in my experience, this isn’t a completely new approach.

    isn’t it just a matter of defining “folk” for any specific case? sometimes the “folk” in a “folksonomy” are staff members of a content-creating organization, rather than the “general public”. but ease-of-use-tagging GUIs, immediate feedback loop on the effects of one’s tagging actions, “set theory” aggregation features, bootstrapping the effectiveness of a system by amplifying repeated users’ behaviors, a general philosophy of “this isn’t perfect, but it is far better than nothing, and it scales well”, as well as other aspects of the “folksonomy” approach to describing content are basically the same as what we’ve seen in some content management contexts.

    however, issues like synonyms and misspellings can be quite troubling for content businesses and organizations with an editorial reputation to uphold. the “turkey/Turkey” problem has historically not been likely to be tolerated in this type of context, and this eventually causes someone to think “hey, we need a controlled vocabulary!” then, to “enforce” the CV, “tagging” becomesa more and more complex task; motivation can become an issue, especially without positive “this is what happens when you add good tags!” feedback loops already in place.

    some (and i include myself in this group) feel that there is great benefit to be had by combining the best aspects of the “folksonomy” approach with the best parts of the “controlled vocabs” approach. no, not by forcing “taggers” to choose terms from a CV or conform to a taxonomy, but by adding a robust “admin” layer staffed by “librarians”, mostly to link up synonyms, organize post-facto heirarchies for consumers to browse, etc; basically, some people “tagging the tags”.

    point is, use a “folksonomy” approach for metadata contribution, with no requirements other than typing into a text box and checking out what happens next, possibly then adjusting one’s tags as per feedback loop… meanwhile, make the system as “editorially responsible” as the business deems neccesary, with admin/librarians nudging the system where neccesary (for instance, the “turkey/Turkey” issue, where the system could be config’d to raise a “disambiguate me!” flag upon each use).

    i suppose i could be accused of trying to serve two masters at once here, and neither well! at least inside the enterprise, though, i’ve observed approaches along the lines i’ve described above work quite well, so i advocate a “best of both worlds” approach. “folksonomy” and “a formally organized information space” aren’t mutually exclusive; we can see them complement each other, especially inside the enterprise.

    as mr shirky suggests, “ontology” CAN BE useful in certain contexts, but probably not for organizing the ENTIRE WEB in one go…

    (BTW, howdee xian!)

    Comment by onpause — August 8, 2005 @ 7:49 am

  3. Check out

    Comment by danielb — August 8, 2005 @ 1:41 pm

  4. Hi,

    I use an open souce system, drupal, that we have added tagging to for internal and external enterprise blogging. We also support a rich taxonomy. on display here,

    Comment by jwilde — August 10, 2005 @ 11:19 am

  5. You mention an essay of yours. Is that essay available anywhere? Thanks!

    Comment by tbonnemann — August 11, 2005 @ 1:44 pm

  6. [...] ation Tags and Tagging Here are a couple of tagging resources: Tagsonomy Technorati top tags. I am trying to figure out how to incorporate [...]

    Pingback by Cloudy Thinking by Ron K. Jeffries » Blog Archive » Tags and Tagging — August 13, 2005 @ 1:41 pm

  7. Profile – Consumating

    Company: Consumating
    Launched: 2005
    Location: Austin, TX

    Consumating is dating 2.0. Yes, it’s dating with tags. They also use a bit of Ajax in their interface.
    After registering (it’s free), you create an online profile. The …

    Trackback by TechCrunch — August 13, 2005 @ 5:33 pm

  8. You asked for mundane uses of tagging – here’s a couple we’re using:

    Whenever we do a seminar or presentation, we create private bookmarks on a social bookmarking site tagging all the resources/tools/websites, etc. we mention and give that to attendees as a “takeaway” and “resource center.”

    We also use tagging when submitting complex proposals to clients as a convenient way to help them review relevant examples of work.

    Comment by lzimmer — August 20, 2005 @ 2:14 am

  9. We use tagging in almost all our projects. knowledge sharing: or storysharing community and simple storysharing

    All buit with a semantic web based, meta info matching development framework.

    Comment by willemvelthoven — October 19, 2005 @ 5:54 am

  10. [...] (mentions consummating in one of the best and most comprehensive tagging essays written), You’re It, 27 Degrees, Naked Condo, Cristian Contini, anarkystic (calls [...]

    Pingback by TechCrunch » Profile - Consumating — January 22, 2006 @ 12:40 am

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