Thursday, 11 October 2007

Folksonomy

As Alex has recently underlined, the great amount of information that is added everyday contributes to a sense of chaos. Sometimes it's very difficult to find information about a specific topic, just because there isn't any linker between diferent items related to the same concept. An approach to a solution to this is the new concept of folksonomy.

A folksonomy consists of a series of pieces of information of any kind classified by users with labels. The labels space is plain - without hierarchy - and common among all the users. So, the term would explain this "classification made by people", as marked by Quintarelli, though the term is attributed to Vander Wal and made popular by Gene Smith. Vander Wall defines it like this:

Folksonomy is the result of personal free tagging of information and objects (anything with a URL) for one's own retrival. The tagging is done in a social environment (usually shared and open to others). Folksonomy is created from the act of tagging by the person consuming the information.

So, this proccess has two dimensions or steps - personal and social. First, the user marks a piece of information to have an easier access to it later. This kind of selfish behaviour would be the personomy. Then, and more interesting for the rest of the world, it also contributes to a wider classification of articles - the folksonomy.

It's worth noting that there are two kinds of indexation made by humans - the tagging done by the creator and the one done by the community of viewers. Examples of the first are YouTube (videos), Flickr (pictures), or Tagzania (places). Examples of the second, which would be the more accurate folksonomy, are mainly bookmarking sites as del.icio.us or ma.gnolia.

But how does the folksonomy improves the search for information? Confronted to automatic indexation, as done by search engines as Google, human tagging can provide semantic data to every item, as it may be labeled with a word that might not be in the text and which represents the meaning of the item. On the other hand, some labels can be ambiguous or irrelevant for the community, and the existence of synonyms can make the search difficult. Montero
summarizes some measures that could be taken to improve the search and declares himself in favour of a new model of indexation - an hybrid between social tagging and automatic classification, which improves the labels chosen by the users according to rules that avoid the mentioned problems. This solution follows the idea of Web 2.0, as it frees the user from learning a set of rules to choose good labels.


For more information on folksonomy and tagging, you can follow these links:


By Elena P. and Estrella G.

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