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Folksonomy (also known as collaborative tagging, social classification, social indexing, and social tagging) is the practice and method of collaboratively creating and managing tags to annotate and categorize content. In contrast to traditional subject indexing, metadata is generated not only by experts but also by creators and consumers of the content. Usually, freely chosen keywords are used instead of a controlled vocabulary.[1] Folksonomy is a portmanteau of the words folk and taxonomy, hence a folksonomy is a user generated taxonomy.

Folksonomies became popular on the Web around 2004 with social software applications such as social bookmarking or annotating photographs. Websites that support tagging and the principle of folksonomy are referred to in the context of Web 2.0 because participation is very easy and tagging data is used in new ways to find information. For example, tag clouds are frequently used to visualize the most used tags of a folksonomy. The term folksonomy is also used to denote only the set of tags that are created in social tagging.

Typically, folksonomies are Internet-based, although they are also used in other contexts. Folksonomic tagging is intended to make a body of information increasingly easy to search, discover, and navigate over time. A well-developed folksonomy is ideally accessible as a shared vocabulary that is both originated by, and familiar to, its primary users. Two widely cited examples of websites using folksonomic tagging are Flickr and, although it has been suggested that Flickr is not a good example of folksonomy.[2]

As folksonomies develop in Internet-mediated social environments, users can (generally) discover who created a given folksonomy tag, and see the other tags that this person created. In this way, folksonomy users often discover the tag sets of another user who tends to interpret and tag content in a way that makes sense to them. The result is often an immediate and rewarding gain in the user's capacity to find related content (a practice known as "pivot browsing"). Part of the appeal of folksonomy is its inherent subversiveness: when faced with the choice of the search tools that Web sites provide, folksonomies can be seen as a rejection of the search engine status quo in favor of tools that are created by the community.

Folksonomy creation and searching tools are not part of the underlying World Wide Web protocols. Folksonomies arise in Web-based communities where provisions are made at the site level for creating and using tags. These communities are established to enable Web users to label and share user-generated content, such as photographs, or to collaboratively label existing content, such as Web sites, books, works in the scientific and scholarly literatures, and blog entries.

* 1 Practical evaluation
* 2 Origin
* 3 Folksonomy and the Semantic Web
* 4 In the enterprise
* 5 Folksonomy and top-down taxonomies
o 5.1 Compromise with top-down taxonomies
o 5.2 Main problems of folksonomy tagging
* 6 See also
* 7 References
* 8 External links

[edit] Practical evaluation

Folksonomy is criticized because its lack of terminological control causes it to be more likely to produce unreliable and inconsistent results. If tags are freely chosen (instead of taken from a given vocabulary), synonyms (multiple tags for the same concept), homonymy (same tag used with different meaning), and polysemy (same tag with multiple related meanings) are likely to arise, thus lowering the efficiency of content indexing and searching.[3] Other reasons for inaccurate or irrelevant tags (also called meta noise) are the lack of stemming (normalization of word inflections) and the heterogeneity of users and contexts.

For the purposes of workflow, metadata tags need to be defined in a formal way at the time of scripting or programming. If tags are informally defined, continually changing, and ungoverned, then it will be impossible to use the metadata so constructed to automate workflow and business process.

Idiosyncratic folksonomic classification, although considered beneficial by some, is viewed by others as a distinct limitation. People with similar methods of classifying things may act to reinforce each other's biases and pre-existing viewpoints. Folksonomies are routinely generated by people who may have spent a great deal of time interacting with the content they tag. This level of interaction may impair objectivity or perspective to properly describe content in relation to items they are not as familiar with or know nothing about.

For example, items tagged as "Web 2.0" represent seemingly inconsistent and contradictory resources.[4] The lack of a hierarchical or systematic structure for the tagging system makes the terms relevant to what they are describing, but often fails to show their relevancy or relationship to other objects of the same or similar type.

[edit] Origin

The term folksonomy is generally attributed to Thomas Vander Wal.[5] It is a portmanteau of the words folk (or folks) and taxonomy that specifically refers to subject indexing systems created within Internet communities. Folksonomy has little to do with taxonomy—the latter refers to an ontological, hierarchical way of categorizing, while folksonomy establishes categories (each tag is a category) that are theoretically "equal" to each other (i.e., there is no hierarchy, or parent-child relation between different tags). The "-nomy" part, which both terms share, comes from the greek "nomia" and means "management". Therefore folksonomy could be loosely translated as "peoples management".

Early attempts and experiments include the World Wide Web Consortium's Annotea project with user-generated tags in 2002.[6] According to Vander Wal, a folksonomy is "tagging that works".

Folksonomy should be furthermore distinguished from folk taxonomy, a cultural practice that has been widely documented in anthropological and folkloristic work. Folk taxonomies are culturally supplied, intergenerationally transmitted, and relatively stable classification systems that people in a given culture use to make sense of the entire world around them (not just the Internet).[7]

[edit] Folksonomy and the Semantic Web

Folksonomy may hold the key to developing a Semantic Web, in which every Web page contains machine-readable metadata that describes its content.[8] Such metadata would dramatically improve the precision (the percentage of relevant documents) in search engine retrieval lists.[9] However, it is difficult to see how the large and varied community of Web page authors could be persuaded to add metadata to their pages in a consistent, reliable way; web authors who wish to do so experience high entry costs because metadata systems are time-consuming to learn and use.[10] For this reason, few Web authors make use of the simple Dublin Core metadata standard, even though the use of Dublin Core meta-tags could increase their pages' prominence in search engine retrieval lists.[11] In contrast to more formalized, top-down classifications using controlled vocabularies, folksonomy is a distributed classification system with low entry costs.[12]

[edit] In the enterprise

Since folksonomies are user-generated and therefore inexpensive to implement, advocates of folksonomy believe that it provides a useful low-cost alternative to more traditional, institutionally supported taxonomies or controlled vocabularies. An employee-generated folksonomy could therefore be seen as an "emergent enterprise taxonomy".[13] Some folksonomy advocates believe that it is useful in facilitating workplace democracy and the distribution of management tasks among people actually doing the work.

However, workplace democracy is also seen as a utopian concept at odds with the governing reality of the enterprise, the majority of which exist and thrive as hierarchically-structured corporations not especially aligned to democratically informed governance and decision-making. Also, as a distribution method, the folksonomy may, indeed, facilitate workflow, but it does not guarantee that the information worker will tag and, then, tag consistently, in an unbiased way, and without intentional malice directed at the enterprise.

[edit] Folksonomy and top-down taxonomies

Commentators and information architects have contrasted the hierarchical approach of top-down taxonomies with the folksonomy approach. The former approach is prevalent and represented by many practical examples.

One such example is Yahoo! — one of the earliest general directories for content on the Web. Yahoo! and other similar sites organized and presented links under a fixed hierarchy. This approach imposed one set of tags and one sort order, although hyperlinking enabled at least a limited ability to traverse distant nodes in the hierarchy based on related subject matter. Clay Shirky is one commentator who has offered explanations for why this approach is limited.[14]

[edit] Compromise with top-down taxonomies

It is possible that the differences between taxonomies and folksonomies have been overestimated.[15] A possible solution to the shortcomings of folksonomies and controlled vocabulary is a collabulary, which can be conceptualized as a compromise between the two: a team of classification experts collaborates with content consumers to create rich, but more systematic content tagging systems. A collabulary arises much the way a folksonomy does, but it is developed in a spirit of collaboration with experts in the field. The result is a system that combines the benefits of folksonomies — low entry costs, a rich vocabulary that is broadly shared and comprehensible by the user base, and the capacity to respond quickly to language change — without the errors that inevitably arise in naive, unsupervised folksonomies.

The ability to group tags, such as that provided by's "bundles",[16] provides one way for taxonomists to work with an underlying folksonomy. This allows structure to be added without the need for direct collaboration between classification experts and content consumers.

Another possible solution is a taxonomy-directed-folksonomy,[17] which relies on the user interfaces to suggest tags from a formal taxonomy, but allows many users to use their own tags.

[edit] Main problems of folksonomy tagging

Four main problems of folksonomy tagging are plurals, polysemy, synonymy, and depth (specificity) of tagging. Folksonomy-based systems can employ optional authority control of subject keywords, place, personal, or corporate names and resource titles, by connecting the system to established authority control files or controlled vocabularies using new techniques. A folksonomy-based system needs a controlled vocabulary and a suggestion-based system.[18]

[edit] See also

* Semantic similarity
* Thesaurus
* Weak ontology

[edit] References

1. ^ Voss, Jakob (2007). "Tagging, Folksonomy & Co - Renaissance of Manual Indexing?". Proceedings of the International Symposium of Information Science: 234–254.
2. ^ Vanderwal, T. (2006)."Folksonomy Research Needs Cleaning Up."
3. ^ Golder, Scott A. Huberman, Bernardo A. (2005). "The Structure of Collaborative Tagging Systems." Information Dynamics Lab, HP Labs. Visited November 24, 2005.
4. ^ O'Reilly, Tim (2005) "What is Web 2.0" O' O'Reilly Media, Inc. Retrieved on 2006-12-11.
5. ^ Vanderwal, T. (2005). "Off the Top: Folksonomy Entries." Visited November 5, 2005. See also: Smith, Gene. "Atomiq: Folksonomy: social classification." Aug 3, 2004. Retrieved January 1, 2007.
6. ^ M. Koivunen, Annotea and Semantic Web Supported Annotation.
7. ^ Berlin, B. (1992). Ethnobiological Classification. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
8. ^ Fields, Kenneth (2007) "Ontologies, categories, folksonomies: an organised language of sound." Cambridge.
9. ^ Mohamed, Khaled A.F. (2006) "The impact of metadata in web resources discovering"
10. ^ Marchiori, Massimo (1998) "The limits of Web metadata, and beyond"
11. ^ Jin Zhang and Alexandra Dimitroff (2004). "JIS: Internet search engines' response to metadata Dublin Core implementation"
12. ^ Corey A. Harper and Barbara B. Tillett, Library of Congress controlled vocabularies and their application to the Semantic Web
13. ^ David R.Millen et al (2006). "Dogear - Social Bookmarking in the Enterprise"
14. ^ Clay Shirky (2005). "Ontology is Overrated".
15. ^ Kipp M, Campbell DG (2006). "Patterns and inconsistencies in collaborative tagging systems: an examination of tagging practices".
16. ^ "bundle up" on the Delicious blog, by Josh Whiting, October 27, 2005
17. ^ "Taxonomy directed folksonomies" by Nick Lothian, December 13, 2006
18. ^ Noruzi, Alireza (2007). "Folksonomies- Why do we need controlled vocabulary?"

[edit] External links

* Vanderwal's definition of folksonomy
* Vanderwal's take on Wikipedia's definition of folksonomy
* Folksonomy and science communication - Folksonomies as a tool for professional scientific databases.

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