Ming the Mechanic:
Categories, Links and Tags

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Categories, Links and Tags2005-06-26 01:32
6 comments
picture by Flemming Funch

Absolutely marvelous article from Clay Shirky, Ontology is Overrated: Categories, Links, and Tags. About how the traditional ways of trying to organize the world hierarchically are on their way out, and wonderous things emerge from tagging links. Well, we knew that tags are a very happening thing, but Shirky spells it out in neon, in great clarity. It is a whole presentation based on some talks he's given recently, with pictures and good examples. This is just the start:
"Today I want to talk about categorization, and I want to convince you that a lot of what we think we know about categorization is wrong. In particular, I want to convince you that many of the ways we're attempting to apply categorization to the electronic world are actually a bad fit, because we've adopted habits of mind that are left over from earlier strategies.

I also want to convince you that what we're seeing when we see the Web is actually a radical break with previous categorization strategies, rather than an extension of them. The second part of the talk is more speculative, because it is often the case that old systems get broken before people know what's going to take their place. (Anyone watching the music industry can see this at work today.) That's what I think is happening with categorization.

What I think is coming instead are much more organic ways of organizing information than our current categorization schemes allow, based on two units -- the link, which can point to anything, and the tag, which is a way of attaching labels to links. The strategy of tagging -- free-form labeling, without regard to categorical constraints -- seems like a recipe for disaster, but as the Web has shown us, you can extract a surprising amount of value from big messy data sets."

The cool thing is that the whole tagging thing is still so new that there's plenty of opportunity for innovation. There's still room for inventing the google of tags.


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6 comments

28 Jun 2005 @ 11:16 by Klas K. @213.89.226.177 : Tag the Tagger
How about letting the individual that tag an url, tag himself, i.e. enter a few keywords about himself, e.g. lawyer entrepreneur USA?  


28 Jun 2005 @ 17:41 by ming : Tagging Taggers
To some degree that's what one is doing in the various online social networks. But there are no real good ways of mining that information right now, other than within those exact networks. So, some more universal ways of doing that might be good.  


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