Friday, January 14, 2005


This is the way the Net works: Information stored locally on your computer is useless. Information shared across the Net is quite possibly useless, but sometimes not, and more often than not it's damn hard to figure out what's useful and what's not. Take diaries. For centuries people kept hand-written journals and diaries, and some of these were published posthumously -- usually the journals of Famous Writers. Now, it's inconceivable that Anne Frank wouldn't have had a blog and that alone would probably have saved her life.

Take music. Ripping CDs for the convenience of listening to them on your hard drive? Wrong. The message of P2P -- expose all your goodies and many more will flow to you. And what's neat about music is that the metadata is really obvious: title, artist, album, label. The problem is with genre. Who's to say whether "Buena Vista Social Club" is Cuban or jazz? Or "Talkin' Timbuktu" is African or blues? In any case, "African" might be far too coarse a term for my collection. I might really want to categorize my collection by country.

That's where comes in for bookmarks, right? For years people emailed links to each other, especially for funny, political, and otherwise out-in-left-field sites. Delicious is a nominally a social bookmarking site, which lets you 1) save your bookmarks online so you have access to them from any computer; 2) lets you see what other people are linking to. It does this through tags. In delicious, you bookmark a site, edit its' title to suit yourself, include a description, and apply some tags, some categories. The thing is, these tags are completely arbitrary -- whatever comes to mind will do; enter as many terms as you like.

So far so good, now you have an online way to sort through your bookmarks, and you can view them chronologically, or filtered through whichever terms you used. But of course where it truly gets interesting is that all your tags and bookmarks are public. So, for instance, you can view my delicious bookmarks at, and my "folksonomies" bookmarks at, and all user's "folksonomies"

The term du jour for this is "folksonomies," coined by Thomas Vanderwal, and it refers to the notion that what we are building is a taxonomy written by end users. In the seminal paper to date, Adam Mathes? notes that folksonomies are a third wave of metadata -- in which not authors but users themselves apply metadata to describe data in useful ways.


Google Search: folksonomiesI'm working on a piece on folksonomies for O'Reilly. of course I'm going to write about delicious and flickr. (I'm also doing a separate piece on Flickr and web services, the topic of a talk by Stewart Butterfield at O'Reilly's ETech conf.) I remember that technorati just released tags, which I think are connected to delish and flickr, so I need to talk to Dave Sifry about that. I also remember that Lou Rosenfeld had written up a contrary piece and that Clay Shirky will be talking about folksonomies at ETech.

So first thing is to google for "folksonomies," which brings up a pretty solid hit list, actually. The first piece is a paper by Adam Mathes, a MLA student at Illinois. So I delicious it and the thought occurs to me to take a look at delicious users' folks tag. The immediate view is mostly links to Technorati's tags announcement but there are a few other really promising links.

Folksonomies - Cooperative Classification and Communication Through Shared Metadata
to folksonomies by richardckoman ... and 417 other people ... on 2005-01-14 ... edit this item
to folksonomies metadata reference social_software by hno ... and 35 other people ... on 2005-01-14 ... copy this item
to tags folksonomies Flickr by FalsePositives ... on 2005-01-14 ... copy this item
False Positives: Technorati Does Tags
Is this better than a direct link to
to tags folksonomies by k271828 ... and 1 other person ... on 2005-01-14 ... copy this item
Joho the Blog: The tagging revolution continues...
to tagging folksonomies technorati by pdax ... and 6 other people ... on 2005-01-14 ... copy this item
False Positives: Technorati Does Tags
to folksonomies tags Technorati by FalsePositives ... and 1 other person ... on 2005-01-14 ... copy this item
Many-to-Many: Technorati Takes Tags Global
to tagging folksonomies technorati by pdax ... and 30 other people ... on 2005-01-14 ... copy this item
Technorati: Tags
Technorati's tracking tags in Flickr,, blogs, etc.
to folksonomies tags tools weblogs by hno ... and 67 other people ... on 2005-01-14 ... copy this item
Technorati adds support for folksonomies
Making use of tags from Flickr, and blog posts.
to folksonomies tags technorati zeitgeist mike by echoditto ... and 52 other people ... on 2005-01-14 ... copy this item
Boing Boing: Technorati Tags: three great services on one page
to Technorati tags folksonomy folksonomies Flickr by FalsePositives ... and 8 other people ... on 2005-01-14 ... copy this item


In general people are talking about the technorati announcement - the piece that