Sunday, February 04, 2007

Pew Project Internet Tagging Report - Implications for Librarians

The December 2006 Pew Internet & American Life Project report on the spread of social or collaborative tagging received a lot of attention this past week.

According to the report, based on a survey of American Internet users:

"28% of internet users have tagged or categorized content online such as photos, news stories or blog posts. On a typical day online, 7% of internet users say they tag or categorize online content. These people said 'yes' to the following question: 'Please tell me if you ever use the internet to categorize or tag online content like a photo, news story, or a blog post. The wording was designed to capture the growing use of tagging on sites such as (a site for sharing browser bookmarks), (a photo sharing site), (a video sharing site) and (the blog search engine)".

There are comments from The Shifted Librarian and ResourceShelf (quite extensive). ResourceShelf discusses issues such as tagging for non-technical topics, tagging quality for large groups, name authority control, clustering technology (à la Vivisimo/Clusty), spam avoidance...

Also, for background discussions of the strengths and weaknesses of social bookmarking/tagging, in particular for libraries and librarians, I would recommend:

  • Patterns and Inconsistencies in Collaborative Tagging Systems : An Examination of Tagging Practices (Kipp, Margaret E. I. and Campbell, D. Grant. In Proceedings Annual General Meeting of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 2006): "This paper analyzes the tagging patterns exhibited by users of, to assess how collaborative tagging supports and enhances traditional ways of classifying and indexing documents. Using frequency data and co-word analysis matrices analyzed by multi-dimensional scaling, the authors discovered that tagging practices to some extent work in ways that are continuous with conventional indexing. Small numbers of tags tend to emerge by unspoken consensus, and inconsistencies follow several predictable patterns that can easily be anticipated. However, the tags also indicated intriguing practices relating to time and task which suggest the presence of an extra dimension in classification and organization, a dimension which conventional systems are unable to facilitate."
  • Collaborative Tagging as a Knowledge Organisation and Resource Discovery Tool (Macgregor, George and McCulloch, Emma. University of Strathclyde, 2006): "There are numerous difficulties with collaborative tagging systems (e.g. low precision, lack of collocation, etc.) that originate from the absence of properties that characterise controlled vocabularies. However, such systems can not be dismissed. Librarians and information professionals have lessons to learn from the interactive and social aspects exemplified by collaborative tagging systems, as well as their success in engaging users with information management. The future co-existence of controlled vocabularies and collaborative tagging is predicted, with each appropriate for use within distinct information contexts: formal and informal."
  • The Brave New World of Social Bookmarking: Everything You Always Wanted to Know but Were Too Afraid to Ask (Amanda Etches-Johnson. Feliciter, issue #2, 2006): "Yes, folksonomies are inherently flawed. But maybe that’s OK. No one is recommending that we scrap all established taxonomies (like the Library of Congress Subject Headings, for example) in favour of a userdefined folksonomy. There’s no reason why the two couldn’t co-exist harmoniously. The wild notion of adding tagging functionality to a library OPAC is more about enhancing subject access to library materials through tags than it is about replacing existing subject headings with tags."
  • The Hive Mind: Folksonomies and User-Based Tagging (Ellyssa Kroski, Infotangle blog, 2005): "The advantages to top-down hierarchical taxonomies for library collections are without question. For cataloging the Web, however, they just aren’t feasible. The new, 'voice of the people' approach of folksonomies emerges at a time when attitudes about information organization and retrieval are shifting and the technology is developing to support them. The opportunities for learning about user behavior as well as the implications for improving and/or complementing existing taxonomies that these systems can provide are of no small import. We are on the cusp of an exciting new stage of Web growth in which the users provide both meaning and a means of finding through tagging."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 10:45 am


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