More thoughts on tag frequency

I was slightly on the wrong track in a previous blog, I think. It happens …
So, the mistake was that I was thinking that all of the popular tags that had survived in a historical context, could be thought of as “category labels” and the less popular ones were the highly individual ones. This would certainly have made things easy. Of course it is good that this is not the case, because that would have been TOO easy. And things that are easy, are not interesting. So why is it not true? Just look at the table below, which shows the top four most popular tags for some of the 50 most popular sites on delicious:

Site Slashdot Flickr Pandora Digg BBC News New York Times
Tags News, Technology, Geek, Daily Photos, Flickr, Photography, Sharing Music, Radio, Recommendation, MP3 News, Technology, Blog, Daily News, BBC, UK, Daily News, Newspaper, Daily, NYC

It is self evident that the popular tags form a heterogeneous collection. Some are clear category labels that would feel at home in a formal taxonomy (e.g. “News”, “Movies”, “Music”). Some, like “Daily” and “Recommendation” appear to describe resources with a particular property which is nevertheless fixed and user independent. Others like “Fun” and “Geek” describe more personal properties that depend on individual interpretation. Finally there are proper names like “UK” and “NYC”.

So, what are the facts telling us???

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Folksonomies are not a “bad” thing!

I have been busy lately testing some of my ideas about the semantics of tags .. which I will blog as soon as I have a coherent set of things to say. In the meantime I wanted to write this post in case there is a misconception that I have somehow been maligning this whole tagging business. I have not. I think there is lots of cool stuff being done with them, and I especially love the potential of the Yahoo My Web 2.0 stuff.

I also love the new browser, Flock. It is based on the Firefox code base, so I hope they don’t all start fighting together, but I think Flock really shows the potential of bringing together the content on “my web”.

My point is that folksonomies can do even more, if we are able to extract the full richness of their semantics. This is what I am trying to do right now.

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