— Forest and the Trees

Folksonomy + Intersection = Taxonomy

Well, I’m reaching a bit with that title. But, hey it’s a blog. First, definitions…

Folksonomy – user described data. E.g., users tagging their photos on Flickr.

Intersection – The common elements in sets. E.g., two sets [1,2,3,4,5] and [1,5,6,7,8] intersect to become [1,5]

Taxonomy – A hierarchical data structure. E.g., Computers –> Software –> Web Development Tools –> Front-end –> Flash.

What you really want on the web is a taxonomy that you understand. You shouldn’t have to know exactly what you are looking for, just have a general idea – more of a Sunday paper and less of a dictionary. Obviously, you need a dictionary, and the web does that well. But, think about going to a movie. You don’t always know what movie you want to see. Sometimes you want to look at the movie section of the paper – see what’s playing close, at a good time, that’s getting good reviews. Searching for “King Kong” isn’t going to give you that. (This type of movie browsing is done very well at boston.com btw. Check out the movie map.)

When I made findr, I was thinking about it in terms of refining a search. But, the underlying concept of refining your search is taxonomy. You can’t refine unless you give structure to your data. E.g., I can’t ignore lousy movies in the paper without a system that rates them. And what findr does is create a structure. You want a funny dog picture. You start with dog, then you see chihuaha, then costumes – you are creating a taxonomy. The intersection keeps the costume within chihuaha. And the related tags (until you drill down deep) means you will have results. Now findr’s a good example, but, delicious is great – because it has more ways to interesect. I can look through my own tags and choose “flash–> data visualization”, and get the results. I can also look at a link and find other users who have bookmarked it and look at their links (which is a great way to find new sites). I’ve created a “me –> similar users –> flash” structure. It’s a different slice and it provides a different service – surfing, vs. retrieving.

  1. webmaster radio says: June 11, 20067:14 pm


    I think that is a good viewpoint

  2. [...] tags to find sets of photos representing the intersection of multiple tags. Doug describes it as Folksonomy + Interesection = Taxonomy. While he immediately downplays it, I think he is right on. His view is congruent with research in [...]

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