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A classification concept that has gained a lot of attention lately is folksonomies (social classification or people's classification management).

The folksonomy is a means for people to tag objects (web pages, photos, videos, podcasts, etc., essentially anything that is internet addressable) using their own vocabulary so that it is easy for them to refind that information again. The folksonomy is most often also social so that others that use the same vocabulary will be able to find the object as well. It is important to note that folksonomies work best when the tags used to describe objects are in the common vocabulary and not what a person perceives others will call it (the tool works like no other for personal information management of information on the web, but is also shared with the world to help others find the information). http://www.vanderwal.net/random/entrysel.php?blog=1635


Folksonomies applied:

See Folksonomies: The Fall and Rise of Plain-text Tagging for an in-depth background (Ariadne web magazine, April 2006)

Grassroots Cooperative Categorization Of Digital Content Assets: Folksonomies, What They Are, Why They Work (January 05, 2005)

The organic system of organization developing in Delicious and Flickr was called a "folksonomy" by Thomas Vander Wal in a discussion on an information architecture mailing list. It is a combination of "folk" and "taxonomy."

An important aspect of a folksonomy is that is comprised of terms in a flat namespace: that is, there is no hierarchy, and no directly specified parent-child or sibling relationships between these terms.

Overall, although the term "classification" is often used in relation to these systems, and has been used in this paper what is going on is more like "categorization."

Categorization is generally less rigorous and boundaries are less clear.

It is based more on a synthesis of similarity than a systematic arrangement of materials. Most importantly, each document can have many terms associated with it.

By contrast, classification schemes generally focus on providing a single classification to an item, and are very hierarchical and have clear relations. In a folksonomy the set of terms is a flat namespace: there are no clearly defined relations between the terms in the vocabulary.

Tagging activity on TWiki.org:

Date Tagged
2006-02-20 0 0 Tagging activity begins
2006-03-17 800 1276  
2006-04-17 900 1463  
2006-06-29 1040 1762 Tagged topics: Codev 568, Main 18, Plugins 330, Sandbox 7, Support 36, TWiki* 77
2006-09-05 1118 1925 Tagged topics: Codev 598, Main 16, Plugins 371, Sandbox 8, Support 39, TWiki* 82

Related links on folksonomy:

See also:

-- Contributors: MartinCleaver, PeterThoeny, ArthurClemens


The system of folksonomies works by having a lot of contributors tagging single items (website url). That way you get multiple entries and thus a rich vocabulary to describe the item.

The main idea is that there is a bigger chance that a community member shares a vocabulary (some words to describe the website) with you than a single point of view classification. The second idea is that it is cheap to classify this way.

-- ArthurClemens - 17 Feb 2006

It also means that you need a large community to get meaningful sets of shared tags. IMO, a common CategoryCategory scheme that gets enhanced over time works better for smaller communities.

-- PeterThoeny - 17 Feb 2006

It could be worth trying: have a editable field on each topic where tags can be typed into, without having to edit a page, so a bit similar to a comment box.

-- ArthurClemens - 18 Feb 2006

A hybrid between CategoryCategory and tags could be done with a new Plugin where you can add related topics and categories to the RelatedTopics field without edit-save cycle. See related EventTriggerPluginDev discussion.

-- PeterThoeny - 18 Feb 2006

Putting the categories into the RelatedTopics field is wrong, IMHO. "... It lists topics with related content.... " (from BasicForm). This is more of a unidirectional point-to-point link not labelled in any specific way. Other common relations among topics are for example ReadAlso, FollowUp or ContentRedux. And there are ways to automatically compute links to "similar" documents (using support vectors). These relations can have different properties with regards to reflexiveness and transitivity.

Adding a category to a topic does not estabish a no point-to-point relation. Categories serve as a kind of backbone where content is situated. Categories can be well defined as the CategoryCategory system. But you could easily have free-form tags in addition . But mind you that people do use any combination of "Mac", "Apple", "Macintosh", "OS X" or "OS 10" to express the same thing (more or less). Tags are more like keywords that outline the content.

So looking at the BasicForm we could add

  • CategoryCategory: selection box, with values generated by a SEARCH (needs dakar, can be mocked up on cairo)
  • RelatedTopics: free form entry field
  • Tags: free form entry field; that has been proposed before as KeyWords

The RelatedTopics and Tags form fields could be enhanced in usability if the ExtendedSelectPlugin was installed.

  • ExtendedSelectPlugin may be used if the tagger can choose from a predefined set of keywords. Which would eliminate spelling errors and such. As long as it is easy to add keywords to the list (link to separate page) this could work. -- ArthurClemens - 18 Feb 2006

-- MichaelDaum - 18 Feb 2006

Having been giving this some thought in recent months, I agree with above comments about the complementary nature of CategoryCategory and Folksonomy classification systems. They really serve different needs.

A few other thoughts on this matter:

  • I agree with MichaelDaum that a CategoryCategory system is better served by a selection box with values generated by SEARCH (this is part of the core design of TopicClassificationAddOn).
  • Regarding Folkonomy tags, I've had a couple of ideas:
    • A form in WebLeftBar for quickly adding tags to any topic. I've been meaning to try this out but seems like it would be pretty easy to create using direct save.
    • The form might include a drop down of personal tags (another core feature of Folkonomy systems) that are stored in one's user topic.
  • A possible concern about using a formfield to store Folkonomy tags is that, from what I understand, these lists can grow to be pretty large. What about storing them in less visible place such as the "topic settings" area (a Dakar feature)? Perhaps they could be displayed on demain using a link in sidebar with tooltip of something similar.

-- LynnwoodBrown - 18 Feb 2006

I think you need to put the "add tag" functionality really near the display of the tags.

I don't think the list will grow that long on a wiki. I think 10 - 20 tags maximum. But performance is a concern when the form has all possible tags in a dropdown list. An AJAX solution would be a good fit for that: fetch the list of all tags only when requested.

Here is a first stab at a form interface:

Interaction design proposal for adding tags in a topic form

-- ArthurClemens - 18 Feb 2006

Please do something similar for topic attachments too! There are so many good ideas out there, but few of them have ever been implemented (by TWiki) yet.

It's really time to switch twiki.org to 4.0.x.

-- FranzJosefSilli - 18 Feb 2006

OK, we have two subjects here, category and tags.

On category, it looks like it would be helpful to have a new CategoryCategory field with checklists in edit mode. Shall we do that in the Codev web and Plugins web?

On tags, Lynnwoods concern about getting a formfield with a long list is a good one. Actually, tagging is a feature of individuals. What could be displayed is - say - just the 5 most popular tags that people use on a topic. Tags could be captured per topic as user1=tag1,tag2; user2=tag1,tag4 sets or the like. Actually, it is better to store that data out of band so that the topic revision does not change with each tagging action. Audit trail is probably unwanted for tagging. This sounds like it should be implemented as a new Plugin, such as FolksonomyPlugin or TagsPlugin.

This is timely, I will be attending next week's Mashup Camp. It would be cool to present something on a wiki + tag mashup.

  • I have a problem when you show just the 5 most popular tags. What happens if a user tags a topic and the tag is not in the top 5: his recent attribution is not shown and it looks like nothing has happened, and that tagging does not work. Why not show all tags? -- ArthurClemens - 19 Feb 2006
  • I do think an audit trail is needed, if only for restoring vandalism. -- ArthurClemens - 19 Feb 2006

-- PeterThoeny - 18 Feb 2006

Hmm, may be it is not a good idea to offer categories and tagging on twiki.org. People might get confused, e.g. "should I add a 'productivity' tag or a CategoryProductivity category?".

  • I don't see the confusion on the view page, because there only tags can be added directly. But if we offer both classification methods on the edit page there might be some confusion. But there is also room in the form to add a short explanation. -- ArthurClemens - 19 Feb 2006

-- PeterThoeny - 19 Feb 2006

First version of TagMePlugin is now implemented and installed for experimentation here on TWiki.org. Please provide feedback at TagMePluginDev.

-- PeterThoeny - 20 Feb 2006

We have lots of tagging activities on TWiki.org, currently 800 topics have 1276 tags applied, and counting.

Personally I find it very useful to access my preferred topics by tagging them. I added a "My tags" link to my personal leftbar, format:

  • [[TWiki.TagMeViewMyTags][<img src="%PUBURL%/%TWIKIWEB%/TWikiDocGraphics/stargold.gif" style="width:16px; height:16px; border:0px;" alt="Show me all my tags" /> My tags]].

This allows me to access my topics of interests in 3 clicks: 1 - click on My tags (in my personal sidebar), 2 - select tag (e.g. performance), 3 - select topic. You can reduce that to two clicks if you list your tags in your personal leftbar: %TAGME{ tpaction="showalltags" by="TWikiGuest" format="<a href=\"%SCRIPTURL%/view%SCRIPTSUFFIX%/TWiki/TagMeSearch?by=TWikiGuest;tag=$tag\" style=\"font-size:$size%\">$tag</a>" separator=", "  maxsize="140" }%, which (for example for WillNorris) expands to:

access_control, admin_tool, advocacy, ajax, attachments, authentication, automation, blogging, bugs, build, caching, cairo, calendar, changes, classification, comment, compatibility, competition, component, cookbook, cpan, cruft, css, dakar, database, date_time, delete_me, deployment, development, diagram, discussion, documentation, drawing, edinburgh, editing, email, export, extract_stuff, forms, graphing, images, import, information_design, installation, integration, interaction_design, internationalization, knowledge_base, latex, ldap, linking, localization, math, navigation, opinion, plugin, presentation, process, publish, quality, rating, rendering, scalability, scheduling, search, security, skin, spam, spelling, stale_content, statistics, syndication, syntax_highlighting, tables, tagging, tracker_apps, transformation, tree, twiki_application, twiki_brand, upgrade, usability, user_interface, users, version_control, visualization, web_services, windows, xml

-- PeterThoeny - 17 Mar 2006

So it's a month later. How about a progress report! For example, how many topics have been tagged? The tagcloud shows relative popularity but no actual numbers. (Perhaps the tool tip for a tag could show the number of uses of this tag?)

-- MeredithLesly - 02 Apr 2006

One month later: Currently 900 topics have 1463 tags applied, and counting.

-- PeterThoeny - 17 Apr 2006

Windows Vista has tagging capability: Users can apply keywords to every file in the system.

-- PeterThoeny - 17 Apr 2006

Three month later: Currently 1040 topics have 1762 tags applied, and counting. Topic in webs: Codev 568, Main 18, Plugins 330, Sandbox 7, Support 36, TWiki* 77.

-- PeterThoeny - 29 Jun 2006

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Topic revision: r36 - 2006-09-06 - PeterThoeny
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