I have a tags related idea that periodically comes back to my mind. Yesterday I had a chat with Peter Van Dijck about it.
Folksonomies are a very widespread concept today and also a few big magazines have understood their revolutionary approach and value.
What I’m asking to myself is: “Since a year ago, which evolution has emerged? Which new ideas are people working on to improve and empower social distributed classification?”
Before explaining which new features I’m thinking of, I would like to explain why do we need an evolution of tags at all.
I love tags. I really love, as an user, having a way to add a simple powerful metadata layer to my data without having to adopt a centralized hierarchical schema proposed by someone else.
But tags, as we now experience them, don’t satisfy me! They are messy and their widespread adoption is making them also more messy.
Take a look to popular tags’ page on Del.icio.us. How far is this from a hierarchical structure or a nice faceted strategy? Maybe too much. Too much because it’s not easy to extract a mental model out of this stuff and if you cannot use your tags, they will soon loose their power.
Yes we could add an arbitrary structure and semantic to create a better and more powerful UI over these tag clouds, but the rule #1 about folksonomies is: “leave your users free“. Your users act on a personal basis but the aggregation of their mental associations is like a live organism. The structure emerges bottom up by an implicit, quite magical, consensus.
Are you sure that is not possibile to have a better browsing interface without imposing an arbitrary (so limited, restricting, not scalable, biased…) structure?
I’m not sure so I’m here to propose a different more powerful yet not restricting approach.