thagoo – meta-search for social bookmark sites

So this kind of seems like a good idea, a site which allows you to search tags across a large number of social bookmarking sites, but somehow I expect I’ll use it as much as I use “meta-search” engines, which is to say, not at all.

If I knew I was getting the best stuff from all the sites, and it dealt well with duplication, then maybe. But my experience, which seems borne out by how hard it is to get people to shift off of their habitual search techniques, is that familiarity with the search experience (both interface and reliability of the results, and in the case of social bookmarking, the extent of your affinity or ability to control your sources) trumps the greater span of these ‘meta-‘ approaches. – SWL

Tagging and Metadata for Social Information Organization Workshop

Last week during the “digital content strategy” roundtable I sat on at UBC, one of the things I urged was for the librarians there to take tagging seriously (to which I actually got a partially affirmative response). I am not sure if this is a case of “be careful what you wish for” but not long after urging this I see notice of this upcoming workshop, titled “Tagging and Metadata for Social Information Organization” being held at my old stomping ground in Banff. Assuming for a second that it can be studied without having all the dynamism that makes it work sucked out of it, here’s hoping I don’t have to make pleas like that for too many more years. – SWL

Blackboard’s Social Bookmarking Service

This looks to be a new social bookmarking service launched by Blackboard. The difference from existing services like Well, not much, as far as I can tell, except that it is aimed solely at Blackboard and WebCT customers (non-customers can search the site and find links, but not contribute). So why would you use this? Presumably Blackboard had enough existing customers ask them for a social bookmarking facility that was integrated with their Blackboard accounts which they could “safely” use with their students.

I am sure they will get demonized for this. Me, sure I’d love to see systems that instead of creating additional silos and enclaves allowed users to move in an authenticated form from the institution’s systems to ones out on the general web, you know, have my cake and eat it too. But the customers (that’s you, right) have got to demand this, not expect vendors whose whole business model is ‘lock in’ to simply just provide it. And the sad fact of the matter is that none of the internet-wide identity plays seem really up to this. Yet. This is one place where Open Source could make a huge difference, as introducing new features there does not have to be limited solely by the focus on profits. You’d think. Yet for some reason I still can’t get a simple OpenID plugin for WordPress. The pundits are right, identity will be big in 2007. But without the move of some major market shaker towards one of the ‘open’ approaches, don’t be surprised if it’s a continuation of the silo arms race between the bigs (read Google, Yahoo and MSN, not Blackboard) instead of a signle sign on paradise that results. – SWL

UPDATE: Blackboard have updated their blog with more details on this initiative, some of which is reminiscent of the EduGlu conversation. Does this mean we can sue them now 😉

Group-specific Tagclouds in Academic Portals

So the other gem for me from Bryan’s Educause article was the above Gnosh from Allegheny College. Actually, I’m not sure that it was this tool that excited so much as the idea it inspired.

One of the things that has always bugged me about broad tagclouds like the one on or flickr is that, well, they are really broad – there is nothing connecting all of the words appearing in the tagcloud other than that they were used by any user of one of these services, and the userbases on these services are totally heterogenous. So sure, I can see generally what the popular tags for all flickr or users are, but why should I care? What I do care about is what the tags used in my particular community are.

How many departments webpages or college portals provide search boxes to Google (or even their own sets of pages)? Lots, right? In both cases, the users using these search boxes have lots more in common than the entire set of users across flickr or, and in fact in cases like portals we typically can get real specific about group memberships and affinities. So if instead of passing their searches directly through to the search engines we first capture locally what the terms they were using, all of a sudden we can build tagclouds of search terms that are locally relevant to that community of users.

So as someone in the Faculty of Science taking this specific Biology course, I might come to my campus portal and beside my personalized search box see a tagcloud of terms that other people in the Faculty of Science had recently used (including my professors). Sort of like displaying the attention of my particular affinity group, and potentially opening up interesting terms I may not have thought to search on.

Probably not very 2.0’ish, and likely someone will scream ‘oh the invasion of privacy’ (though nobody is forcing you to use this search interface) but what I like about the idea is that it is imminently doable right now with almost no new tech – whether it be this gnosh piece or one of the other tag cloud pieces emerging out there, the only other piece would just be a small script that wrote the search term to a database table before passing it on to whatever search engine you were using (that could be configurable). Someone please tell me if this already all exists and I’m just being dense before I go off and spend the little time I have free to using my terrible development skills to hack this together, please….

(And as an afterthought – why can’t I see all of the tags used by myself and people I list as friends in flickr – or can I? how about all of the tags used by members of the same group? Maybe this is something that is already being done through the API?) – SWL

i d e a n t: Tag Literacy

I haven’t been doing a lot of ‘me too’ blogging of late (e.g. highlighting what other bloggers have written) but I thought this post deserved a mention, in part because I’m not sure if Ideant is as widely read as it should be. the piece is a worthwhile read for the folksonomies crowd. I like the term “distributed classification systems” – I’ve been using the term ‘dynamic taxonmies’ as my Furl category for such articles, but this term I thinks works better. I don’t have a lot of time for the term ‘folksonomies’ but at the end of the day, it’s hard to argue with a meme. – SWL

Center for the Study of Digital Libraries

I know the “professionals” who work on search, taxonomies, the semantic web and the like will all know about this resource, but many who are interested in topics like “folksonomies” could do worse than spend a bit of time reading some of the papers published in the CSDL’s online library of publications. If you are interested in these kinds of topics, be prepared to set aside many hours for what you find, (and also to turn on your ‘academic publications’ bullsh*t filter – god how I detest some of the conventions of academic writing, much as I understand why they exist). – SWL

Using Emergent Classification as a Starting (Not End) Point

From elearningpost comes mention of this useful article by Peter Merholz (some may remember him from ‘peterme‘ days, one of my earliest regular blog reads).

D’Arcy, King and I had been trading emails a few weeks back on the value of emergent classifications systems like those seen in Flickr for use in learning object repositories. Clearly, the idea is getting a bit of play, at least within the blogosphere.

What troubled me was that some of the current executions seemed a little bit like a baby/bathwater thing – yes, emergent classification systems are interesting and reflect actual users’ language usage, but they are also problematic – in being flattened, they do not have the depth (and the corresponding teaching ability) that hierarchical taxononmies can offer their users, and are also plagued with some of the problems Merholz points to. I mean, have you ever actually tried to find something you know should be there but didn’t know the classification for, (as opposed to just serendipidously browsing), in an flattened keyword system?

Instead, I think Merholz describes better than I did in my emails to D’Arcy and King what I think we should be looking towards – using ’emergent’ temrs as the basis for creating connections between terms users actually use, as the basis for continual refinement of more complicated, less flattened, taxonomies.

How would this actually work – at the very least I think it could show up in things like ‘type ahead’ functionality that tries to complete the term you are entering based on previous ’emergenet’ terms, or else asking the user to confirm whether they were using a term in one sense or another after they have submitted their choice. – SWL