Presentation Notes and Links

1. Ice Breaker

external image 207504114_3d5b1ff06f_m.jpg
Photo by Chris Heur

I'm attempting to translate an icebreaker I've done offline to an online context. It might be a total flop.

  • Pick three words or tags that describe your work focus that you are most passionate about
  • Something you would love to have a conversation about it
  • Type those three words into the chat
  • Take a minute to scan the chat transcript (full screen of that window)
  • Find someone based on their keyword to have a private chat or I might assign you
  • Have a conversation
  • Ask them to share an important web resources on that topic

2. What is Tagging?

Tags are labels or keywords that can be applied to just about anything on the Internet.

Here are links to the examples I shared in the presentation, using the tag “sharpie.”

For an excellent primer on tagging, see Andy Carvin’s PBS LearningNow essay.

3. What is Social Bookmarking?

For the Webinar and reflection exercise, we’re going to focus on ways to use tags to share information via social booking services.

Social bookmarking is the practice of saving bookmarks to a public web site and describing them with tags. You register with a social bookmarking site, typically a free service, which lets you store bookmarks, add tags of your choice, and designate your individual bookmarks as public or private. You can search for resources by keyword, person, or popularity and see the public bookmarks, tags, and classification schemes that users have created and saved. They typically give you a little tool called a “bookmarklet” that is on your browser toolbar. When you get to a web site you like, you click on the tool, and it saves the bookmark into the web service.

Definition in Teaching Hacks

7 Things You Should Know About Social Bookmarking published by Educause is an excellent introduction to social bookmarking.

There are many social bookmarking services available on the web. The ones most often mentioned by members of the nonprofit technology community include this short list:

For the Webinar, we're going to use, which was purchased by Yahoo, because it is a good application to start exploring social bookmarking. It has a critical mass of users, is fairly easy to use, and it is free. You’ll want to read the Getting Started Guide as a first step and review other help documents as needed.

4. Why Social Bookmarking?

As part of your work, you may need to manage web resources for research, to prepare curriculum, or for any number of reasons. In addition, you probably have to share information with co-workers and colleagues – not only within your institutions walls, but beyond.

"Bookmarks are our junk drawers. Only hyper organized people put them into folders, clean out dead links, or click around the site to figure out why they were bookmarked in the first place."
- Laura Gordon-Murname

  • Limited Flexibility
  • Limited Descriptive Information
  • Limited Mobility
  • Limited Access

5. Why can't I just use a search engine?

It isn’t an either or. Think of the use of social bookmarking and tagging as an extension to or enhancement to search.
Some social book marking advocates claim that tagging will enhance search. Some go as far as saying that tagging will replace search.

So think of social bookmarking as an extension or a prelude to search. I find social bookmarking very useful at the beginning of my research process because it helps think about the topics and different aspects of the topic.

How Search Works (simplistic)

  • Search looks for your keywords in an index
  • Pulls pages out that match your query
  • Ranks based out – links, where keywords show up, etc
  • No matter how many pages they index or how quickly they bring back results, they can't put those results into context.
  • They can find a specific word, but they can't figure out what the word means.

Tagging adds that layer of human meaning and context.

Tagging: Picking Up Where Search Leaves Off

6. Why Tagging Is Catching On

Rashmi's Sinha Theory of Tagging

Tagging is the first step of a two-step categorization cognitive process. The first step is easy. You pick some terms to remember the item. The second step is making decisions about selecting a category. This creates some cognitive overload/stress when it comes to digital items.

Our brains can handle making category decisions, but doing this with digital items poses some problems. We don't just categorize our email into folders or web resources on a bookmark list, we hope to optimize its future "findability." We need to consider not just the most likely category, but also where we are most likely to look for the item at the time of finding. This is what complicates the categorization process and adds stress.
We need to make choices related to the overall categorical scheme. Is my scheme becoming unbalanced? Do I have too many items in one category, and too few in another? If I put everything in one category, I will never be able to find anything? Do I need a new category for this item? Does it even fit into this scheme?

Most software systems assume that you are done with an item once you categorize it. It's taken away from you. Start thinking of all this and you land into what Rashimi calls "post activation analysis paralysis". A state of fear that you will make the wrong decision. And the item will be lost forever - it will land in some rabbit hole and disappear from your view and attention.
Her finding: The beauty of tagging is that it taps into an existing cognitive process without adding add much cognitive cost.

7. The Social Aspect of Tagging Is Important

And there is the social aspect. Think about having 24/7 access to your co-workers, bosses or a subject matter expert’s bookmarks?
With many people tagging, the social aspect exposes us to the intelligence of the group, which may add other tags, making the resource even more findable.

But interesting effect: The tags of many users are available. A tag is a label, but it's also a stream. If we search on a tag, “dog”, what additional tags appear and at what frequency? Who else is tagging dog resources? What resources do they have in their collection? Are they an expert?

Rashimi Sinha - A Social Analysis of Tagging

8. Summary of Pros/Cons

Pros: "Tagging is Wonderful"

  • Accessibility, mobility, and meaning
  • Provide a layer of knowledge/context
  • You can see what the group thinks
  • It’s easy and simple to do
  • Extension of search

Cons: "Tagging is Crap"
  • Lack of semantic distinction can lead to inappropriate connections between items.
  • Different people may use drastically different terms to describe the same concept.
  • A few other pitfalls to tagging and social bookmarking services
  • Sometimes there is a lack of critical mass of people tagging resources in social bookmarking systems on non techie topics
  • If you want to find something highly specific, like a restaurant phone number or their menu, you’re better off using search
  • Can be messy
  • Doesn’t replace a controlled vocabulary that may be used in a taxonomy.

9. Folksonomy and Taxonomy

The F-Word

Folksonomy is the “vocabulary” or collection of tags that results from personal free tagging of web resources for one’s own use or the aggregate collection of tags that results from a group tagging project. The act of tagging or retagging is done by the person consuming the information. The value is that people are using their own words to describe the items and to provide meaning which may come from an understanding of the content. People are no so much categorizing but providing a means to connect items (placing hooks) to provide their meaning in their own understanding. Those patterns are called “folksonomies” -- it's a play on the word “taxonomies.”

"Folksonomies reveal how the public is making sense of things, not just how expert cataloguers think we ought to be thinking." – David Weinberger

A folksonomy is often represented visually – as a tag cloud

Collabulary, Not Folksonomy

The T-Word

Taxonomy is the practice and science of classification. A taxonomy might also be a simple organization of objects into groups, or even an alphabetical list. A library catalog, for example, assumes that for any new book, its logical place already exists within the system, even before the book was published.

According to Clay Shirky, one of the biggest problems with categorizing things in advance is that it forces the categorizers to take on two jobs that have historically been quite hard: mind reading, and fortune telling. It forces categorizers to guess what their users are thinking, and to make predictions about the future.

Clay Shirky, Ontology is Overrated: Categories, Links, and Tags

David Weinberger uses the metaphor of “Trees” for taxonomies and classification schemes -- the categories are specified ahead of time. Users are presented with tree-like structures for navigation that lets us climb up and down branches to get to the leaf we're looking for. Tags are a break from previous ways of categorizing. Tagging creates piles of leaves in the hope that someone will figure out ways of putting them to use — perhaps by hanging them on trees, but perhaps creating other useful ways of sorting, categorizing and arranging them.

"Tagging systems are possible only if people are motivated to do more of the work themselves, for individual and/or social reasons. They are necessarily sloppy systems, so if it's crucial to find each and every object that has to do with, say, apples, tagging won't work. But for an inexpensive, easy way of using the wisdom of the crowd to make resources visible and sortable, there's nothing like tags." David Weinberger

Also see for opposing viewpoint:
Elaine Peterson, Beneath the Metadata: Some Philosophical Problems with Folksonomy.
Gavin Clabaugh, Return to the Beneath the Valley of Metadata

10. Content Analysis of Tagging in Practice by Nonprofit Organizations

The visual comes from a content analysis of examples at the Netsquared Site in preparation for a presentation on nonprofit use of tagging.

Type 1: Personal Use
  • Some people who work in nonprofits are using tagging as a tool to keep their resource information findable and have discovered the social aspect.
  • Stealth adoption

Example Kevin Gamble's tags and blog publishing

Personal Benefits of Tagging

  • Capture
  • Hook
  • Annotate
  • Refind
  • Privacy

Type 2: Organizational or Enterprise Level: Internal Collaboration

A team or small group of people who work in nonprofits will use tagging to reduce email clutter and share resources that may not be formally published on organization's web site or for tracking trends. To share with others, someone does a written summary.

Some have taken this a step further – with using RSS feeds to publish their collaboratively tagged resources to a web site.

Some nonprofits are using this as a method for first draft of a taxonomy based on how people in the organization describe resources
Experiment with RSS publishing options prior to shifting to a CMS based on tagging.

3 Steps:
1. Discuss Tagging Policy 2. Set up an accounts and install bookmarklets and show how
3. Start bookmarking

Looking at the social side
  • Share
  • Point
  • Collaborate
  • Filter
  • Trusted Groups

Type 3: Community Tagging Projects

This can be a community of practice or a loosely coupled community.

Event or Project Tags
Most common use in conferences - typically one or two tagging
See Horizons Project for example of a more complex set of tags used

Art Museums are experimenting with tagging systems that let visitors tag art works as a way to encourage engagement with the object – the STEVE project.

CoP individual members are aggregating their delicious account feeds with specific tags onto a simple web page.
Npk4Dev project

Adhoc Communities
NpTech Tagging Community by Marnie Webb and Beth Kanter
Interview with Steve Cliff, Six Tips for Community Tagging Projects
1 Pick a compelling theme
2. Connect with natural behavior
3. Pick your tags carefully
4. Display the results
5. Go beyond your known community

Links in the Story of the NpTech Tag Community
Early History
NpTech Meta Feed Version 1 - 2007
User Stats for NpTech: here and here
NpTech Tag Summaries
NpTech Community Site
Lessons Learned

12. Reflection Exercise

Our reflection exercise is an experiment with "pivot browsing" which is a feature of most tagging systems. It is defined as the ability to reorient the page view by clicking on tags or user names and it provides a lightweight mechanism to navigate an bookmark collection. When everything (tag, username, number of people who have bookmarked an item) is a link, you can use any of those links to look around you. You can change direction at any moment.

It is less structured and more free form than browsing traditional hierarchies. Rashmi Sinha uses this metaphor for pivot browsing: walking in the forests or some other open space, stopping to smell the pine, taking a break. You get the lay of the land as you walk around. The point is not just the destination, the point is the journey itself.

Rashimi Sinha's article on pivot browsing
ACMQUEUE coined the term Pivot Browsing in this article