Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Folksonomies Scare Me

The other day I made the big switch: from Furl to I'd been having problems with the Furl It! button working in my browser. Whenever I clicked it, my computer essentially locked up on me as the Furl window loaded. Sometimes it took quite a while to load. I couldn't stand waiting, so I made the jump.

I have to admit though that I'm a little apprehensive about using whole tagging thing scares me. David Weinberger states my feelings perfectly in the introduction to his book Everything is Miscellaneous (published on today):

"That's the big change the rise of the miscellaneous brings. We're adding massive amounts of metadata -- tags, links, playlists, even taxonomies -- to all of the resources available on the web without prior planning and coordination, making a huge mess."

And this is how I feel when I tag the pages I add to'm just creating a big mess. Now I'm by no means a novice when it comes to tagging--I love Flickr, Slideshare, and other Web 2.0 sites & tag all of the photos, slideshows, etc. that I put on them. But for some reason I have no problem finding the right words to use to tag a photo; but tagging something like an article called Teen Brain Exposed just throws me for a loop. I'm reading the article because I want to learn more about how the kinds of kids I'm teaching work (actually how they will work--I teach fifth grade). Below is my thinking process (and why I get so confused):
  • education seems like an appropriate tag because I want to use the article to improve my teaching. But then it will be lumped in with Web pages that may pertain to assessment or classroom management. The concepts don't seem related at all and if I tag everything I come across that relate to teaching with education then the number of entries under that tag will grow out control.
  • teens is too general. I need something more specific, but teenbrain doesn't seem to work either. Besides, I'd like to keep my tags limited to a certain amount (no idea how many) and teenbrain seems like one I'll never use again. So how about brain?
  • digitalkids works for me since I like to lump articles about today's kids under this category, but it really isn't article about digital kids.
So you get the point. Keep in mind that I'm typically multitasking while I'm doing this so I'm usually in a hurry to get the site into

I can't finish without once again quoting Weinberger. He actually goes on to say that the huge mess is helpful:

"...that mess actually enhances the available ways we can find and make sense of what's available to us. All that unplanned metadata lets us pull pieces together, and then it helps us contextualize and understand those pieces."
Perhaps with a little more thought and experience, this will happen for me and I'll be able to choose just the right tags for a particular Website.

Any helpful tips on tagging? Let me know in the comments.

Check out: | Digital Cameras in the Classroom | Education in a Flat World

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Maggie Verster said...
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Maggie Verster said...

Good points. I am in the process of having my maths community volunteeer website incorporated into our national education portal After having a look at their taxonomy I wanted to run away. The teachers always complain that they cannot find what they are looking for in the portal when they search, and I have come to the conclusion that teachers search differently to other human beings....So having a folksonomy, although scary, makes eminent sense.... (still does not help me in structuring my taxonomy...:)