The Case Against Folksonomies
I have been thinking about metadata lately, especially after the discussion about Social Metadata Application at the Covid conference. Sort of tangentially my thoughts have been about folksonomies. When people apply metadata to some kind of record, like hashtags to posts on Instagram and Twitter, they are applying metadata. I think folksonomic terms are valid, but need to be normalized by a metadata professional so that all the relevant information can be linked together. One plural creates a new term and makes the records associated with the singular version of the hashtag inaccessible.
When I saw Guillermo Galdamez’s session on Folksonomies, I was interested in hearing what he had to say.
One thing Galdamez says is that organizing vocabularies around tasks and types of users allows us to provide greater value to the content we provide. This assumes a corporate structure, but I think the same would be true for tools such as Instagram, if it were possible for Information Professionals to take control of the hashtags there.
He also states that relying on folksonomies increases the users cognitive burden. Searchers have to think up relevant terms before they can begin to find materials they seek. if they don’t know anything about the subject they won’t know what terms to apply to a search. On the other side, people adding content to a KMS or CMS have to think up terms that apply to their content. They may be an expert so may have no problem, but they may not. Having valid terms from which to choose helps get content into the system faster.
Eventually, there are so many terms that express the same concept that someone will have to clean up the folksonomy. It makes sense to create a taxonomy at the beginning of the process and provide the terms for users. I am also a fan of allow folksonomic terms to provide input for the taxonomy. I think such a practice can enrich a vocabulary.
Galdamez made his case in less than 5 minutes, which I thought was great. It is really nice to have shorter programs