Is a narrow folksonomy really a folksonomy?
In a narrow folksonomy users can only tag their own contributions…Flickr is like this, but of late it has allowed others to also tag each others content (only if the creator of the item allows it), this is more inline with a broad folksonomy like del.icio.us…this was stated in section 2.1.3 of this paper.
Do both emerge a vocabulary?
del.icio.us does…everyone tagging the same item surely emerges a folksonomy.
If you can only tag your own stuff (narrow folksonomy), this is still user tagging, but the emergence factor isn’t designed into the system.
In del.icio.us you can look at a URL history page and see all the different tags people have applied to that item, these are called common tags. You can also see all the tags one person has applied to a bookmark (kind of a persononomy…he!he!)
The point is that when you tag an item, you can see all other tags already used and you may choose to apply one, or make up your own…over time you will see that a dominant tag has emerged for that item.
This also presses further, eg. just say the item in question is www.bloglines.com…then when you add another similar item like www.rojo.com, you may use the same tags.
So now a tag is emerging for not just one item, but for similar types of items, or a group of items.
And then, after a while you may go back to your collection and see how your tags compare with others for an item, and change them to help evolve the social vocabulary.
Whereas in a narrow folksonomy (like Flickr) it isn’t like this, if you are browsing Flickr and feel you want to bookmark someone elses item, you can’t unless the owner allows you…but then the purpose of Flickr is different than del.icio.us, as the content is more often user created/owned.
Also if you browse the web and decide to bookmark a page, if that page is already in del.icio.us it will suggest tags that people have already used…Flickr doesn’t work like this because each item in Flickr has it’s own permalink from the Flickr domain, so the only way you can add someone elses item to your own collection is if you are browsing within Flickr itself (and also only if the person has freed the item for others to tag).
A narrow folksonomy is only emergent if you look at an item and its tag/s that someone has added to the system, and you know you have a similar item, so you apply the same tag…or you are about to add your item but you search the system first to see if there is a similar item, if you find one you may apply the same tag/s to your item.
In this respect you are examining the vocabulary and viewing what items are inside these tags, in doing so you may use the same tags for your items.
eg. if you notice the tag “beach” has more photo’s with sand in it than the tag “sea”, you might decide to tag your item with the tag “beach” since it has sand in it.
Then when someone browses the tag “beach” at the general homepage they will see your item as you thought it sat nicely amongst the items of other users within this same tag.
To emerge a vocabulary this way is such a manual process that people won’t bother…and people tend to have created the bookmarks in Flickr, and since they moreso own a bookmark, it is more personal, and since it’s more person, the tags are a high chance of being personal.
In a narrow folksonomy a tag or index term doesn’t emerge for the one item…the only thing it does is allow users to tag items instead of having to choose from a fixed set, or letting a central body do the indexing full stop.
So it seems this design prevents an emerging vocabulary…so is it really a folksonomy (a narrow folksonomy)?
Does user tagging in a social setting instantly mean it is a type of folksonomy?…something I was picked up on once.
That is, if Flickr didn’t have the option at all for others to tag each others content, would this be a folksonomy at all or just straight user tagging in a social setting?
Better still, is user tagging of just your own items within a social system, a folksonomy?
If not, does this mean a vocabulary will not emerge?
To be classed a folksonomy, does the system have to allow global tagging (all users can tag the same item)?
(this is encouraged with suggested tags at the time of bookmarking, and common tags when looking at the URL history of a bookmark, and being able to view other user spaces)
All these seem to be the same question being asked in different ways.
In a system like Flickr the purpose really isn’t to emerge a vocabulary, but I suppose it isn’t in del.icio.us either for that matter.
It comes down to the purpose of the systems, even if Flickr had all the features of del.icio.us, a vocabulary wouldn’t emerge as people aren’t really that interested in bookmarking the same items.
It would be interesting to see the overlap of items across Flickr user spaces…we know in del.icio.us how many people have the identical item, eg. saved by 24 other people…can we know this in Flickr.
What is really interesting is that you can bookmark an item/page from Flickr in del.icio.us (it even shows a thumbnail).
Now I wonder if the Flickr URL’s can be isolated or sectioned in del.icio.us someway…actually del.icio.us does allow you to see just images from within the system via the system filetype.
Here is the part of del.icio.us that is an image folksonomy
…so there you have it, this part of del.icio.us could be studied to see how a vocabulary emerges for an image folksonomy (it would be good if all image URL’s had a thumbnail).
NOTE: to bookmark an image in del.icio.us you are just bookmarking a URL as usual, whereas in Flickr you can host an image that gives it its own unique URL, so Flickr is not only a social bookmarking service, but it is a image URL hosting service…I think this point alone makes a great difference in comparing the way people use both these systems.
This paper, “Position Paper, Tagging, Taxonomy, Flickr, Article, ToRead”, does a great job at analysing the designs, comparisons, purposes, etc of tagging systems….covering points like; system design and attributes, user incentives, tag usage, vocabulary formation, and a case study on Flickr.
[ADDED: In my Is a Reading List folksonomy appropriate? post I mentioned that others tagging your items may be deterimental over time as the content may change…for example if there was a Reading List folksonomy and everyone could tag the same item, just say the owner of that item decided to change the contents (eg. change the feeds)…the owner could then inturn edit the tags to suit the altered content, but others who have tagged this same item may not know this has even occurred, in turn their tags are outdated/wrong/misleading/noise.]