The Community Speaks

ginger by twoblueday
These three posts run the gamut from exuberance to wonder to doubt to reconciliation:

A Breakthrough In Taxonomy?:
So Much For Taxonomies:
Taxonomies Again — What Behavior Do We Want?:
[Via A Journey In Social Media]

They describe the process of creating taxonomies for a group of communities, an attempt to create some order. The very rapid path this took, from the excitement of a brand new idea, its implementation and then the very rapid feedback all demonstrate the power of Web 2.0. Life moves faster.

The problem here is probably a very old one. Some people feel better with a described space, using tags that mean specific things. The tags define the space. Others like the space to define the tags. There will always be a conflict here, between those who want an orderly desktop and those who prefer an unorganized one, especially if both types are represented in the community.

Neither view has a monopoly on wisdom. As brought out here, it is operational the difference between a search and a browse. Tags make searches much easier and allows people to find the exact information they want. The path to the information is sharply defined.

Browsers like to take a less defined path to the information. They like little cul-de-sacs and interesting dead ends. The surprise of new spaces is innervating for them.

One group will always find what they are looking for. The other will be surprised at the novel things they happen upon.

The approach described here was not satisfactory to the users, they let people know and the leaders of the taxonomy project quickly tried to reel it back in and find figure out what to do. They pulled back and asked “What question are we trying to answer?”

They understood that the problem was really getting new users on board as quickly as possible. Here a taxonomy would help them get started. But there are other ways to help newbies that would not disrupt the established users. Now they can try to fix the real problem.

Web 2.0 approaches allowed them to reach this conclusion in just a few days, rather than months, something that happened in the Web 1.0 world.

We tried this at Immunex, with defined tags being used for research projects. The Bioinformatic people spent months putting together the applications to allow tags to be attached to research projects. They finally rolled them out and they were a failure.

The problem was that the users could not define the tags. They were created by some unknown person. So what happens when a new project did not have an appropriate tag? Do you try and use something close, even though it might corrupt the system? Do you leave it blank, subverting the entire purpose? How do new tags get added? Who decides that they should be?

The tags never really got fully utilized. Research moved too fast to rely totally on pre-defined tags. Different people would categorize the same project differently. Without flexibility, too many projects would just get tagged with ‘Other’ negating the whole purpose.

A useful system has to be respectful of the users. It has to be malleable enough to have both structure and flexibility. It would also encourage browsing as easily as it does searching. Not easy things to do. But EMC will get to it faster by using a Web 2.0 approach.

Technorati Tags: , ,