Taxonomy driven folksonomy

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

Our collective ability to create web content far outpaces our ability to find and retrieve it in a timely manner. Though many organizations have adopted rules for classifying and categorizing content, web users continue to complain about poor usability and ineffective search.


There are two popular approaches, one traditional, the other emerging, for categorizing content:

A – A corporately constructed, top-down taxonomy forced upon employees

B – The bottom-up, grassroots approach of the folksonomy (a user directed taxonomy via social bookmarks or content tags {e.g. or YouTube tags)

There are of course pros and cons for both arguments. The major advantage to the corporate taxonomy is that it represents a single policy for all, presumably driven by experts that should know how to classify content. However, such an approach cannot take into account the full nomenclature and cultural nuances of an entire organization, and all of its teams, nationalities, and roles. However, user content tags (metadata) can be determined by anyone, but can be subjective, inconsistent, and often lack objectivity, or worse are flat-out wrong.



A user-generated “tag cloud”


Case in point: according to one study, 40% of Flickr tags and 28% of tags are flawed (Guy & Tonkin, 2006). Some of the more common tagging problems include:


  • Misspellings (e.g. library vs. library)
  • Subjective interpretation (e.g. Enterprise 2.0 vs. Web 2.0)
  • Compound words (e.g. enterpriseintranet)
  • Case & number (e.g. folksonomy versus Folksonomies)
  • Personal tags (e.g. content tags at the pure discretion of the user, whether relevant or not)
  • Inappropriate language (insert expletive or link to porn site)

Stephanie Lemieux of Earley & Associates summarizes the crux of the problem:

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn