Tagback: Joining the Folksonomy Fray

Volume 8, Issue 26; 20 Feb 2005; last modified 08 Oct 2010

I've added provisions for folksonomy tags and plan to adopt them as a replacement for threads.

The web has been buzzing with discussion about ontologies recently, and especially about folksonomies. Since the very beginning of this blog, I've been keeping track of metadata about each entry, including how each post fits into my own personal taxonomy.

A personal taxonomy (aka folksonomy) is all well and good. You can use it, for example, to see the topics index on this site. But real value is only going to come from it if other people start to use it. Realistically, the chances of other folks using my ontology for their posts is remote at best.

But with Technorati now building tag-based indexes of blogs, Flickr photographs, and del.icio.us and furl bookmarks, the possibility of hooking into a shared ontology seems much greater.

To that end, I've reworked the taxonomy of these pages to support tags, per the Technorati specification. I haven't removed my own taxonomy, just provided an additional mechanism for public tagging.

Following Shelley Powerslead, I'm also using adding unique “tagback” tags for specific threads of discussion. This will (very quickly, I think) replace the poorly maintained threading system that I have been using.

The biggest problem with the threading system is that only I can update the threads. With the folksonomy tags, anyone can add their own essay to the thread or use del.icio.us or furl to add someone else's. Only time will tell how well this system stands up to use and abuse.

On The Benefits of the Semantic Web

As regular readers may have already guessed, I've abandoned my Palm device in favor of my new Sidekick. The hardest part of this transition (beyond some of the irksome shortcomings of the device) is rebuilding all of the server-side tools that I used to use to manage my personal information.

One of the aspects I'm struggling with is the whole RDF thing. I'm strongly tempted to just use Plain Old XML. Frankly, it'd be faster and somewhat easier to do it that way.

At least at first. It's much less clear that POX would be the best long term answer for this particular application.

That point was driven home dramatically when I set out to update this site to use tags. I accomplished the entire task by adding a few new bits of metadata in the taxonomy and the topics files, by adding a single rule to the set of inferences used by cwm to build the metadata for this site, and by updating one template in the stylesheet that builds the HTML.

It's hard to imagine that it would have been just that easy if I'd only used POX and custom scripts to build this site. RDF's ability to aggregate disparate sources of information and to be extended by inference shows promise once again.

(In case you go looking for that rule, you won't find it anymore. After I had it all working, I decided to do it a little bit differently, changing the way topics and tags are processed so that they're generated dynamically by the server instead of being baked into the HTML. That required moving things around a little bit and made the inference unnecessary. But the RDF is still used to build the runtime taxonomy file and it's still just a simple matter of adding a few new RDF statements to build new tags and new taxonomies.)


I'm confused--you said that you were adding unique tagback tags to your postings, and then at the bottom your posting says that its tagback tag is bbintroducingtagback, which was Shelley's tagback tag 0 (i.e. the one for her post that announced her idea). Shouldn't you have made up a new one for this posting, e.g. nwfolksonomyfray, to give more focus to the query results (considering that a url like http://technorati.com/tag/mytagname is ultimately a query) that find nodes of the thread? Or is there something I missed? Bob

—Posted by Bob DuCharme on 21 Feb 2005 @ 02:15 UTC #

Hi Bob. What I said was that I was adding unique tags for specific threads of discussion. I thought this essay really belonged in the thread with Shelley's bbintroducingtagback so that's where I put it.

If you look in other essays, for example the ones about the WITW web service, you'll see some tags that are uniquely mine. You'll also find some essays that don't have unique tags. I don't have a good handle on when to create them and when not too just yet.

—Posted by Norman Walsh on 21 Feb 2005 @ 02:44 UTC #

OK I'll admit I don't get it.

I can understand that a common tagging system can be used to track similar items (URLS, photos, blog posts, whatever) across different repositories. This is a good thing, consider me a convert.

However, if I understand it, what we're proposing here is to apply tags that are unique to a given 'thread' of discussion. In other words, you know that I am referring to a specific post on your blog because I use exactly the same tag. You want the tag to be unique, to disambiguate my reference to the post from a reference elsewhere. Hence the "nwn-" prefix, right?

Isn't this a namespace problem? How long before we get a prefix collision between your nwn- and someone else's nwn-? At that point don't we just revert to domain names as prefixes? And by that stage aren't we just re-inventing URIs?

Another thing: I thought one of the reasons why trackbacks were on the wane was because of abuse by spammers. If so how do tagbacks solve this problem?

Almost certainly I need to read more about this...

—Posted by Alastair on 21 Feb 2005 @ 11:07 UTC #

That's a good solution normand I thinking in doing the same thing

—Posted by geoeffect on 03 Aug 2005 @ 08:50 UTC #