OTHER PLACES OF INTEREST
Danny Flamberg's Blog
Danny has been marketing for a while, and his articles and work reflect great understanding of data driven marketing.
Eric Peterson the Demystifier
Eric gets metrics, analytics, interactive, and the real world. His advice is worth taking...
Geeking with Greg
Greg Linden created Amazon's recommendation system, so imagine what can write about...
Ned Batchelder's Blog
Ned just finds and writes interesting things. I don't know how he does it.
R at LoyaltyMatrix
Jim Porzak tells of his real-life use of R for marketing analysis.
HOW DID YOU GET HERE?
Update: Lots of traffic to this link from some very nice blogs and del.ico.us users… so, note that it rests in context with my complete series (so far) on why I dislike tagging, including:
Now, back to your regularly scheduled reading…
Clay Shirky is a smart guy… but its like he’s never actually used his ideas in practice. Each time he tries to defend them, he opens himself up for more criticism. But because he’s cool, and pretty darn nice, its hard to hold it against him. However, tagging is one place where we very much diverge.
For example, read this email interview with him and Jon Lebkowsky by Adam Weinroth, founder of EasyJournal. Its a good read, whether you like tags or not.
For example, here’s a quote:
“Tags put post-industrial strength tools in the hands of ordinary users, allowing them to manage the increasingly large corpus of things they’ve already found once, allowing them to re-find them easily.”
Ok… but that’s not how things work in reality. In reality, our understanding of things changes and so do the terms we use to describe them. How do I solve that in this open system? Do I have to go back and change all my tags? What about other people’s tags? Do I have to keep in mind all the variations on tags that reflect people’s different understanding of the topics?
The social connected model implies that the connections are the important part, so that all you need is one tag, one key, to flow from place to place and discover all you need to know. But the only people who appear to have time to do that are folks like Clay Shirky. The rest of us need to have information sorted and organized since we actually have better things to do than re-digest it. This “flow” is one way to access the information, but why do Clay and the rest think it should be the only way?
What tagging does is attempt to recreate the flow of discovery. That’s fine… but what taxonomy does is recreate the structure of knowledge that you’ve already discovered. Sometimes, I like flowing around and stumbling on things. And sometimes, that’s a real pita. More often than not, the tag approach involves lots of stumbling around and sidetracks.
We’ve all laughed at people in the dark, fumbling aroudn for things, knowing that if they turn left, they trip, and if they turn right, they fall on the old couch. That darkness is what I feel everytime I try to use a tagging approach to learn something. It requires me to not only try to understand what words I should use, but also what terms others would use.
Its like the Family Feud (game show in the US in the 70s, still kicking around here). You have to think not of what you might say to a question, you have to guess what the survey of US citizens might say in answer to a question. And that’s really a distraction… if you are trying to just answer the damn question. Why should I have to figure out what terms someone else would use to describe this stuff to find it?
Or, his mention of the DMS IV-R and its coding schemes. Funny enough, the reason it was invented (4 versions ago) was to solve this problem: everyone used their own term to describe things, and so no-one knew what anyone else was talking about. Then, groups formed to try to use the same terms, but then they didn’t want to use the terms of the other groups, so divisions in knowledge formed. Finally, a group of smart folks suggested that the way out of this random mix of terms and divides was to formally lay out a vocabulary.
Clay feels that it is difficult to enforce a shared vocab. Yes, it is. Many valuable things are hard to do. Otherwise, you wind up with a bunch of random tags, walled gardens, and the state of psychiatry in 1951: a mess.
Lots more to complain about, but the big issue appears to be this: Clay and the taggers don’t like the enforced scheme of a single path, an imposed hierarchy, the idea that knowledge has a location in whatever dimensions. They would rather a scheme which has information being used in whatever way someone thinks it should be, via tags which reflect the different dimensions that information could be used.
And that’s all fine and good, but its good only for certain ways of using the information. That is, if I am interested in seeing, for example, lots of different ways information can be linked, tags make sense. But to assume that this is the best way to the exclusion of all others, to believe that tagging subsumes other access methods, is blind.
Again, Clay Shirky is a smart guy… He was smart when I met him 10 years ago, and he’s even smarter now… but I wonder how often he re-accesses knowledge the way he describes in the interview. I suspect he enjoys using tags as a way to see new angles on knowledge he is holding forefront, but tagging will turn out to flop at knoweldge re-access… Well, until someone formalizes the tag set for that aspect of information and it turns out to look a whole lot like a taxonomy. Watch and see.
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