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Monday, June 16, 2008

A little Taxonomy with your Folksonomy?



Who am I?

Well, when I use wordle to take a look at the tags I use in delicious, I see a lot about who I am.

(to see the larger image of this picture, look at this Java image in the Wordle Gallery.)

Wordle takes a word cloud of any text that you either paste in or your delicious tags. The larger the word, the more you use it.

So, obviously, education is something that is important to me. Other things: teaching, web 2.0, blogging, tools, free, innovation, flat classroom, horizon project, wow2.... all of these give a snapshot of the things that are most important to me.

Interestingly, although these tags come from delicious, it wasn't until I began using diigo that true consistency emerged as I would like to see it. The ability to have standard tags (so I don't accidentally misspell, etc.) has helped me.

I have been accused before of wanting to "standardize the Internet."

Nothing could be further from the truth!

I don't want to standardize -- folksonomy is great. However, the problem is consistency when it is wanted.

When do I use standard or consistent tags?
  1. When I want to Do something

    The tag "education" sends a link to an autopost in diigo to my blog. This is where my morning post with links comes from every morning. It is automated!

  2. When I want to share something

    The education group on diigo has a standard tag dictionary -- that way if you wanted to just follow the links under a certain tag like education_new app - you could follow the RSS feed for a subset of the data. These little subsets are a gold mine. For example, I have tags for researcher_thoughtleader that are intended for those staying abreast of educational thought.

    We are all beginning to experience a little RSS overload and are going to need to get smarter and more efficient about it. For this reason, I organized some of my own tagging. Mainly because if you look at the bottom of my tag list, you'll see a lot of redundancy mostly because of misspellings or because I forgot my own tag that I wanted to use.

  3. When I want to automate something

    I do this in my own bookmarks - which I am using to build current wiki pages for science, math, english teachers, etc. that I don't have to update because I used a consistent tag of my own. We used this on the horizon project to share research with the students that was embedded on the wiki via the rss feed from delicious for that bookmark.

  4. When I want to find something from a group of people

    (like my students.) I am moving to the point where every assignment has a "tag" -- so when I need to find the artifact, I can easily search for the tag and find it whether it is a picture, video, blog post, or anything. So, for example, all of my students had to upload a photo to the Horizon Ning for the student summit, the tag was whs_studentsummit, so I could just go to the page that aggregated all of the tagged files together and get them in one place. Sometimes the biggest challenge with grading in this environment is finding what you are to grade. Having an assignment TAG saves you a lot of time.
So, no, I do not advocate abolishing folksonomy -- it is very useful, particularly for those who are looking at trends that are emerging. For those who watch trends, folksonomy is great.

But for teachers or those sharing links with others for PD, using a standard or consistent tag with a purpose is a real time saver and necessity. Using a standard or consistent tag for oneself and with others with a common purpose, like the horizon project or Advocates for Digital Citizenship, Safety, and Success, it can be a real helper.

Will taxonomy mess up folksonomy?

Of course, the argument is that these consistent tags or "standard tags" will mess up the folksonomy of the Internet and in some respects, I could see that to be true.

However, from a practical standpoint, I really need a way to aggregate things in one place in order to give my students options AND allow them to join in projects with 250 other students or so without getting lost by their teacher. (I have them tag everything they do with WHS as one tag so I can find their work easily.)

And I don't know how much value it is when one time I tag something free and another time free_tools -- those things really belong together.

The problem is always when one IMPOSES something on another and that would never be the case.

For me it is a matter of utility and usefulness. I have a job to do and need to be more efficient. Using a standard tag (or consistent tag) in this case really helps me save time and spend my time with students instead of looking for a needle in a Ningstack or Wikistack!

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