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Taxonomies, Folksonomies & Controlled Vocabularies

There is an enlightening discussion going on between Lou Rosenfeld, Clay Shirky and others on the utility of folksonomies as used by Flickr and, vs. subject-matter-expert developed taxonomies. As one of the commenters has pointed out, this is not an “either/or” issue. Certain applications where the scope of the content and users is bounded will benefit from the discipline of a carefully architected vocabulary. Other applications where the scope of either the content or the user community is less well-defined will either suffer or, more likely, the users will ignore the prescriptions (this is why the “semantic web”, if I understand it at all, is hopeless). The key issues are related: cost and adoption (cost is usually a function of adoption, not development), and I think they both would agree on this point. How these approaches might work together is trickier and well worth exploring. In any case, this debate provides a condensed lesson in many issues that most enterprise content managers have probably not thought through, but even those that have should check out this thread.


  1. UserDriven

    More on userdriven classification (tagging)

    “The advantage of folksonomies isn’t that they’re better than controlled vocabularies, it’s that they’re better than nothing, because controlled vocabularies are not extensible to the majority of cases where tagging is needed. Building, maintai…

  2. Johnnie Manzari

    Web 2.0: Bottom-up and Self-Organizing

    When I was working on the first release of Photoshop Album, one of the biggest areas of contention was around tags. It was clear that there was a benefit to building an organizational model around tags, but it was unclear…

  3. bankrupt artist v.3

    Doing CMS research and prefer not to reinvent the wheel?

    Saw a mention on CMS Wire today about The Gilbane Report releasing their findings in a new way; for free. They’ve been poking around CMS for the past 12 years and have been charging people to read their reports, but not any longer;
    The Gilbane R…

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