With the recent acquisition of del.icio.us by our friends at Yahoo it is safe to say that tagging is here to stay. As you all know tag-mania has swept the web. Services such as del.icio.us, technorati, flickr, and youtube have popularized this new form of “organization.” Although the increase in metadata has proven to be effective in some cases, things are definitely starting to get messy. How many of you are getting a bit overwhelmed with multiple “tagspaces”, each with hundreds of tags. The problem is that tags simply let you know that a concept “is related” to a document, photo, or video. However they do not tell you “how” this tag is related to a document. Peter Merholtz of Adaptive path seems to agree that tagging is not the ultimate answer stating:
tagging systems are not a panacea; they present many potential drawbacks. With no one controlling the vocabulary, users develop multiple terms for identical concepts. For example, if you want to find all references to
on Del.icio.us, you’ll have to look through nyc, newyork, and newyorkcity. New York City
Perhaps more importantly is the fact that, at present, tags have no relationship to one another. This leads to serious information overload and confusion as the global tagspace explodes. At Clearspring, we believe that tagging is just the beginning. Soon there will be a convergence between formal ontologies and the emerging tagspace. Folks like Clay Shirky have argued that the tagspace is a replacement for formal ontologies. I disagree. I think that both efforts fuel one another. As Martin Dugage so nicely pointed out:
They [ontologies] give a community of people the ability to develop a common meta-classification model that sits on top of existing ones and bridges them together. An ontology can define “nyc”, “newyork” and “newyorkcity” as synonyms, define “Time Square” as included in “nyc” etc. In a sense, ontologies allow communities to build a common language from the ground up, which is essential in knowledge creating environment. Top-down norms can be introduced later when language can be “industrialized” for larger communities.
In order to meet the demands of an increasingly information hungry society, it will be necessary for Web2.0ers and SemWebbers join forces to tackle these types of problems. There are those of us that have already crossed over to join the ranks of this emerging community. I think you will see more soon.