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Delivering: Tags and folksonomy (Part 5)

Delivering: Tags and folksonomy

One way forward is to look toward a more socially integrative intranet that by utilising social tools in its framework is able to provide ubiquitous localised tagging of content. What will this mean in practice and why will people tag?

To begin with it means by necessity user-generated content in the intranet. Unless users have the ability to generate their own content they will not tend to tag it. They might rate or comment on content, especially if either critical or keen consumers of it, or bookmark it if they need to save it, but users tend to only very infrequently tag other peoples’ content.
And to create content, requires in the main a socially based intranet in which ordinary users can generate, upload and tag their content. The tools to do this are the familiar raft of web 2.0 technologies, wikis, blogs, discussions forums and video.

Previous Post: The Promise of Folksonomy and the Intranet (Part 4)
Next Post:  Tagging in an enterprise social network (part 6)

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The Promise of Folksonomy and the Intranet (Part 4)

The Promise of Folksonomy and the Intranet

The promise of folksonomy and the intranet is a user-generated and responsive taxonomy providing ease of access to content and enhanced search. This is achieved by creating an ever growing pool of collectively bookmarked and tagged content and in leveraging this semantic knowledge into existing or planned intranet deployments.

The problem is how to do this and this problem is multi-fold:

i) How to get users to tag content and secondly, how to integrate this resource into both the intranet and most importantly into work processes and practice?
ii) Furthermore, whilst many types of enterprise social software incorporate tagging and or social bookmarking, the challenge remains how to ensure that this is widespread enough to have significance and relevant enough to have purpose.

iii) Clearly, any purported benefits of social knowledge lies in the numbers of people contributing: one or two experts might well be able to provide support and maintain a traditional taxonomic intranet, the same is less easy to sustain if there are just six keen amateurs tagging content.

iv) Therefore, if the tagging is made by a sizeable number of users, but this is localised into a small and self-sustained social network, any benefits are unlikely to extend much beyond that network.

In the next post I’ll muse on ways to get this delivered.

Previous Post:  Taxonomies and Folksonomies in the Intranet (Part 3)

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Featured Articles Film

The Vanished World of Gloves Part 2

If you stumbled on this page 1st, please check out Part 1 before you watch this.

The Vanished World of Gloves (Zanikly svet rukavic) Jirí Barta,1982 [Part 2/2] Silent

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The Vanished World of Gloves Part 1

The Vanished World of Gloves (Zanikly svet rukavic) Jirí Barta,1982 [Part 1/2] Silent

Someone has posted this on YouTube. I’m so fond of this film and used to use it with my film students to introduce them to genre theory. Czechs, love em.

Part 2>>>

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Folksonomy: part 3

Definitions & Musings

ii) Folksonomy

Can folksonomy provide a way forward from this dilemma of structure and change? The first thing to make clear is folksonomy did not arise as a solution to the problems of intranet taxonomy but as by-product of the social nature of tagging. The term was coined by Thomas Vander Wal [i and he uses it to describe the act of tagging and bookmarking in a social environment. By this he is referring to the behaviours seen in informally referencing via tags in social sites such as blogs or in social network sites such as the bookmark sharing site or the photo sharing site Flickr. Vander Wal believes that “folksonomy is tagging that works”. And he posits three tenets of a folksonomy:

1)  tag,

2) object being tagged,


3) identity,

are core to disambiguation of tag terms and provide for a rich understanding of the object being tagged.
The concept reaches deep into the collective promise of the social web as articulated into the terms ‘The Long Tail’ or the ‘Wisdom of Crowds’. It is nuanced to the individual yet collective in its articulation, shared universally by those that use a social network yet consumed individually by the person using that network.

Central to its meaning is a sense of many individuals attributing meaning to online artefacts, be they web pages bookmarked, blogs written, or photos shared and that collected assemblage of knowledge equalling and surpassing the sum all of the small acts of giving meaning via a tag.

This collective knowledge of the ‘people’ forms the folk-sonomy, thus provides an alternate form and structure of meaning to that of the taxonomy. It is thin and democratic, cheap and immediate, flexible and fluid.

The big question here for us is, what can this offer the intranet and its users?

Previous Post: Taxonomies and Folksonomies in the Intranet 2

Next Post: The Promise of Folksonomy and the Intranet (Part 4)

Folksonomy Coinage and Definition Feb 2007

Case Study Enterprise 2.0 Featured Articles Intranet

UBM Case Study shows cash benefits of social media

Great case study on UBM – United Business Media from Forrester on UBM’s use of Enterprise Social media / Social Business software: Case Study: United Business Media Taps Social Computing To Boost Collaboration And Savings

UBM use Jive SBS as their social media platform and after a couple of roadbumps demonstrated tangible hard cash benefits of social media and of employee satisfaction. In the latter the site has become the de facto place to find information:

Today the UBM community directory is the best and most up-to-date central source of information available to employees within the disparate operating companies and is widely used by the companies’ various HR teams
(See my previous blogs talking about the end of the trad intranet).
On the $65 billion question – this stuff is generating money in terms of increased innovation and driving down costs by pooling of buying resources:
Some of the more tangible measures have been hard savings where companies have
joined together to negotiate better terms from suppliers and a rough estimate that 7% to 10% of usage has driven new innovation in the business leading to top- or bottom-line growth.
Be good to get hard ROI figures on this but this study is significant. In sum, social software in the enterprise is transforming the intranet, the way people work and is generating money. We’re going to see a lot more of these types of studies. When it happens it will be what Moore has called the  ‘big whoosh’ – the sound when everyone scrambles to catch up.
Featured Articles Intranet

Taxonomies: part 2

Definitions & Musings

i) Taxonomy

From the Greek taxis and nomos to order and arrange under specific laws, taxonomy attempts to arrange an order of things under scientific rules. It is centralised and expert driven and attempts to ultimately define an Ontology, a categorical view of reality. It is also hierarchical and presents a structure of meaning that at first sight can easily be translated to an intranet architecture.

Take for example the classical taxonomy developed by Linnaeus who envisaged biological species as a hierarchical taxonomy with the broadest categorisation at the top, the domain, through to kingdoms, phyla, classes, ordersfamiliesgenera and species. This basic conceptual categorisation works well, it seems, when constructing an intranet page, where the broadest category is navigated down to the more specific entity as an elegant staircase of meaning. Thus we might start off with a global intranet which narrows down through geographical divisions through to more local levels. This is then mirrored into global departments and their more specific functionalities, and in same pattern, also to technologies or products sold, or to the sales and marketing divisions of the enterprise.

Anyone who has constructed such an edifice soon finds out that this neat and seemingly scientific structure does not adequately map the realities and complexities of even the most orthodox and hierarchical business organisations. In a more matrix corporation the problems are magnified exponentially.

Take for example an attempt to construct a taxonomy based on departments. We might construct the intranet in closely aligned fashion with the CEO at the helm and with sub-sites for all the various department in the business, HR, Finance, Legal, Sales, Marketing, Technologies etc. All is well and good until interplay and overlap present themselves, for example a geographical arrangement of employee laws re-aggregates the HR site content; Marketing’s need to market specific technologies within particular market sectors; or for Sales to distribute goods via specific distribution and reseller markets. At some point a conflict emerges with the system of classification, one that needs to be translated into a practical solution of an intranet architecture.

The solutions to this are as varied as there are intranets, central governance and codification of content, federalised intranet cohering or not to a central hub, complete laissez fair arrangements evolving over time and all in varying different evolving combinations. The technologies underpinning these structures further compounds the issues with a content management system (CMS) present or not and the CMS either enabling or inhibiting the successful taxonomical structure. The CMS might define the entire intranet or coexist with alternate file stores such as LiveLink/Open Text, SharePoint or NT Folders.

The net result can, unless very carefully managed, be chaotic and even if carefully managed, not produce the results desired by the users. And here we come to the nub of the problem; any formal structure of either meaning or intranet architecture is an attempt to construct a reality that changes over time. Furthermore, not only does it change, it is also interpreted by people in different ways that also change over time. The net result of that is the familiar cry that ‘search is broken’ and that the user cannot find anything – the intranet is out of date or broken.

note to self, I need to brush up once more, on Foucualt’s the ‘Order of Things‘ thank you ST.

Previous Post: Taxonomies and Folksonomies in the Intranet 1

Next Post:  Taxonomies and Folksonomies in the Intranet 3

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Taxonomies and Folksonomies in the Intranet: part 1

A series of posts…


Celestial Empire of benevolent Knowledge
The ubiquitous nature of the taxonomies that define our world is such that is often only when we stop back and either begin the process of naming, categorising; or to consider who it works and comes into being that the issues it presents become clear. Who is to name what and under what authority, how is that thing to then relate to the names and categorisations of other things, how are we to share this knowledge are just some of the questions that beset us.

When contrasting the work of the taxonomist with the produce of the folksonomist it is perhaps too easy to forget that each works towards an approximation and that alternate modes of categorisation and naming might be possible and equally valid. Not that this must lead us to seemingly absurd taxonomies such as that provided by the novelist Jorge Luis Borges who presents us with

“a certain Chinese encyclopaedia entitled ‘Celestial Empire of benevolent Knowledge’: In its remote pages it is written that the animals are divided into: (a) belonging to the emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (l) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies.”[i]

As intranet managers, or knowledge management practitioners, we have a job to do; we need to provide a structure of information that our users can both navigate through and find what they need within. If either is difficult, time-consuming or even unpleasant we will soon find out about it via either the metrics we use to evaluate our intranets of from simple user feedback.

And in this we have a choice, between the formal information architecture of the expert, the Taxonomy and that of the collective amateurs, the users of the system, the Folksonomy. The question and one I hope to answer here is can we have a hybrid structure between the two, is it possible to square the circle of the expert and the user? In doing so I shall look at how the social web (social media / web 2.0) informs this discussion and how the folksonomy generated by social bookmarks and tagging can help search and support the more formal structures of an intranet taxonomy.

Next Post: Taxonomies and Folksonomies in the Intranet 2

[i] “The Analytical Language Of John Wilkins” By Jorge Luis Borges

Translated from the Spanish ‘El idioma analítico de John Wilkins’ by Lilia Graciela Vázquez; edited by Jan Frederik Solem with assistance from Bjørn Are Davidsen and Rolf Andersen. A translation by Ruth L. C. Simms can be found in Jorge Luis Borges, ‘Other inquisitions 1937-1952’ (University of Texas Press, 1993)

Enterprise 2.0 Featured Articles

Action Streams across the Enterprise(s)

<braindump> I like the idea of Action Streams. Here Adrian Chan posits a connectedness between social apps:

Action streams would not only share status/activity update meta-data but also permit updates to function as actions. For example, an invitation update posted in twitter could be accepted in Buzz. The vision for action streams thus involves a distributed and decentralized ecosystem of coupled action posts, rendered by third party stream clients and within participating social networks.

Wouldn’t it be good if we saw this in the enterprise too? Vendors like Jive and Newsgator are already adding social layers onto SharePoint. Why doesn’t this go across the board?  If I was a CIO worth his or her salt I’d want a fluid social architecture where Salesforce Chatter could synch up with EMC’s offerings (Documentum) and SharePoint. What’s more I’d want it to cross beyond the enterprise, joining up lines of business and different businesses.

This is the joy of e-mail, a simple mail transport protocol. Do we have anything like this at present?  Will Chatter chatter withYammer and allow tweets into Twitter?

If not, or until then, we’re not going to really see the “distributed and decentralized ecosystem” inside and across, flowing over the firewall that the more nimble enterprises will discover as a means to competitive and collaborational advantage. The way forward without could see more monolithic structures, ones that will not be able to transform and evolve to the sorts of changes these very technologies are unleashing.