Thursday, April 19, 2007

InfoWorld Editor Stuck in 2005

Welcome to 2007 InfoWorld Editor David Margulius! Via Scott Vine, it seems that David has just discovered the 'tagging-vs-ontology' debate. I voiced some opinions on folksonomies a while back, and will echo Scott's critique - these two forms of classification are NOT mutually exclusive. Both controlled vocabularies and tagging should be considered when trying to improve information access within the enterprise.

So before we run off and recommend that companies ditch their classification efforts, and Librarians, let's recap why tagging has 'issues' in the corporate setting:
  • Adoption Rates & Buy-in - When users are given the opportunity to self-classify documents or enter 'nothing', guess which way many will turn? Unfortunately, enterprise wide buy-in isn't as easy as conceptualizing within a magazine column.
  • Tagging has huge potential for abuse & spamming - even behind the firewall, users will put self interest first, and aren't always concerned if their co-workers can find their document later.
  • A complete lack of synonym and homonym control- On the web with millions of users, this may be good enough. But when an enterprise requires access to its information to operate, missing stuff here and there just isn't acceptable.
  • Tagging requires critical mass to work - The smaller the organization, the more users won't find what they are looking for. The result is that users will be forced to browse their co-worker's tags, rather than search on an enterprise wide basis.
  • Tagging often ignores the Long Tail - In the professional service industry, our selling proposition is our expertise. Niche bits of information are important. Ignoring the small stuff leads to knowledge gaps, and forces professionals to re-invent the wheel. Clients don't want to pay for that.

So here's the deal... Tagging is a great technology. Every corporate librarian out there will tell you that. And it works even better when teamed with a controlled vocabulary. But for Mr. Margulius to equate Librarians with one classification style over the other, and claim that we are a waste of money, is simply insulting. Librarians were examining the merits of folksonomies 2 years ago, and he's just getting into the game now?

Perhaps this is InfoWorld's new online strategy? If you were looking to linkbait a bunch of Librarian bloggers, well I guess you got me ... um ... no. I just put 'nofollow' on your link. No google juice for you Infoworld! Have a nice day.

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Blogger Scott said...

At the risk of mutual back slapping a very good and consise list of issues.

9:41 AM  

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