Folksonomy – social classification
January 25, 2012
A folksonomy is a form of online classification which organizes web content so a specific item can be easily located. Social networking has become huge in the web industry and folksonomy uses that to its advantage. It categorizes items such as a photo or song by collecting the users input when they tag it. If a photo of a house appears, one person might tag it “bungalow”, where someone else would tag it “residence”. If a user searches for a bungalow, the picture of the house should appear (based on the item’s popularity) and the same if another user searches for residence.
Folksonomy has presence in many websites, including Flicker, del.icio.us, and Flagsurf. It was named by Thomas Vander Wal, an information architect from the United States. Just like Melvil Dewey created the Dewey Decimal System which revolutionized the categorization of books, Folksonomy seems to be the next revolutionary system for organizing web content.
There are some good and bad aspects of folksonomy. Ultimately, it allows the public to decide how best to organize an item, but it can run into a few problems. A user may use a tag to classify an item which may not be what someone else would classify the item as; therefore it may pop up in a category it possibly shouldn’t. Another problem could be the lack of information in a single tag. If a user searched for a “Bush”, the result could either be the last American president, or an actual bush. A user may label an image of a computer a “PC”, which will not come up if another user searches for “computer”. Finally, someone can miss-tag their item if they want it to appear in an incorrect category to fool the system, or to make a joke. For example, someone can tag Canada as “third world country” or even tag a politician as “corrupt”.