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Structure of Collaborative Tagging

Structure of Collaborative Tagging

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Published by Jagadesh Subash

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Published by: Jagadesh Subash on Feb 26, 2011
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 Structure of Collaborative Tagging
   
1
    
S
TRUCTURE OF
C
OLLABORATIVE
T
AGGING
 
By Jagadesh Subash
 
 Structure of Collaborative Tagging
   
2
   
The Structure of Collaborative Tagging Systems
Collaborative tagging describes the process by which many users add metadata in the form ofkeywords to shared content. Marking content with descriptive terms, also called keywords or tags, is a common way of organizing content for future navigation, filtering, or search. Thoughorganizing electronic content this way is not new, a collaborative form of this process, whichhas been given the name tagging by its proponents, is gaining popularity on the web.Marking content with descriptive terms, also called keywords or tags, is a common way oforganizing content for future navigation, filtering, or search. Though organizing electroniccontent this way is not new, a collaborative form of this process, which has been given thename tagging by its proponents, is gaining popularity on the web.Document repositories or digital libraries often allow documents in their collections to beorganized by assigned keywords. However, traditionally such categorizing or indexing is either performed by an authority, such as a librarian, or else derived from the material provided bythe authors of the documents (Rowley 1995). In contrast, collaborative tagging is the practiceof allowing anyone especially consumers to attach keywords or tags to content. Collaborativetagging is most useful when there is nobody in the librarian role or there is simply too muchcontent for a single authority to classify; both of these traits are true of the web, wherecollaborative tagging has grown popular.A number of now-prominent web sites feature collaborative tagging. Typically, such sites allowusers to publicly tag and share content, so that they cannot only categorize link information for themselves, they can browse the information categorized by others.There are therefore at once both personal and public aspects to collaborative tagging systems.In some sites, collaborative tagging is also known as folksonomy, short for folk taxonomy;Del.icio.us, allows for the collaborative tagging of shared website bookmarks. Yahoo·s My Webdoes this as well, and Cite Like and Connotea do the same for references to academicpublications. Some services allow users to tag, but only content they own, for example, Flickr for photographs and Technorati for weblog posts.We can analyze the structure of collaborative tagging systems as well as their dynamicalaspects. Specifically, through the study of the collaborative tagging system Delicious, we candiscover regularities in user activity, tag frequencies, kinds of tags used and burst of popularity inbookmarking, as well as a remarkable stability in the relative proportions of tags within a givenURL. We can define a dynamical model of collaborative tagging that predicts these stablepatterns and relates them to imitation and shared knowledge. Tagging is fundamentally aboutsense making. Sense making is a process in which information is categorized and labeled and,critically, through which meaning emerges (Weick, Sutcliffe & Obstfeld forthcoming). The natureof collaborative tagging systems including whether coherent categorization schemes canemerge from unsupervised tagging by users can be analyzed.
 
 Structure of Collaborative Tagging
   
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   We examine whether the distribution of the frequency of use of tags for popular sites with along history (many tags and many users) can be described by a power law distribution, oftencharacteristic of what are considered complex systems.Recall that basic levels are related to the way in which humans interact with the items at thoselevels (Tanaka & Taylor 1991); when one interacts with the outside world, one makes sense ofthe things one encounters by categorizing them and ascribing meaning to them.Sense making is also influenced by social factors (Weick et al. forthcoming). Because manyexperiences are shared with others and may be nearly universal within a culture or community,similar ways of organizing and sense making do result; after all, societies are able to collectivelyorganize knowledge and coordinate action.Del.icio.us, or Delicious, is a collaborative tagging system for web bookmarks that its creator,Joshua Schechter, calls a social bookmarks manager. As might be expected, users vary greatlyin the frequency and nature of their Delicious use.Users· tag lists grow over time, as they discover new interests and add new tags to categorizeand describe them. Tags may exhibit very different growth rates, however, reflecting how useinterests develop and change over time.Tagging, as discussed above, is an act of organizing through labeling, a way of making sense ofmany discrete, varied items according to their meaning. By looking at those tags, we canexamine what kinds of distinctions are important to taggers. We can produce a generativemodel of collaborative tagging in order to understand the basic dynamics behind tagging,including how a power law distribution of tags could arise. We can empirically examine thetagging history of sites in order to determine how this distribution arises over time and todetermine the patterns prior to a stable distribution. Lastly, by focusing on the high-frequencytags of a site where the distribution of tags is a stabilized power law. We can show how tag co-occurrence networks for a sample domain of tags can be used to analyze the meaning ofparticular tags given their relationship to other tags.There is some discussion among the Delicious tagging community concerning whether a tag isproperly considered to be descriptive of the object/thing itself, or descriptive of a category intowhich the thing/object falls (Coates 2005). However, we see no contradiction between thesetwo kinds of tag. When a category is defined as circumscribing many objects with a particular property, we naturally consider each of those objects to have that property. In our estimation,the scope of the tag ² whether it describes an object or a group of objects ² is less interestingthan the function of a tag, or what kind of information it conveys and how it is used. Here, weidentify several functions tags perform for bookmarks.1. Identifying what (or who) it is about. Overwhelmingly, tags identify the topics of bookmarkeditems. These items include common nouns of many levels of specificity, as well as many proper nouns, in the case of content discussing people or organizations.

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