2006/01/31

AOL and Dojo

Several engineers(*) at AOL had a very interesting meeting with the Dojo guys last week.  One of the results is the announcement that AOL is hosting the Dojo toolkit on our content distribution network.  The reason this is great is because the major barrier to adoption of DHTML/Ajax/etc UIs is, honestly, the download times for the Javascript code; you only pay this once but it's a major concern.  The CDN helps enormously with this since it does automatic compression, caching, intelligent routing, proper browser bug workarounds, etc.  If enough people adopt this, it would be a win for everyone (only the first application to require a library module pays anything, the rest get it for 'free').

I hope we'll be able to do some more interesting things and help contribute to Dojo as well.

(*) OK, technically I'm a manager, but they let me wear the engineer hat sometimes.

2006/01/19

Another One on Tagging: Data on Folksonomies

This folksonomies article is good for the questions it raises, but alsofor the data it collects in one place -- lots of good statistics ondel.icio.us and flickr usage of tags in this paper:

Folksonomies: Tidying Up Tags?
"Thisarticle looks at what makes folksonomies work. The authors agree withthe premise that tags are no replacement for formal systems, but theysee this as being the core quality that makes folksonomy tagging souseful. The authors begin by looking at the issue of "sloppy tags", aproblem to which critics of folksonomies are keen to allude, and ask ifthere are ways the folksonomy community could offset such problems andcreate systems that are conducive to searching, sorting andclassifying. They then go on to question this "tidying up" approach andits underlying assumptions, highlighting issues surrounding removal oflow-quality, redundant or nonsense metadata, and the potential risks oftidying too neatly and thereby losing the very openness that has madefolksonomies so popular." Commentary by Marieke Guy and Emma Tonkin,UKOLN. [D-Lib Magazine]

(You gotta hand it to the old-school Digital Library people.)

2006/01/18

Why Tag?

One of the questions that keeps coming up in discussions about taggingis whether private tagging is useful and if so, how?  Is publictagging really the important application to keep in mind and if so,why?  By private tagging, I mean someone applying tags but notsharing them with anyone -- so they're useful for personal organizationbut not for sharing with others.

Empirical evidence suggests that tagging is most useful when public andshared.  But why, exactly?  Caterina Fake, in a panel atSyndicate, noted that people on Flickr get to "ride free" on top ofcompulsive categorizers.  I think this is certainly part of it,and maybe tagging is good occupational therapy too, but I have a gutfeel there's more to the story.

My fifteen month old son is an inveterate tagger.  His tag cloud looks something like this at the moment (somewhat elided):
airplane √°gua ana bird book bulldozer bus bye choo-choo-train dada dog down mama phone tractor truck up wow
...which I know because he tags things repeatedly and excitedly,especially when someone else is around.  And I think this is thekey point -- this is a natural behavior, and a social one.  (He'lltalk to himself, but it's really second best -- he wants to share hisview of the world with other people!)  And of course it'saccompanied by pointing -- the original hyperlink.

That's as far as I've gotten.  Fortunately, Rashmi Sinha, in A social analysis of tagging,does a great job of analyzing exactly how tagging facilitates socialinteractions.  Go read it.  Also, read her earlier cognitive analysis of tagging as well.  Both great forays into the "whys" of public tagging.

I think this all suggests that private tagging might be useful in thesame way that talking to yourself might be useful (yes, sometimes, butnot a primary use case).  More interesting is social-but-privatewhere you share with a limited number of people; this is more difficultto do well than either totally private or totally public; is itvaluable?  How?  When?