Zigging and tagging

“It has always surprised me how little attention philosophers have paid to humour, since it is a more significant process of mind than reason. Reason can only sort out perceptions, but the humor process is involved in changing them.”
– Edward de Bono

The last presentation at KM Australia last night was from Gene Smith. This was one of my favourite types of presentation – wide-ranging, interesting, mind-expanding and minimal text on the slides.

The main topic was the future of information architecture. Among other things, Gene talked about the following:

  • Twitter search – compared to Google, this adds the power of mining conversations, as well as content.
  • Microformats – DOPPLR uses microformats to import your Twitter contacts. (Guess I’d better try this…)
  • Somebody during the afternoon – I think it was Gene – mentioned the Semantic Web in the same category as time machines: “not practical”.
  • Tagging – particularly social tagging (delicious, etc). He also mentioned ZigTag, which offers “tagging with semantic context.”

This last point again reminds me of my thoughts at a Patrick Lambe presentation a while ago. Patrick talked about taxonomies and folksonomies, but added that there are some tools that allow you to combine these. Build a taxonomy, but then allow the construction of folksonomies as well. Once you see how people tag content, you can use this to refine the formal taxonomy.

This concept can be illustrated with a very clear analogy. Imagine a schoolyard, where nice, regular concrete paths have been laid down between buildings, around the manicured lawns. What happens now? The students will wear their own paths across the lawns on the most direct lines between buildings.

What do the gardeners do to protect their lawns? Do they put a fence around the lawn, or install “keep of the grass” signs? The best idea would be to simply pave the new (and probably more efficient) tracks.


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