Folksonomy - a Failure? Google Suggest - a Success!

It wasn’t the first time I heard that Folksonomy is a failure (I’m talking about my yesterday’s meeting). For those unknown to Folksonomy, “it is a user generated taxonomy used to categorize and retrieve Web pages, photographs, Web links and other web content using open ended labels called tags” (source : When they want to get little fancy on web, they say include tags, take annotations from people, that’s what collaboration and involving people is all about! When it comes to solution building, perhaps the first wreck which falls would be “tags” (lets leave annotations now, they are comments). Arguments like “Tags are good to have feature, but you can not rely upon them, they are unreliable”, “they are not quality stuff and actually, they are vague and may mis-classify content” etc are common. Just had some thoughts around them.

First, its should not be “obvious” to assume that tags added as content to web page improve search results (that’s what they assume). Tags, as they are, need rigorous analysis and management to support folksonomy supported content, including change in search algorithm for tag-based system.

Second, tags, in themselves are not full of quality, we need to make them so. Processing tags, conversions, finding spelling mistakes etc are common ways we can improve tag qualities. (I’d suggest not to get over fancy and talk about multi-lingual tags here). They need a good database, as most of time tags are pictorially represented as graphs, large graphs.

Third, we can not improve on content search unless we have the “analysis” part into picture. Tag is not “smart” in itself, however, it can convey some intelligence once its connected (related) to other tags. Most of time these relations are overlooked, though I think its this computation which brings value.

Google Suggest, perhaps, is the most successful (not in publicity but quality of results) among all folksonomy build in my view. I have always benefited from Google suggest in order to select my next key word I will use for search. Now, Google Suggest may not look directly a folksonomy example but it is. Search Keywords are the tags for search results. Thousands of people around world have been tagging different search results with their search keywords every second. Once Google correlated all of them, u can see the value.

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