Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Classification is hard

A few weeks ago, I wrote My jobs makes me do it. I'd been thinking about the pain of user created taxonomies and the ways in which social tools such as del.icio.us could help alleviate it (I've since seen this referred to as folksonomy). Today, (through del.icio.us amusingly enough), I stumbled across The Cognitive Cost of Classification. A snippet:

So if facets aren’t the silver bullet, what is? Well, to have active participation in classification requires that the benefits outweigh the necessary investment. Most KM programs work on this by including punishments and incentives, like tying participation to performance reviews. That carrot and stick approach still doesn’t address the systemic imbalance inherent in structured classification systems, whether faceted or hierarchical. What we need is a way to make the system work better itself before resorting to extrinsic motivation.

One partial solution could be social classification. Services like Flickr and del.icio.us allow ad hoc tags added to entries. Popular tags get promoted to the top. Gene Smith has a good post about social classification and folksonomies – classification schemes based on this folk categorization, and Stewart Butterfield points out that ad hoc tags take less effort to create than mapping content into a structured scheme. Ad hoc tagging acts as a low-investment bridge between personal classification and shared classification.
Related: Collaborative knowledge gardening

(tip o' the hat to del.icio.us/Preoccupations and del.icio.us/jonstahl)