Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Time to get serious about the Nonprofit Technology Taxonomy Experiment

So, this all started in a thread on the Omidyar Network. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it a few times before.

But I'd like to get serious about it. Or as serious as you can get about this type of a project.

First, the rationale. Here's the deal, I believe in authoritative taxonomies. However, creating them is very, very hard. It takes a lot of time and then, when the work is done, the users can't find anything because it isn't in their language. Granted, the users language is less precise and accurate but what, exactly, is the point? To describe and find. I'm thinking of this purely pragmatically.

And folksonomies, as they are dubbed, also have problems. The exact opposite. They are chaotic and sprawling. They tend to meander all over the place. And the users stretch and bend the words well past their original intended meaning -- if anyone can figure out what that is.

But why does it have to be an either or proposition? Can't you start with folksonomy? That's rhetorical by the way. I think you can start with a folksonomy and that's what we're proposing.

Spend some time, using del.icio.us, gathering and tagging relavant bookmarks. We'll (and that we is a bit nebulous; if you are interested in being a part just chime in on the Omidyar thread) review the bookmarks that have been added and try to get two pieces of information: what are people interested in bookmarking and gathering? The sense is always that people are interested in lists of software. But are they? Are they maybe interested in nonprofit adoption stories or news articles or fundraising information or...? And we'll also look at the words people use to describe these bookmarks, the tags.

So, more precisely how does this work? Sign up for a del.icio.us account. Put the bookmarklets in your link bar. And then, when you are on a site that has some link to nonprofit technology -- and you decide whether you think it does or not, there are no rules -- bookmark it. Apply the tag "nptech". That's going to allow us find everyone's bookmarks. After that, use whatever tag you'd like.

If you want to track what other folks are bookmarking, you can view the collection for the nptech. You can subscribe to the RSS feed on that page.

Where is this going? I don't know. But it feels like a good idea and I'm going to push it along a little bit.

What use is there in a nonprofit taxonomy? Well, it could be used to provide keyword metadata for websites to make it possible to more easily and more precisely and find and pull together content. It could be used to build it into databases of various pieces of information. And, I hope anyway, it can be used for a few things that I can't even think of right now.

(in: nonprofit_technology_taxonomy, experiment, nptech)