SXSW Notes: Beyond Folksonomies – Knitting Tag Clouds for Grandma

I joined this session late on day one, Saturday 11th March, as I had to queue for 40 minutes to register. The crowds overwhlemed even the plentiful organisers!

The session‘s obvious premise was to examine how we move beyond the simple folksonomy / taxonomy debate and look at how tagging could and will impact the wider public. Other blog coverage to fill in the gaps is listed at the end… (thanks Technorati!)

Event page on SXSW Interactive 2006 site


Mary Hodder – CEO Dabble and
Liz , Rochester Institute of Technology, Corante contributor & visiting Microsoft Researcher)

As I came into the session, having missed the first 20 minutes, David Swedlow brought up the concept of the “attention tracker”

Mary Hodder brought to our attention the fact that she’s on the Attention Trust board (which I first heard about from Marc Canter at the Mash Up*  event in London in February – Marc is also speaking at Content 2.0 in June BTW!). She talked about their Attention Recorder – you voluntarily download it. She feels strongly that people shouldn’t have to give away the information it gathers.

The Attention Recorder (AR) is very interesting – and a new AR plug-in allows you to visualise what you do online (what you search for / what sites you visit).

She’s not a fan of automated tagging, but Hodder is creating a company called Dabble that allows you to bookmark videos online and save them (still in Beta) – there are over 10,000 videos saved by Beta group users so far.

There’s a big difference in the type of media that’s tagged so far, she revealed. Their video searches and bookmarks are tagged, and people don’t even use the video title to choose what to watch. The two things that matter to users on Dabble searching for content are
(1) the length of the video clip
(2) the tags.

The human input creates better information and text – the quality for non-automated tagging is much higher, Hodder extrapolated.

Swedlow noted that as James ‘Wisdom Of Cowds’ Suroweiki (more on James’ Sunday session soon!) says, if you can get people to give authentic information and answers that is very different from getting them to say what is expected.

Each of us is an expert filter (implicit and explicit tagging…) and mass authenticity allows another level of meaning to form on top of that. Implicit tagging is also about creating and maintaining context. Everyone is an aficionado of some sorts, so why can’t we tap into their expertise?

Liz Lawley interjected that most people do not use tagging-enabled sites (eg. Flickr, Technorati, Delicious).

On the last count there were 44 social bookmarking sites, she continued. We have to start integrating bookmarking and tagging into things we already use, and this is just starting to happen. Microsoft Vista is going to start to incorporate tagging into al lot of things.

How is it going to help teachers get stuff out to their pupils? One of the reasons Liz has started to use her Delicious (social bookmarks) is for her students as using it saves them writing down all the URLs for the class the next day.

The wisdom of crowds can be overstated Lawley reckoned – it’s god for some things but not for others. Sometimes I just want a particular subset, and she’s not just referring to friends, but to expert information filters…

People will do a lot of things that aren’t effortless every day if there’s a return or perceptible value for them, she insisted.

Swedlow then concurred that tagging also has to be experienced as useful.

A guy in the audience wondered if it’s an unspoken thing that when you tag, it’s like you’re also doing it for a community. Plus he liked the idea of being able to search the content of your bookmarked sites…

Liz Lawley countered that you need to have a lot more user scenarios. Of course there will be serendipitous uses that you can’t plan for but they also were – like Delicious – more commonly built to solve a problem for a reason.
Someone else asked what is the tag for the conference? Liz replied “SXSW”.

Another guy in the audience reasoned that folders are hierarchical but tags cross-reference (or are heterarchical as another blogger termed it). – You’re It! was mentioned. The idea is to build tags into what you use, but you don’t have to share it.

Someone in the audience said Apple has a taxonomy which is political. But (who spoke at the first B&I), on the contrary, has groups. And in Ann Arbor University a fan club formed in around a group and the record label they were signed to didn’t know what to do about the fan club…

Swedlow responded that groups do make a big difference but that we are entering a time where boundaries are fluid and ambiguous.

Hodder added that she has been working on a project called which was deeper, combining identity and tags, and if you publish through it you can build a Creative Commons licence into the object. We need, she stressed, much more usability from the beginning.

Other blogs of this session include:
Scott Hacker
Squidoo – SXSW Folksonomy session resources
Power Of Many – Cristian Crumlish’s SXSW session notes:


One response to “SXSW Notes: Beyond Folksonomies – Knitting Tag Clouds for Grandma

  1. Pingback: SXSW Interactive back on the radar « Beers & Innovation

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