emergent vocabularies

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As I was showing del.icio.us to my students last night, I realized that it's an amazingly useful tool for information architects. I regularly tell my students that asking people is a generally bad way to find out what they want, or how they want it organized (and point them to Cory's Metacrap article for examples). But if you're trying to figure out what set of labels to use for a set of domain-specific content, and you don't have a multi-thousand dollar budget for studies and consultants, how do you create a usable, appropriate vocabulary?

Here's how. Add a site to your del.icio.us bookmarks, and then look to see who else has added it. What descriptive tags did they use for it? As an example, here are the current links to Metacrap in the del.icio.us system. I used the terms metadata and semweb. Other terms used include taxonomy, ontology, ia, humanFactor, and xml. That's a great start for thinking about how to make it part of a collection, and how to organize/label that collection.

It's also interesting to watch how people's tag collections grow and change. VirtualTraveler has started using a pseudo-hierarchical tagging system, by including a / character in some tags (e.g. ComputerHistory/Books, ComputerHistory/DesignReports).

Would the system benefit at all from a collaborative thesaurus, I wonder? As an optional rather than require tool? How hard would it be to implement that?

What a great sandbox...

Update: Just found an equally enthusiastic assessment of del.icio.us (through what else? somebody else's del.icio.us bookmarks....) on the Robin Good site:

And as rapidly learning and collaborating ants you can admire how fast this growing web of contributors learns and evolves without any top-down coordination.

Through delicious you can actually see patterns evolve over time as information miners learn rapidly how to select, reference, categorize and post information resources of their own interest.

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Over on Daring Fireball, John Gruber has a lengthy entry on why he doesn't particularly like, or want to use, trackback. In place of trackback, he's chosen to add a list of... Read More

Delicious from Preoccupations on January 10, 2004 6:02 PM

mamamusings (Liz Lawley) has some illuminating thoughts: As I was showing del.icio.us to my students last night, I realised that itǃ�s an amazingly useful tool for information architects. ... if youǃ�re trying to figure out what set of labels to Read More

Using del.icio.us with ecto from chaotic intransient prose bursts on March 14, 2004 11:05 PM

A short tutorial on using the del.icio.us feature of ecto. Read More

A short tutorial on using the del.icio.us feature of ecto. Read More

I shouldn't be quoting that much, but I guess you can forgive someone with a Read More



Just found your site and noticed you were talking about my section of delicious.


I think Delicious is an emergent taxonomy and will become an emergent thesaurs as people start to cross link to each others tags. However I think the tagging system will need to become richer if it is to become anything more than that.

The tagging system I am using is ny attempt to move things in that direction. It is not intended to be a hierachy but rather a vector tagging system. That is each tag relates two and only two concepts(Some of my tags are more traditional scalar tags - single concept only). Vector tags have the benefit of being building blocks. They can be assembled into structures. It tens of people used vector tags a structure could be built.

Thats the point of my tagging scheme. But it only makes sense if Joshua - the builder of Deliecios - nakes use of it. And he will only do that if others tag links in a similar way. Even then he may not use it. It's just an experiment really.

Also there is some support for the / Character in delicious, check out the entries for


The first contains all the entries of the second. Nice!


Thanks for the info...that's very cool about the support for the / character. I asked Joshua yesterday about support for hierarchical tags, and he cried. :) What I also want is info about people (I was _wondering_ who you were, for example!), and suggestions for how to tag something based on how others have tagged it, which would encourage that kind of collaborative structure building you're talking about.


Just follow the posted by link on this comment. Its a bit old but will give you a general idea.




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This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on January 6, 2004 12:49 PM.

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