Tags, Wiki and Folksonomy

Last edited by HackArt
Fri, 08 Feb 2008 05:12 UTC [diff]

What is tagging

I'd like to share with you some thoughts on the possibility of integrating a tagging system into WikkaWiki.

Tagging is a simple way of labelling nodes and building a basic category system.

Tagging (aka Folksonomy or Social bookmarking) is becoming one of the most pervasive practices in the field of social software. Tags allow users to categorize content: categories emerge from single users' labelling of URLs. Tags offer also a smart (distributed) ranking system: URLs that receive more times the same tag are likely to emerge as the most relevant and authoritative sources for the topic associated to the tag (an idea similar to the PR strategy adopted by Google). Web services building categories out of users' tags include del.icio.us (the first service which introduced social tagging), Technorati, Simpy, Jots, Flickr (tagging applied to photographs), CiteULike (tagging applied to scientific literature).

An example of folksonomy web-service

Look at this example of technorati's page for the tag: wiki or just choose one of these tags.

Why tagging

The interest of tagging is twofold.
  1. On the one hand, tags can be used internally as an alternative to categories: they help organize content by topic in a simple and intuitive way.
  2. On the other hand, tags can be used to post labelled content to external web services.

The second aspect deserves some attention. It is quite common for bloggers to tag their posts, so that web services like technorati can categorize them by topic. It might be interesting to add such a feature to wikis as well.

Tagging: From Blogs to Wikis

Addressing JavaWoman's concern (see below), why should a Wiki need a tagging system, I see two main reasons:

First, Wikis -- at least those dedicated to the general public -- are often structured as collections of nodes dealing with single topics; the Wikipedia is probably the most known example. A WikiPage is often a thematic page that is linked from a hub or category page. Given this one-topic/one-page nature of most Wikis it seems natural to consider tagging as an interesting way of describing wiki content. Internally, hubs can be built automatically by grouping pages that use the same tag. But, most important, tagged pages can be published on external web services (see below). JavaWoman argues that such services are tailored to blogs, not to wikis. Only partially true: blikis - see below - can already be used to broadcast content to such web services. Moreover, the fact that wiki-centered services to aggregate content (like recentchanges) are not common is not a good argument not to invent them :)

Second, Wiki engines can actually be used to power Blogs and the two technologies are likely to merge in the future. Here's a nice quote on the hybrid nature of Wikis with respect to blogs:
The more I think about it, the clearer it is to me that Blogs and Wikis are really instances of the same meta-level idea. They should be unified into a single system. Blogs organize information temporally along a single thread. Wikis organize information spatially around a set of nodes representing ideas. Blogs have no concept of space. Wikis have no concept of time. What we really need is a single framework that enables information to be organized freely in space and time. You can create Nodes that represent ideas and link them to one another just like you do in a Wiki. You can post articles to any Node (or set of Nodes), just like you do in a Blog and they appear sequentially by time. When writing any article you can enter Wiki commands to quickly link to, or create new, Nodes. This is the best of both worlds. You can then filter it by Node name, Time, or both. (From: Integrating Blogs and Wikis -- A Higher Unifying Framework)

There are already many wiki engines that offer blog functionality (Blikis), thus combining the advantages of the two kinds of tool.
A nice example is Rui Carmo's The Tao of Mac, a seamless integration of a wiki engine with blog functionality.
More information about Blikis is available on Wikipedia.

How to broadcast tagged content

Publishing tags requires just a simple modification of the RSS generation script, to add the following lines:


Another way to tag pages consists in adding a rel="tag" attribute to a link. For instance:

<a href="http://apple.com/ipod" rel="tag">iPod</a>
 <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravity" rel="tag">Gravity</a>
 <a href="http://flickr.com/photos/tags/chihuahua" rel="tag">Chihuahua</a>

Once links or RSS contain tag information, you can easily publish them by pinging (automatically or manually) web services like technorati. The tagged URL will then show up in the corresponding tag page.

Integrating tags in a wiki


More on the Folksonomy-Wiki connection

Flat categories vs. taxonomies vs. faceted systems

More on tags (pro / contra / neutral)

Wikis and metadata

CategoryDevelopmentDiscussion CategoryDevelopmentSyndication
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