E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez


Collaborative Web Tagging Workshop – Edinburgh – May 2006

If yesterday I created a weblog post around the topic of Folksonomy in The Name Game – Where Folksonomy Meets Taxonomy I am sure that you would find today’s weblog post worth while reading on further as well. Earlier on this morning I was actually talking to one other weblogger who has done some incredible work around the topic of folksonomies and tagging and we actually had a very interesting conversation through Skype. His name is Emanuele Quintarelli and you can find more information about him and his work over at InfoSpaces. Later on and as I go along I will be sharing some further thoughts on some of the great weblog posts he has shared so far around the topic of tagging and folksonomies. Thus stay tuned!

Anyway, while we were having the conversation, he actually mentioned one particular event that will be taking place beginning of next week on Monday in Edinburgh and that I am sure would be of great interest to all those folks interested in this very same subject: Collaborative Web Tagging Workshop. As you will be able to see at the main schedule home page, it will be a packed up workshop with some very good sessions. I have been reading some of the different abstracts and some of the thoughts and ideas put together are quite interesting and thought provoking. So much so that I have decided that I will be talking about a few of them over the next few weblog posts.

As you will be able to see from the agenda itself there would be a couple of fellow IBM colleagues speaking at the event, too, on how IBM is actually making use of tagging in the enterprise and in particular one of the papers would be about one particular research tool that uses people tagging and that I will be providing some further details on shortly. It is called Fringe Contacts. I have been wanting to talk about it all along, specially since Dogear and ThinkPlace have been mentioned already, thus you can expect a couple of posts on the subject.

I couldn’t find anywhere on the website, or related sites, information on whether they will be recording some of these sessions or not and make them available, perhaps, as podcasts but I do surely hope so because I would be very interested in hearing the live talks around a number of them. We shall see. Anyway since a few of my colleagues would be going there and presenting I am hoping they will be doing some conblogging of their experiences, whether they would do it internally or externally. Either way, I shall be sharing my thoughts about some of the different abstracts as I feel they are interesting enough to trigger some further discussion.

Finally, I just wanted to thank Emanuele for getting in touch with me and for making the connection. Way cool! I am sure we will be talking some more about this particular and exciting topic in the next few weeks. Will keep you posted ! For the time being if you are interested in the world of folksonomies and tagging I would encourage you to subscribe to his weblog feed as it would be a worth while read for sure. Thanks again, Emanuele! Will speak to you soon!

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The Name Game – Where Folksonomy Meets Taxonomy

A few days ago, Dennis McDonald pointed me to a weblog post where a recent CIO article on tagging was mentioned. The article itself is titled The Name Game and it comes to talk about tagging in general with some special mention of how IBM is handling it within the corporation. Although it is a long read there are some really good points and would certainly be a worth while read, specially if you are into tagging and folksonomy in order to organise your content, wherever that may be. Here are some highlights from the article worth noting:

Tagging offers a potentially powerful way for a company to organize information by making fresh content immediately searchable, letting users designate terms that make sense to them and providing users with a sense of ownership. This ability for tags to provide so much content-describing power for ordinary folks has given rise to the term “folksonomy,” as opposed to the more restrictive sounding “taxonomy.”” (Emphasis mine)

What a great definition for what tagging is all about! I doubt there would be much better ways to define it than the one quote above. What I really liked about it is the fact that as you will be able to see in here tagging is all about the end-users, the knowledge workers, taking control of how the content will be stored and searched for at a later time using meaningful keywords that they could relate to as opposed to have to go through the ordeal of a fixed taxonomy that wasn’t rather created for them nor would it represent their needs. That would probably be the main difference between folksonomy and taxonomy.

“You can see what your colleagues are interested in,” she says. “From a collaboration and knowledge-sharing perspective, that’s what’s neat about folksonomies.”

That particular highlight comes from a colleague of mine, Maria Arbusto, while talking about an IBM internal offering for employees to drop ideas and work on them further. ThinkPlace. I must say that I have been using that application for a number of months and it certainly works in exact the same way as Maria describes it. People would just drop by, search for ideas that would match their interests, they would navigate through tags and find other people with similar interests and ideas, which would help them then to connect and, of course, collaborate from there. So you can see how tagging brings forward a more dynamic perspective as far as knowledge sharing and collaboration is concerned. It is actually a whole lot more proactive than having to work with fixed taxonomies that may not represent the needs from those knowledge workers and therefore make it very hard to use. Simplicity is key in folksonomy, if you would ask me.

But with tagging, users gain the flexibility to work outside the taxonomy

Perhaps one of the key aspects of every single piece of social software. That flexibility is perhaps what makes it so successful as it would try to fill in all of the different needs people would have about it. It may succeed or fail, but there is no doubt that at least it will try to meet the different expectations from everyone. And the good thing is that because of that social aspect it will probably be able to succeed in most cases.

Dogear was opened for use across IBM in November, and a mere 1,235 of IBM’s 329,000 employees have logged in to the tool more than once

I have been using Dogear myself for a number of months, in fact, if you remember, I have been weblogging already about Dogear several times already, and although it may seem like a small number of folks making use of it, giving the size of IBM (Over 320.000 employees) I must say that the focus is not on the numbers but on the actual technology and how a subset of those employees are exploring new ways of managing content through that dynamic tagging. As it is mentioned on the article itself as well you would only need a small portion of folks, yes, the well known critical mass, to make it worth while for everyone else. Just imagine the potential you would be having in your hands if when searching for content you would bump into the bookmarks that people may have shared, and tagged, and which may perhaps be even more relevant than the different results put together. And that with just a few folks making use of it. At least, at the very beginning.

We may indeed be at the early stages for tagging in the enterprise but there is no denying that the benefits are there, even if it is just for a small group of end-users. Chances are that as soon as those benefits are brought forward into the table and spread around through whatever means that more and more people would jump in to give it a try. And that is perhaps when we would be able to reach the tipping point where a combination of folksonomy and taxonomy would eventually allow every knowledge worker find the information they want it, when they want it and in the format they would want. Because after all we should not forget that tagging and folksonomy is not planning, by far, to replace the already taxonomies, but more to augment the already existing ones to make them much more meaningful, relevant, and specific to people’s needs. And that is a good thing, don’t you think so ?

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More Tagging Articles – Enterprise Tagging

A few days ago Bill Ives was actually asking folks to chime into his weblog post on More Tagging Articles and share some additional articles or whatever resources that people may have found interesting and worth while mentioning around the world of tagging and, specially, enterprise tagging for an upcoming article on “enterprise social bookmarking or tagging behind the firewall” that he is currently working on at the moment. As you may have been able to see already there have been a few folks who have already provided their input and share some really interesting and thought provoking visions of what tagging is and how it would be able to help the KM world. Thus I just thought I would chime in and share those resources regarding tagging / folksonomy and social bookmarking that I have enjoyed reading / writing or going through in the last few weeks. Let’s see how far we can go:

I am sure there will be plenty of other resources out there around the world of social bookmarking and tagging for the enterprise and as I get exposed to them I will be adding them to the list (Perhaps even sharing some further comments on the subject) but for the time being those would keep you busy for a little while.

Now it is the time for me to get busy reading some of the great articles that other folks have shared in Bill’s weblog post and get to learn some more about this exciting and refreshing method for categorising things, and people, on the fly to then be able to find them at a later time which is what tagging is all about. Good stuff!

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Sociable – Bookmark That Weblog Post Now!

In the past you would remember how I have been creating a number of different weblog posts around the subject of social bookmarking indicating a good number of benefits in the Knowledge Management area about why people would want to make extensive use of such tools in order to be able to contribute to that collective wisdom by sharing their favourite bookmarks with everyone else, not just the closest teams / communities to themselves. I have also been indicating how so far I am currently making use of two different social bookmarking tools as my preferred choices: IBM‘s Dogear (For my Intranet bookmarks) and BlinkList (For my Internet bookmarks). Reason why I like these two options is because I feel they are the ones providing with a much more complete experience of what I think social bookmarking should be: i.e. as interactive as possible.

However, I can imagine that other folks may be interested and would want to make use of other options, so just recently I thought I would go and give it a try to one WordPress plugin that would allow me to extend those capabilities to all of the different weblog posts I get to create over here and allow you folks to bookmark whatever weblog posts on the fly and in your favourite tool(s). That way you will not be restricted in any way other than making extensive use of your favourite social bookmarking tool. The lovely plugin currently available and which I am testing over here in elsua is Sociable. For those folks who are also using WordPress as their default weblogging tool, and who would want to give it a try, you can download it over here. Basically, Sociable allows you to select a number of different popular social bookmarking offerings and through some basic configuration add them to every single weblog post you may be sharing directly from the Admin panel.

The result is that within minutes, and without hardly coding from my side, I have now been able to include a bar of items, of bookmarking tools, that people could click on if they would want to bookmark whatever the weblog post. That is why you would be able to find a button for BlinkList (Of course!), del.icio.us (An even more quite an interesting option at the moment since it looks like it apparently allows you import your bookmarks now, once and for all, so I can now see a lovely integration between my BlinkList bookmarks and my Dogear bookmarks coming up using del.icio.us as the connection between the two. Just brilliant!), Digg, Spurl, Furl, Ma.gnolia (An interesting tool I will be weblogging about some time soon), Newsvine, Scutle (Of course, Jean-F, I couldn’t resist the temptation!), Shadows (For those Flock users out there), Simpy and TailRank.

Thus now you would be able to bookmark whatever of elsua‘s weblog post along the way in your favourite bookmarking too and if you see that I have missed any of the popular social bookmarking tools out there just append a comment and if it is available I will gladly go ahead and add it right away. Or alternatively, you could also have a look into the attached weblog post, over at 3spots, 30 Social Bookmarks ‘Add to’ footer links for blogs, in order to be able to add manually up to 30 different social bookmarking buttons to your weblog posts. But remember that most of that would have to be done manually, as opposed to Sociable where you would only need to get it working by clicking a couple of options and off it goes.

Finally, if you are looking as well for an overview of the different social bookmarking tools available out there I would suggest you also take a look into another weblog post I shared a couple of days ago: Web 2.0 Commoditization – ALL Social that CAN bookmark. Over there you will be able to read of an extensive listing of bookmarking tools, with a brief description of how they work and a direct link to it to try it out further. Then over the next few weeks I shall continue weblogging every now and then about the different tools that I may give a try and see how they would fit in not only as collaborative tools but also as Knowledge Management tools so that with my two cents worth of comments there may be other knowledge workers who may benefit from that experience. Thus stay tuned !

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Social Bookmarking in the Enterprise – IBM’s Internal Tagging Tool – Dogear as a Weblog Engine

Yesterday, Bill Ives created another interesting weblog post where he provided some further detailed information on one of beta tools that IBM is making use of for social bookmarking: Dogear. He briefly mentioned as well how he recently attended an IBM media event on the same subject, and which I have weblogged about myself not too long ago, and finally referenced the main article that describes how Dogear actually works.

In this last weblog post on the topic he provides a very good overview of some of the most relevant features from the application itself and since I have been using it myself internally for quite some time I thought I would also share one other feature that may have gone unnoticed by many but which it still provides a very powerful capability. And that is the fact that Dogear can also be used as a weblogging engine. Yes, indeed, it can be used as your own personal and independent weblog. How ? You may be asking yourself, right? Very easily. Let me explain.

For anybody out there who may have been weblogging for some time now you would agree that one of the commonest practices from us all is to basically share our two cents worth of comments from different web links that we find out there: news items, useful tools links, reviews, books and a long etc. are some of the topical areas we use for our weblog(s). Yes, perhaps what you could classify that as Linkblogs. Well, Dogear in itself has got that weblogging lookalike user interface that allows you not only to annotate those web links like you could do with other social bookmarking tools but people who bump into your links could also add comments and engage in some sort of conversation similar to what you get with standard weblogs.

And before you know it you have got yourself an audience that follows up not only the original link you are sharing but also your thoughts on it, and where applicable (To them, that is) they will engage with you in a conversation where everybody has got the opportunity to get to interact with you and others. And by clicking on the tags of those links and also with the graphical reference on the number of people who may have bookmarked that web link as well as the RSS Newsfeeds before you know it you have got your own weblogging platform alive and kicking and all of that thanks to sharing your bookmarks with others. Just brilliant !

That is another way how people are making use of Dogear inside IBM and how a traditionally identified as a social bookmarking tool could also be adapted to becoming a powerful weblogging platform for people -and for communities of practice– to leverage not only their web links but also what they think about each of them and share it with others. Collaborative web at its best.

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