Saturday, March 15, 2008

Slaves to Fashion – Tags or Taxonomies

Tagging is based on two units -- the link, which points to any page within the range of your security settings, and the tag, which names or labels the link. Taxonomies on the other hand answer to absolute values. Tags are self-evident and self-organizing. Taxonomies come with instructions, mainly broader, narrower and related terms.

The big draw for tags is that they’re easy to create and even easier to follow: “As the Web has shown us, you can extract a surprising amount of value from big messy data sets,” observes blogger and classification heretic Clay Shirky.

Formal taxonomies are generally better fits for well-entrenched fields of knowledge where a shared vocabulary denotes a set of precise, static meanings. Science, medicine, and law are three examples of disciplines where common tasks, procedures, and topics have a well-defined boundary of unique values and fixed connotations.

The language of the marketplace is a foreign one – even to many business classification systems. Perception-shapers like ad firms, media titans, and management consults aren’t rewarded for following precedents. They are expected to stretch and bend them. The argument runs, here’s where informal or Folksonomies take over. The knowledge economy runs on the fashioning of ideas – not the production of tangible products. A taxonomy doesn’t handle interpretations or what we do with the things it classifies. Show a taxonomist a verb and you may get a cross-reference – or be referred to a different taxonomy.

Folksonomies are in a state of constant re-invention by many would-be inventors. Taxonomies run on exclusive relationships between definitive terms owning consistent properties. Those properties diverge into a set of clear and repeatable patterns. Now visit the website of any ad agency or consulting firm and click on the services or solutions tab. You will be overwhelmed with overlapping associations, the latest market jargon, and speculation about what will replace it. No one controls or maintains a Folksonomy as it lacks the insularity of a standard terminology or classification structure.

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About attentionSpin

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attentionSpin is a consulting practice formed in 1990 to create, automate and apply a universal scoring system (“The Biggest Picture”) to brands, celebrities, events and policy issues in the public eye. In the Biggest Picture, attentionSpin applies the principles of market research to the process of media analytics to score the volume and nature of media coverage. The explanatory power of this research model: 1. Allows practitioners to understand the requirements for managing the quality of attention they receive 2. Shows influencers the level of authority they hold in forums where companies, office-seekers, celebrities and experts sell their visions, opinions and skills 3. Creates meaningful standards for measuring the success and failure of campaigns and their connection to marketable assets.