Folksonomies in Small Cohesive Communities

Here’s a helpful rider on the argument in my book that folksonomies work best for large scale content and large heterogeneous communities, from the anonymous author of the Vocabcontrol weblog:

“There is a counter argument that for very small well-defined communities, social tagging works well, because the users have a good understanding of the terminology, tend to think in the same way, and so tend to use very similar tags. This would explain why the folksonomic approach was so popular in the web community – a new highly specialised community all speaking the same jargon were all tagging new content in very similar ways. The danger is that once the community expands, people stop using terms with such precision and the helpfulness of the social tagging get diluted.”

I think this is a fair comment, although even within cohesive homogeneous communities, I have been surprised at the levels of ambiguity and variability that exist. I think folksonomies will naturally be “tightest” in very small communities where a lot of public information trading between members already takes place (public trading surfaces differences and misprisions, thus helping to standardise words and meanings).

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