There has been a post brewing in my brain for quite a while now about tags and tagging and tapping into the social power of folksonomies. Like podcasting, the whole tagging thing is not something I’ve been able to fully embrace, partially because it just leads me to that information overload part of my brain. I’ve tried adding Technorati tags here, but, obviously, it hasn’t caught on. Aside from the occasional conference tag, I’ve never felt like what I’ve subscribed to tag-wise at Technorati or del.icio.us has been all that helpful. It’s either too divergent or too overwhelming to get through. And there’s always been the spam issue, which I’ve started to see more and more. It seems that it’s getting almost impossible to escape.
Where I have had more success, at least in managing the flow, is in subscribing to trusted sources, people like Alan Levine, Jim Wenzloff, or Amy Garhan (to name a few), and even then maybe just specific tags from those folks. Here too, however, I bump up against the time to read and information overload issues. Ten feeds of this type are about my max, and it takes time to select them in the first place. But bottom line is that I get much more relevant stuff by subscribing to the person as opposed to the tag (unless of course it’s the person’s tag…oy.)
Taking this all just a step further, I will say that I’m finding tagging my own bookmarks for my own purposes to be pretty effective as well. I spent much of the last couple of days going through my Bloglines “keep as new” posts (over 100 again) and bookmarking them into my Jots account. There, I’m really starting to see a “willsonomy” develop, one that I find is easier to store and retrieve stuff with. (Of course, I’ve backed all of this up by subscribing to my Jots feed (along with seven other hearty souls) on Bloglines just they’re backed up. Welcome to my life…)
Just from this post you can see the potential for total brain collapse. And that’s even more of a reason we need to think all of this through and provide options for our students and teachers. We are all going to find our own unique solutions. Bottom line for me is balancing my desire for relevant information about the topics I’m interested in with the time I have to put into creating systems to bring that information to me. But the key shift is that at least I can do that…I can tap into the efforts of any number of experts, mentors or kindered souls out there who are searching for the good stuff just like I am.
Chris L says
I deal with this issue a lot. For me, tagsets are like the library. I don’t spend a lot of time standing in the stacks feeling overwhelmed because I don’t have time to read every book as they come in. Instead it’s a resource in my back pocket that I go to on demand. I do skim new things as they come in– just as I skim the “new arrivals” shelves in the library, but I make a conscious choice not to be overwhelmed and don’t worry about bringing it into my own system except when something is truly exceptional or when I have a need-basis to spend some time there.
I’m thinking mostly of del.icio.us here. I have the same experience with Technorati– the best use has been tied to specific events or activities (where it worked wonderfully).
Well shucks, Will, I am humbled you like my tags 😉 Like Chris, I have to say the primary reason for public bookmarking is self serving and my own future reference. But I have no more secret clues or discovery avenuses different from anyone else, and the bulk of what I am tagging is gleaned from my own set of trusted sources (including your blog). We’re all mostly pirating from each other and that is okay.
That is the neat thiing, there is enough of an intersection of our two overlapping circles of interest to be worth reading, but not so much overlap that it is the same. Add enough circles around your own, and you can cover quite a lot of the sprawl of the internet.
But I think that there are some over expectations of tags or technorati sites to be a simple magic bullet. While a good chunk of things I tag and blog about may come from my primary sources (the 80 or so feeds I scan), there is quite a bit more that comes via the serendipity, the bizarre paths that I wander off from when I follow a link from one of the primaries– and that is where it gets interesting, and that is where the human perception and powers coome into play as almost more of an art than science or logic. There is almost an intoxicating high (legal) I get from following a link from a link from a link, and for the most part, one link away from the primary sources I know, are usually 3, 4, 10 other sources I have yet to know.
Most of the cool flickr stuff out there I hear of first from Tim Lauer. Stephen Downes sees and shares more than anyone imaginable, I am guessing he has found a way to live without need for sleep. And there are funky corners unconvered by kotke’s remaindered links.
So it is the same expectation that just because one cannot find an exact answer after 1 toss of keywords into Google, that there is not more out there. Google does a great magic trick- it makes finding stuff so easy that we forget about the incredible complexity behind the curtain, and the fact that Google is still, in all of its vast reach, missing more of the net than it is indexing.
And the beauty of Google is that it is leveraging the cumulative effort of millions of individual personal actions- PageRank being based on the (mostly) human decision to connect their published information (web site) to others. A plain simple link.
And that is starting to happen with the piles of tagged data- people are rollling out or dreaming up new ways to leverage the combined intelligence of all the inidvisual tagging efforts to bring out information that is not readily there– so while our own little individual tag efforts may not be fruitful on an individual scale (beyond personal management of sources), and a social scale, the simple act of tagging may trigger the same fruits that Google leverages form the simple act of linking.