Seeing the Communication Forest through the Folksonomy Trees

The author gains confidence from a great post from Adam Bosworth, a high-up at Google. It seems as though it’s not just IAs who’ve got something to say about folksonomies…

Sometimes all we need is a little confidence booster. When we’re down, feeling a little like we’re heading down the wrong path despite our gut feeling, we need someone or something to remind us just what the hell it is we’re doing and why we’re doing it. In other words, we need to glimpse the forest through the trees.

That came, for me, this morning, in the form of a blog post by Adam Bosworth. I’ve been following his blog ever since I listened to the January 14th Gillmor Gang podcast with him as guest. Bosworth is Google’s VP of Engineering, and is one of those folks who is very well-known within his community but hardly-known outside of it. Anyway, his schtick is databases: the man is a database guru.

But it wasn’t Bosworth’s credentials that impressed me. It was his way of explaining things. He talks about things in an interesting, very straightforward way. For example, this is an excerpt of the blog post that I read this morning, where Bosworth tidily explains the nature of communication as it now appears on the Web:

“Then the promise should be that anyone can connect to any information or application or anyone else and that any application can connect to anyone or any application or any information. We got anyone to anyone early in the form of email and more recently in the form of IM and of Blogs. IM adds real time communication and presence and Blogs add broadcasting to the world along with a dialog with the world. We got anyone to any application from the esteemed Tim Berners Lee in the form of HTML, HTTP, and URL’s which changed our world. I say applications because there wasn’t any standard way to ask for information. We got, unfortunately, any application talking to anyone (we call this spam). Web services in one form or another are letting applications access other application although, as I’ve said elsewhere, I think that the standards are too prolix and that a lot of the action will come out of REST and RSS.”

But that wasn’t the most exciting part. The exciting part was his views on folksonomies, which he had heard a ton about at two recent conferences: ETech and PCForum. This is a sliver of what he had to say about folksonomies:

“And the web is now rapidly becoming the place for people to collaborate. Wiki’s are growing like wildfire. Folksonomies(tagging) are causing people to quickly and in an emergent bottoms up way, come together to build taxonomies that work for them and surprisingly rapidly become stable…”

Read the entire, most interesting post here. If you’ve been reading my stuff for more than a couple weeks, you’ll notice that Bosworth echoes some of my thoughts on folksonomies and taxonomies: namely, my suspicion of top-down taxonomies and my belief in people to classify their own stuff how they see fit.

And now you might be saying: But why are you excited by this? Well, I’m excited by this because I truly believe that we’re figuring out how to build a democratic world, here: the tools of democracy.

Bosworth’s bullishness on folksonomies, wikis, and collaboration in particular and his optimism in general gave me confidence that my recent musings on folksonomies have not been all-for-nought. Surely, us pro-folks people are optimistic about emergent…well, emergent everything…but it sure is nice to know that this big thinker is digging this stuff, too.

On other fronts, Bud Gibson has more on his xFolk microformat that I pointed to yesterday.

Also, for those users out there, check out Linkbacks.

Happy Spring!

Published: March 25th, 2005