April 17, 2005
One of the next phases for creating more useful folksonomies will likely be the introduction of facets to the current tagging systems. A faceted classification is used to describe and organize items according to multiple properties of that item. You’ve probably already encountered faceted search and browsing software at such online retailers as Eddie Bauer and Barnes & Noble. These sites allow the user to search for an item, say “khaki shorts,” and then further narrow down their results by gender, size, price, etc. Facets can be either explicit hierarchical lists (book subject) or continuous value (price, date). The software sorts the available values into an appropriate number of options by selecting a level in the facet’s hierarchy, or creating dynamic groupings of continuous values ($25-50, 1960-1969). For a wealth of information check out William Denton’s Putting Facets on the Web: An Annotated Bibliography.
What does this have to do with social classification systems?
As reported at Many 2 Many, faceted search company Siderean Software has used their Seamark Navigation Server to create a faceted version of del.icio.us that they’re calling Facetious. They have split the del.icio.us content into five easily available facets: Tag, Creator, Site, Feed, and Date. Users can easily browse through, selecting items tagged as “mac” and posted three months ago.
This increases the usefulness of the del.icio.us data, however Siderean has essentially hit a wall since those five facets are the only way that del.icio.us bookmarks can be described. The problem is that the folksonomy itself (the tags) is not actually faceted. To make faceted browsing of del.icio.us even more useful, del.icio.us would need to allow users to create a truly faceted folksonomy, essentially several folksonomies for describing various aspects of each bookmark.
For example, users could be asked to tag bookmarks according to three aspects: subject (mac, linux, java), document genre (article, howto, hack), and description (useful, interesting, humor). This would provide several alternative avenues for exploring del.icio.us content.
It would also have the symbiotic effect of making folksonomies more specific and useful as it helps to define the sense in which a word is being used as a tag. The concept seems especially applicable to use on Flickr, where the tagging must be more descriptive to make up for a lack of textual content in the tagged items. Having facets on Flickr such as Event and Location would help to prevent conflicts such as the one Rebecca Blood reported concerning various meanings of the tag “MLK” (the man vs. the park).
Sounds like an interesting project, is anyone up for it?
3/5/2008 Updated link to Facetious