ETech – Wikipedia and tagging

Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia
Freely licensed encyclopedia. Been around since Jan 2001. Currently have 500K articles. Taxonomy – have 350K categories. Hierarchical tree structure. More popular than NYT, Excite, Paypal, 500M page views monthly. 600-1000 people in Wikipedia do a vast majority of the work.

Original dream of the net was people sharing information freely. Worked for awhile. But there were problems: quality control (do authors know what they are talking about, people don’t update often).

His solution is 170 communities formed in 3 months. Growing faster than Wikipeida did at the same stage of development. Conceived as the social computing successor to “free homepages,” kind of similar to Geocities.

How do wiki’s solve author fatigue? The site is managed by a community. What about quality control? Anything on the wiki is reviewed by peers (editors can easily see all changes inline–think the “tracking” feature in Word). Content is steadily improved over time. They don’t have a a-prioir way of how things should be set up (like an enforced voting system). The community makes the rules.

Wikipedia is a social innovation. It will spread to other areas. Software which enables collaboration is the future of the net.

Discussion on folksonomies (Clay Shirky , Stewart Butterfield, Joshua Schachter, Jimmy Wales)
Why allow users to categorize? Creator of Del.ic.ious – first uses of a tag for him was a hash mark after a bookmark he stored in a text file which made it easy to grep for his favorites. Then he built a web UI to make it easy to tag and it grew from there.

Shirkey–people started using the comments field in del.ic.ous to have conversations around a link. Very interesting. Idea from the audience–is it possible for tags to be shared between different systems or collating tag sets? (Technorati, Flickr, Del,). Flickr has about 12M tags today. 200K tags at del.ic.ous but most are single uses. Need to tools to help users combine tags.

There are different tagging use cases–tag for yourself del/flickr, tag for others Technorati. Best way to solve the problem of unifying tagging systems would be to expose tags via APIs so others can remix their uses in new ways.