Matt McAlister » Challenging why (and how) people tag things

Link: Matt McAlister » Challenging why (and how) people tag things.

Matt McAlister writes about Bradley Horowitz’s influencer pyramid:

“…[it] is a great visualization of how tagging can add value for the rest of us. At the top is the person who makes extra effort to evaluate, filter, categorize and socialize things. This is the person everyone who wants something socialized on the Internet needs to talk to.

In my mind, tags are hugely valuable. They expose important meta data at an abstraction level that was previously hidden in the Internet user interface. They are connective tissue allowing data sources to talk to each other in meaningful ways. And human-edited tags can balance the inaccuracies of machine automation that happens in any indexing exercise.

What’s missing from the tagging world is automatic learning. People shouldn’t have to find the ’save’ button, click it, fill in tags, and hit save. My browser history says a lot about what interests me. The time I spend on a page says a lot about what I value. Any social activities I initiate or receive can inform a machine what the world around me thinks about.

The influencer is clearly willing to work harder to ensure information flows through the Internet in sensible ways, but everyone else will need something more personal to happen as a result of tagging to warrant the amount of effort to do it.

The introduction of tagging into the Internet user interface was a key step in the evolution of the medium, but the process of adding and collecting tag information needs to evolve before the effects of the tags will reach their true potential.”

Bradley Horowitz suggests that in Social Media:

  • 1% of people “create”
  • 10% of people “synthesize”, or work with what is there, and add to it
  • 100% of people “consume”. 90% of the “lurkers” benefit. But the creators are also consumers-Link

This actually seems to confirm Aaron Swartz’s findings.  Swartz wondered about whether Jimbo Wales claim was true that “over half the edits are done by less one percent of the contributors”.

When you put it all together, the story become clear: an outsider makes one edit to add a chunk of information, then insiders make several edits tweaking and reformatting it. In addition, insiders rack up thousands of edits doing things like changing the name of a category across the entire site — the kind of thing only insiders deeply care about. As a result, insiders account for the vast majority of the edits. But it’s the outsiders who provide nearly all of the content.

And when you think about it, this makes perfect sense. Writing an encyclopedia is hard. To do anywhere near a decent job, you have to know a great deal of information about an incredibly wide variety of subjects. Writing so much text is difficult, but doing all the background research seems impossible.

On the other hand, everyone has a bunch of obscure things that, for one reason or another, they’ve come to know well. So they share them, clicking the edit link and adding a paragraph or two to Wikipedia. At the same time, a small number of people have become particularly involved in Wikipedia itself, learning its policies and special syntax, and spending their time tweaking the contributions of everybody else.-Link

In this case, the “creator” is the “outsider”. The “synthesizers” are the “insiders”, the wikipedia regulars.

The point here is that Social Media efforts can possibly be made more effective by looking at the dynamics through this “pyramid” frame, and thinking about how to improve areas where there are short comings, such as in Wikipedia, where the “outsider/creators” have little voice in the management of the project, yet contribute the most to it.

Look at who are the “creators”, who are the “synthesizers”, and who are the “consumers”. And, think about how to improve conditions for all of them.

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