I read an interesting ebook yesterday titled The Taxonomy Folksonomy Cookbook by Daniela Barbosa of the Dow Jones Enterprise Media Group.  She's a product manager working with the taxonomy and metadata management tool Synaptica.  In this "cookbook" Barbosa argues that companies should use both taxonomies (created top-down with rigid rules) and folksonomies (created from the top-up with flexible rules) to organize their data.

One place where we see folksonomies in play is on social bookmarking sites like Delicious (now sans awkward periods).

Basically, Barbosa argues that folksonomies help create data structures that are easier for a company's employees to use when searching for specific data.  Used in concert with taxonomies, folksonomies can help logically organize data in a flexible manner that creates additional ways to search and sort data.  It's a good read.

A major point of the ebook is that companies should not fret too much about creating rules for their folksonomies to avoid unruly systems.  Barbosa argues that administrators can edit tags, delete offensive ones, create synonyms and aliases, etc.  Further, the existing taxonomy can place tags with multiple meanings in proper context.  Is "mouse" an animal or computer input device?  When the taxonomy for that data item alludes to hardware, then mouse is associated with computers.

I can see how too many rules imposed on a folksonomy can impair its robustness.  If individuals are forced to use tags that are not natural to them, a company might as well stick with its taxonomy.  However, I reckon that companies should institute some basics tagging rules to help their folksonomies function well.

Some issues that rules should address are:

  • Standardization of capitalization ("Daniela" vs. "daniela")
  • Multiple words in tags ("mouse pad" vs. "mouse-pad" vs. "mousepad")
  • Language (an issue for multi-national corporations)
  • Use of numbers ("eight" vs. "8")
  • Formatting ("080808" vs. "August 8, 2008")

Many tagging sites already have some of these rules.  For instance, on several occasions I have typed in a multi-word tags on a site that said to separate tags by commas only to have the first word in each tag actually used.  Thus, no spaces in tags on those sites.

Now, if you feel so inclined, what do you think?  Would rules like this hinder the robustness of a folksonomy since they could force individuals to think unnaturally?  If not, what are some other useful rules?