30 January 2005

Emergent communities and taxonomy

Looking at bobafred's recent photos from our wonderful Atlanta ice storm and reading his brief explication of his decision to use flickr to host the images. I have decided to scrap writing my own photo logic for the site and use Flickr. The reasons for this decision were: storage/bandwidth, easiness, they take PayPal, and I like the community feel of Flickr. This is important.

Centralized sites allow their users to create emergent systems [Wikipedia] depending on how open the sites are to external use and modification. Burningbird has a recent entry gathering together recent development in the semantic Web such as Technorati tags. Tags are a form of very poor, brute-force semantics, but they kinda get the job done while the linguistics majors puzzle over automated disambiguation (Burningbird quotes Tim Bray's sucinct criticism: the Technorati Tags all being in a single flat namespace does seem a little, well, brittle.). Technorati, del.icio.us, and flickr tags are good examples of simple emergent systems. All of these use basic techniques for self-organization. Although semantic flaws are rampant, the benefits of a simple-but-flawed system cannot be overstated. Burningbird has a different, quite valid opinion: I believe that ultimately interest in folksonomies will go the way of most memes, in that they’re fun to play with, but eventually we want something that won’t splinter, crack, and stumble the very first day it’s released.

Another example comes from the ability to link to Rhapsody playlists. Mgrooves pointed out in a recent comment the many sites dedicated to publishing interesting playlists. With the implementation of this feature, Rhapsody has allowed a dynamic culture to be created. Without that, Rhapsody is a much more closed system: user centered and not community centered. The Rhapsody example brings up another important point: remote content. One of Bobafred's reasons for choosing flickr was storage/bandwidth. Rhapsody and flickr provide remote audio and photo storage respectively along with the means to link to specific groupings. Users can publish and pass around lightweight monikers to those groupings.

I relate these centralized systems, in a way, to Wikipedia in that they can be used as the source material for references and are immediately available to all. Rhapsody contains a fixed collection, requires a custom client (a huge flaw in my opinion), and is a pay service. Flickr contains community-defined and community-organized content, and is open. Wikipedia is like flickr but contains general-purpose content. It is odd in a world of distributed content that centralized content is used with such strength. I can see a great benefit in disparate, distributed source open enough to allow custom integration. Web services [Wikipedia] are the low-level, techie example of this. My RadioWave site is a higher-level implementation. The two different approaches are an interesting contrast.

[ posted by sstrader on 30 January 2005 at 1:38:47 PM in Culture & Society ]