Social Taxonomies: Tagging versus Crowd Metrics

Every now and then, I’m parked at a mall, convention center, airport, and I ask myself, “now where did I park my car?  OK, so I don’t lose my car that often, but on occasion it happens.  OK, I’m not at the mall or convention center that often either.  At any rate, the appropriate action is to walk around the parking lot for a while constantly hitting the alarm button and waiting to hear that familiar chirp.  (Actually, I do that even when I know where the car is and I’m just walking over to it – no idea why…)  At some point, I’ll eventually locate the car.  The alternative, since I’d never really go to a mall or convention center or whatever alone, is the hope that someone I’m with actually remembers where the car is, or the general vicinity.  Depending on the person I’m with, there is either a high level of confidence or not, and sometimes none at all.

Here’s the problem with social enterprise.  Stuff can be really hard to find.  Let’s say that we remember that something was said on a particular subject, but we don’t remember who said it, if it was in a group message board or a blog, or even when it was.  How the heck do we find this stuff?  Even if we did remember it from a blog, the content might be 2 years old and still take a while to find.  Social tools all seem to use a variety of different search tools, but the tools that have emerged seem to deal with either tags or crowd metrics (or a combination of each).

Tagging is the job of either the content author, or content manager.  Sometimes tags can be community driven as well.  The point being that people can tag content with topics that they feel are associated with the content they are presenting.  You’ll notice that this post will return a tag of “social” and “social enterprise” among other things so that those get indexed by the blog and search engines.  It’s not an exact science like the good old dewey decimal system we all learned in elementary school, but if authors are tagging, then it’s likely to have a decent relationship.  If you give readers and the community the ability to tag, now you have even precision as the readers are also the searchers of the content and will have a pretty good idea if the original tags are off.  Every now and then on systematicHR posts I’ll actually adjust tags based on what searches are driving hits to the content.  Lastly, if you have a content manager involved that can further tag, now you have an element of standardization, so you know that similar posts will always be tagged in a similar way – in other words there are no concerns over someone tagging only “social” and a different author using “network.”  The content manager can leave the original tags intact, but would also communize the tags being used across the community.

Crowd metrics are also a wonderful thing.  For those of us who are Facebook users, we’re probably pretty familiar with the news feed that tends to launch more popular items to the top of the list.  The assumption is that if lots of people are looking and commenting on a particular piece of content, there is a higher probability that you’ll also be interested in the content.  The same goes for social enterprise in the workplace.  If many people are looking at content that you follow in some way (through a person, group, topic…) then chances are you want to see it also.  The assumption is that hits, reads, comments, thumb ups indicates some degree of quality of the content.

Things get better when you combine tagging and crowd metrics.  If you do a search for “talent management” in your social enterprise tool, hopefully it brings up the things that are not only tagged with the topic, but also finds the ones that were most popular first.  This blends not only the topical result, but also the assumption of quality as well.  The issue with this is that you can still miss content.  Some things can be mis-tagged, or some items just go unread by the crowds, and continue to appear lower in search results because of it.  Good search should also index words inside the content automatically, but that alone does not mean a high search result.

Obviously for me, the best result is if I just remember where my stupid car is.  But if I can’t hopefully some crowd intelligence in combination with my alarm clicker will work pretty quickly.  I don’t wander aimlessly in parking lots that often thankfully.

Defining Web 2.0

It’s probably long past time to write some definitions.  In fact, I’ve done this before, probably every time I write a post about Web 2.0. A few years ago, I said that Web 2.0 would not be on the radar screens of HR for a couple of years, and sure enough, the last couple of years has seen a huge rise in interest about Web 2.0 and I think that the implementations are starting to grow at a fairly rapid pace.  We should see the first true wave (not a pre-wave) of Web 2.0 implementations starting to go live just about now.

But that still begs the question that I think lots of HR people grapple with:  What is Web 2.0?  Basically, the answer is simple and falls into 4 simple categories:

  1. Web 2.0 helps us connect with each other:  This is the easiest to define since most of us who are interested in Web 2.0 are already on facebook, linked in or twitter.  We already have social networks we participate in on-line, and enterprise Web 2.0 has the same technologies behind the firewall.
  2. Web 2.0 helps us deliver content:  Anyone who is reading this blog is familiar with this.  Web 2.0 helps us publish our content on blogs, wikis and other social media tools.
  3. Web 2.0 helps us receive content:  I have debated whether RSS feeds are dead (this blog has not had any growth in the RSS feed for a couple years I think), but wither it’s RSS, your twitter feed, or your daily updates when you log into facebook telling you what all your friends are up to, Web 2.0 collects information from many people or many sources and aggregates it all for you in one place.
  4. Web 2.0 helps us organize content:  The last is possibly the hardest to see, but included in Web 2.0 technologies are things like tagging.  Tagging is a technology that helps us create dynamic “catalogs” of user based content and user based structures that constantly change based on the dynamic flow of content and ideas through the web.  Unlike “hard-coded catalogs like “Windows Explorer” on your PC, Web 2.0 tags will continually evolve.

Those are my 4 easy steps to understanding Web 2.0.  Anyone think I missed anything?