[FoRK] [email@example.com: [Geowanking] 'Folksonomy' Carries
Classifieds Beyond SWF and 'For Sale']
Wed Oct 5 05:27:28 PDT 2005
----- Forwarded message from "Tracey P. Lauriault" <tlauriau at magma.ca> -----
From: "Tracey P. Lauriault" <tlauriau at magma.ca>
Date: Wed, 05 Oct 2005 08:15:17 -0400
To: geowanking at lists.burri.to
Subject: [Geowanking] 'Folksonomy' Carries Classifieds Beyond SWF and 'For
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The New York Times <http://www.nytimes.com/>
October 5, 2005
'Folksonomy' Carries Classifieds Beyond SWF and 'For Sale'
By ETHAN TODRAS-WHITEHILL
NETWORKING sites on the Web started as online personal ads, and most are
still built around the desire to meet people. But there is a new,
rapidly growing generation of networking sites built around purposes,
These sites connect people by their interests and goals. Three such
sites are del.icio.us, which lets users bookmark Web sites and share the
bookmarks with others; 43things.com <http://43things.com>, which loosely
connects users with shared goals like learning to play the guitar; and
PledgeBank.com <http://PledgeBank.com>, a London-based nonprofit site
that brings users together to participate in civic actions, like
starting a political group or giving blood.
Connecting people online this way is not new. Dial-up bulletin boards in
the 1980's, Usenet discussion groups from the 80's and 90's and blogs
today all allow users to connect with like-minded people over topics
that interest them.
Until recently, however, groups needed a critical mass to have such a
Web presence, and finding them could be difficult. Idea- and
activity-oriented networking sites create ad hoc homes for many small
groups and interests, and make them more easily accessible.
The form of information classification used on del.icio.us has become
known as "folksonomy," a play on the word "taxonomy," coined by Thomas
Vander Wal, a Web production manager who is an avid user of del.icio.us.
Here is a look at these three genres:
Del.icio.us Its intent is to allow users to create Web pages of personal
bookmarks accessible from anywhere, share them with other users and view
others' bookmarks. The site, started in September 2003, has 200,000
users, said its founder, Joshua Schachter.
Networking was not the main focus of the site's design, Mr. Schachter
said, but evolved out of shared activity. Each bookmark is "tagged," or
filed under a term of the user's choice; through tags, users work
together to categorize the Web, and it is in that context that a network
forms. Users meet on del.icio.us in their natural Web environment: the
act of finding information they care about.
Mr. Vander Wal is passionate about this new user-classified information
structure, so he closely follows the Web sites that others tag with the
term "folksonomy" and related words. As any user can, he signed up to
receive notifications when new bookmarks with this tag come in, and he
estimated that he received 20 such messages a day.
Over time, Mr. Vander Wal has found himself following the bookmarking
activities of specific users who share his interests. That is usually as
far as the contacts go, but not always. Last January, a lively blog
discussion led to an e-mail exchange among Mr. Vander Wal, David Smith
and Michal Migurski, all folksonomy-focused del.icio.us users. Mr.
Vander Wal met Mr. Migurski in person that month in San Francisco.
"It's difficult to explain to my wife what I'm doing, who these people
are or how I've met them," he said. "But they're insanely helpful with
the issues I'm interested in."
43things.com This is one of the newer sites that use folksonomies with a
purpose. Users keep lists of goals ranging from skill-building "learn
about wine" to career-oriented "get a promotion" to whimsical "shave my
head into a mohawk." Users can leave entries about their progress toward
a goal, comment on others' entries, join teams as a sign of greater
commitment and cheer other people's progress.
The site also allows participants to tag goals, and those goals
integrate with sites and photos sharing the same tag on del.icio.us and
Since the site's start in January, it has acquired more than 71,000
users and gets more than 600,000 page views daily.
Chuq Yang, a Washington resident and deputy director of technology for
the Democratic National Committee, is a 43Things power user. In six
months, he has accomplished 553 goals, which tend to be technical
("master Linux"), quotidian ("stop biting my nails") and occasionally
romantic ("believe in love"). He spends three hours a day checking the
site, and he thinks the time spent is worthwhile.
Mr. Yang sees the initial value of 43Things as a handy place to keep a
to-do list. He attributes much of his increase in productivity, however,
to the social network built around that list. He spends his three daily
hours cheering other people on with their goals and leaving messages
about entries in other users' journals. When he does so, he usually gets
a cheer or a comment in return, which he describes as "a gentle nudge
toward getting something done."
PledgeBank This site also builds networks around ideas or goals, letting
users create pledges in the form of "I will do something, if a certain
number of people will help me do it." Other users can then "sign" the
pledge and agree to do it.
The Internet has been used extensively for civic activity, but
PledgeBank enables smaller-scale actions as well as large ones. Recent
pledges include 54 people agreeing to compliment five people a day for a
month, and 15 people agreeing to buy books exclusively from independent
booksellers for the rest of 2005.
Most pledges connect users once; as with 43Things, it is the confidence
that others are pursuing a common goal that helps spur individuals to
The site provides tools to support individuals in getting their pledges
met. Each pledge is given its own uncomplicated Web address, a flier for
the pledge creator to print and a text-message address so people can
sign up by cellphone. Pledge creators are also given the ability to
contact their list of pledge signers.
"When you lower barriers to civic action, more things get done," said
Tom Steinberg, director of mySociety, an organization that promotes
civic activity and created PledgeBank.
While based in London, PledgeBank has recently added support for pledges
in the United States, and Mr. Steinberg hopes to extend the site to
still other countries. Even before the upgrade, however, one campaign in
the United States was already using the site.
In protest of the United States Supreme Court's ruling in June that
government can use its power of eminent domain to promote private
economic development, a group called Freestar Media has been trying to
get the government of Weare, N.H., to give Justice David H. Souter's
home and property to Freestar to build a hotel named the Liberty Lost
Travis J. I. Corcoran, the owner of a video-rental company in Arlington,
Mass., learned of the project and decided to start a pledge to
demonstrate the potential economic gain to Weare. He asked 10 people to
commit to paying for a seven-night stay at the proposed hotel; 1,418
people made the commitment before the pledge closed at the end of August.
"I might be a meat-eating hunter, and someone else might be a vegetarian
activist," Mr. Corcoran said, "but online we can come together for this
* Copyright 2005
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