Folksonomy or Collabulary?

I picked this item up from Beth Kantor’s blog who references a report by JISC on Web 2.0 technologies (

I have to say that, on the whole, the report gives a very good introduction to Web 2.0, and provides some context to the hyperbole surrounding this topic. It gives covers quite a wide spectrum of topics, from html, the invention of the Web by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the long tail, the development of social networking and publishing tools such as wikis and blogs and technologies such as Ajax, Microformats.

My only criticism is the seemingly compelling and pretentious need for academia to continually invent new terms (jargon) for what is quite often a simple task or process. I’ve had enough problems getting people I encounter in the public sector to understand what blogs and wikis are. I’ve tried to avoid using the term ‘folksonomy’ where possible,  preferring ‘tagging’ instead, which most people seem to understand.

And then I come across the term ‘collabulary’, which has now been introduced into the English language because we’re misusing the term ‘folksonomy’. There is (apparently) a distinction to be made between a folksonomy (a collection of tags created by an individual for their own personal use) and a collabulary (a collective vocabulary)

The term folksonomy is generally acknowledged to have been coined by Thomas Vander Wal.
According to Vander Wal, folksonomy tagging is done in a social environment (shared and open) and is not collaborative and it is not a form of categorisation. He makes the point that tagging done by one person on behalf of another is not folksonomy and that the value of a folksonomy is derived from people using their own vocabulary in order to add explicit meaning to the information or object they are consuming (either as a user or producer).

So, if I’ve understood this correctly, information I tag for myself is a folksonomy, but if I want to share my tags with a community, I’m contributing to a collabulary. Well, I for one will not be introducing this term into the local government communities I’m presently engaged with. I’m trying to demystify much of the present jargon that Web 2.0 practitioners spout, any and all of which can act as barriers to the use and adoption of social media tools.  Whether I’m tagging for myself or tagging in a wider collaborative sense, I’m just adding labels to things I want to be able to find again. I don’t really care whether it’s a folksonomy or a collabulary, and neither should the users of Web 2.0 tools.

Download what_is_web_2.0 (Jisc).pdf

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