Thanks to Steve Wheeler (aka @timbuckteeth) for picking up the conversation I started on TwitterÂ where I defined a Taxonomist as:
One who organizes information in ways that make sense to content providers, rather that content users.
Steve’s riposte was to define a ‘Folksonomist’ as:
One who organizes information in ways that make sense to his/her own community of practice or interest.
I know that strictly speaking the role of a ‘folksonomist’ may not exist, since folksonomies tend to emerge through the collective process of individuals assigning tags to things and that the creation of a folksonomy is the bi-product. However, this misses the point; the key point is that the information is organized in a way that makes sense to individuals working collaboratively, i.e. members of a social network who tag content are acting (possibly unconsciously) in the role of a ‘folksonomist’.
Steve goes onto reference a Holistic Web blogpost which defines the differences thus:
A taxonomy is predictable, whereas a folksonomy is flexible. Taxonomies are imposed, but folksonomies are democratic.
I can’t argue with any of these definitions, but I particularly liked Steve’s final summary definition:
In a taxonomy, the community defines the content. In a folksonomy the content defines the community.
I might argue that the ‘community’ in the first sentence is likely to be corporate-led and vastly different to the community in the second sentence. But that’s being pedantic. I like the overall simplicity of the statement and will re-use it often. I hope that Steve Wheeler hasn’t got a copyright on it!
One final point to allay any grievances from the guild of Taxonomists – I think that taxonomies and folksonomies can co-exist in the world of Information Management, and that they have complementary strengths.
Thanks for the reference Stephen. I didn’t intend it as a soundbite, but feel free to use it by all means – glad it resonated with you! And I agree – I think folksonomies and taxonomies can co-exist happily. Each has its place in the world of knowledge creation.
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