Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Users and Uses, Social Networking

Speaker: Tony Hammond

Tony does technology development with the Nature Publishing Group, was on the NISO OpenURL standard committee, and is the creator of Connotea, a social tagging system for scientists.

Talk title: Agile Descriptions

Tony's talk was a review of the various Web 2.0 microformats available. He refers to this as "Rivers of Metadata."

He distinguishes between "Markup of documents (semantics)" and "Exposed metadata (microformats)"

Markup includes:
- Embedded metadata (hidden from user); on Web this is in the HTML; may be in comments.
- Embedded metadata in PDFs, in JPEGS, in MP3 files.

Exposed metadata (microformats) includes:
- A way to qualify content that is displayed on a web page. Because the metadata is exposed it is less prone to abuse (i.e. for search engines)
- "design patterns with semantics"

Exposed metadata could replace custom APIs for metadata exchange. Pages that are marked up with microformats can be turned into RDF for use in the semantic web.

Here he goes through various microformats, some of which connect to the kinds of things that Burke was talking about: hCard, hReview, hCite -- which allow one to make connections between things. xFolk for bookmarks. Although all of these can be used to make connections, it isn't always clear what the connection is. This came up in the discussion after Burke's talk, which is that ranking things by popularity can be mis-used... but Burke pointed out that popularity, even if you don't know WHY, tells you something about the sociology of the knowledge.

He describes tags (as in social tagging) as "simple labels" and as person "aides-memoires". Burke talked about how some of the searching he does is to confirm a memory -- we seem to do this alot, we leave bread crumbs all over, but generally they don't connect to each other. Microformats are turning into usable bread crumb paths.

Now he's showing a topic map based on the author-assigned keywords from some Nature journals. In the topic map, the tag "pediatric urology" is a larger blob than "urology." He explains this by saying that "tags are created in a context." You can see this with Flickr -- the tags something is given are within the context of the person putting the picture on the site. At the time, they are looking just at that one photo. They aren't making connections in the sense that Burke wanted, and the tags probably only make sense in that context -- but the context is not knowable to anyone but the tagger. The upshot is, however, that a topic map made from tags will not look like a topic map done as a general exercise or using a normal topical hierarchy.

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