Building Expert Folksonomy
Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 12:21PM
Toby Considine in Re-thinking things

I gave an enjoyable talk yesterday at the School of Information and Library Science (SILS). It was not policy, and it was not a plan; it was a variant of my usual talks in a venue that regularly hears talks about standards and open source issues.

For those who haven’t looked at library schools recently, they are not what they once were. When I was an undergrad, I am not sure if there was an computer in the school. I took a course there a decade ago, when the hot skill for new librarians was the skills to set up a small network and a connection to the internet. Aside from finally getting all seven layers of the ISO protocol stack down cold, there were few surprises.

Today’s library science is all about classification of data in a variety of ways to enable quick discovery of meaning. Research posters on semantics and ontologies covered the hallways. Video catalogues vied with personal medical record analysis. Privacy and easy access vied in the same application. Let those guys in computer science come with a better hash table to index the bits, they seemed to say. We, in libraries and information will catalogue the world and categorize meaning.

The audience was attentive and the post talk was long. There was more to it than the Schools interest in building their own new building, pushing the standards of sustainable design. The were interested in a new pool of data sets to make into information, By discovering meaning, they could discover service and define performance. The questions were quite different then I usually get.

One doctoral candidate, Terrell Russell, is working on contextual authority tagging, or what he describes a cognitive authority through folksonomy. Folksonomy is a newly trendy word describing approaches that most of us use every day. Google, for example, became the best search engine by ranking each page by how many other pages referenced it; the most referenced page, must be the best page for a topic, and so comes out first. This ranking is performed not be some formal scheme, not by some learned discourse, but by folk (think folk tale or folk music). Folksonomy, then, is a classification discovered by referencing peers.

Contextual authority is the authority that is recognized in a special context. We acknowledge authority in some contexts by licensing and education (MD). In other areas, we acknowledge authority by election or appointment (Judge). Authority through folksonomy asks the question “who would you turn to explain widgets”. Russell wants to capture this cognitive authority, and rank it, Google style, to find experts.

Of course, this is a glib summary of some detailed work that was heard in passing. If you are itnerested in this, use your favorite web content context authority to find Terrell Russell.  It won't take ling.

I began thinking about buildings, and agents, and emergent behaviors. What is the role of experts in the embedded world. Are the experts agents, or are the experts operators? Can a power provider recognize the best experts, and recommend them to others? Would building owners accept these recommendations only if the owner fit a similar social model to that of owner of the building operated by the recommended expert?

Article originally appeared on New Daedalus (http://www.newdaedalus.com/).
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