Thursday, July 19, 2007

Mobile Tagging

Apparently a white paper regarding mobile tagging was just published, but somehow it is not available currently. That seems like a new term, somewhat confusing to me, because tagging means to place a tag (i. e. a word) to describe a resource (most often, a piece of text). On the other hand, mobile tagging means to decode a barcode (either EAN13 or 2D) via a mobile phone and use this ID to access information regarding the "tagged" resource.

Well, the first benefit seems obvious, namely the improvement of user interaction, as everyone knows how tedious it is to enter URLs on a mobile device. The second one relates to bridging the divide between the real and virtual world: any resource in real life can be associated with a tag, and any function can be associated that takes the resource's id and performs an action, such as retrieving information or placing an EBay auction, buy a concert ticket or initiate a media download - the possibilities seem endless.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Exodus from Second Life

I should start these thoughts by admitting that I have never been a user of LindenLab's Second Life platform, nor do I intend to use this service. Why? Simply because I have the impression that it is all about a virtual environment you can create, without having an equivalence in the real world. Already some time ago, there were comments of the platform being increasingly unstable. It has been observed that the computer manufacturer Dell and hotel chain Starwood already left their virtual islands due to a lack of visitors. But honestly, what could be the reason for me to visit a company's virtual other self? If it's about an Internet-based service, I would probably have a look at their web presence, but what additional use can a virtual island have? I honestly have no explanation.

When it is about community building and information / experience sharing, then virtual communities are a great means of communication platform between singular end users. But when it gets too comercial, then this may mean the beginning of an exodus, such as seen with SecondLife. Of course, that's a personal opinion, but if I want to buy something I will possibly go to the relevant internet shops or auction platforms.

The remaining question, then, is whether the users are going to come back. In June, the number of active users has been decreasing by 2.5 percent, where out of 8 million registered users, only 40.000 are active at peak times. As I read it, the companies' exodus was a consequence of the decreasing number of users. Thus, if this trend continues, more companies are going to leave their virtual residences.

Another way to perceive this, however, is that the companies' virtual representation was not attractive enough for end users. But is this really the case? I don't know, but would welcome any further thoughts on this.

Bottom line, however, is the challenge to link the real to the virtual world in order to achieve a blended experience for end users.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Cooperative Tags

Tags are a great facility to assign meaning to contributions. They are very useful when it comes to personal information management. However, they are problematic regarding collaborative information management - every user will generate different tags relative to their experience, intentions, etc.

Much has been written about the issue of folksonomies, taxonomies and tags. I do understand that taxonomies are not considered very user-friendly - but on the other hand, the evolution of folksonomies does not seem to be very goal-directed. Which goal, you may ask? To help find information based on specific concepts that may come to mind.

The most well-known approach is to assign user-specific labels to a resource, or a chunk of information. For very popular resources, you may end up with lots of different tags, while other resources may end up with only the tags its author had thought of.

Today I discovered an interesting approach to help keep folksonomies tidy by adding a means to rate them (seen on MovieLens). By rating the appropriateness of a tag (on a scale between 0 and 1), based on a sufficiently large number of users, the so-called "wisdom of the crowds" should lead to an improvement of supplied tags. As tags are always relative to a tagged entity, the other question that should also be addressed is how to appropriately monitor tag evolution. Should inappropriate tags (i. e. whose rating relative to a resource does not exceed a given threshold) be automatically removed? Should tags which are considered as very useful be added to a tag dictionary?

Last, but not least: when combining taxonomies and folksonomies, what should be done to relate them, e. g. should there be associated (recommended) tags for a term in the taxonomy?

As I am surely not the first to raise these questions, I would welcome any feedback on this issue.