Scott Rosenberg has a characteristically wise submission to make to the mild debate taking off about folksonomies v. controlled taxonomies. He cites real world examples from Salon as an interesting adjunct to Clay Shirky’s thoughts, which I wrote about here. Here’s Scott:
The biggest problems have not been those of organization, classification or structure but the simpler ones of time and effort. We made it relatively easy on our staff to add keywords, and some are added automatically, but it’s still a constant struggle to make sure every story is well keyworded. Some editors are more conscientious than others; all are on deadline much of the time; and the pressures of an “all-the-time” publishing schedule mean that today’s good intention of going back and fixing yesterday’s metadata failure usually falls prey to the demands of tomorrow’s stories.
I think this is what Shirky is getting at when he talks about how expensive it is to “build, maintain and enforce a controlled vocabulary.” Here’s in-the-field evidence that it’s not so cheap or easy to “build, maintain and enforce” even a within-the-firewall folksonomy. And so, much as I love the approaches of Flickr and Delicious, I also worry that the value of the tagging ecosystems emerging on those services will grow for a while and then, sadly, decline. Early adopters are enthusiastic and willing to take the time to tag; as the services grow, people are less likely to devote that time and care.
While this is depressing, it is also quite likely to be right.