Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Enterprise 2.0, Day 2, Session 5; Thomas Vander Wal on Making Sense of the Flood of Information (Tagging!)

Thomas' presentation last summer was the only substantive and intelligible part of the Enterprise 2.0 conference I attended last year (I understand that his was one of two presentations last year that got "perfect" scores from the audience). Last years' got me excited about Delicious and tagging and I was happy to get a chance to hear him again.

Thomas is a consultant based in Bethesda, Maryland who coined the term "folksonomy, " putting him up there in the Enterprise 2.0 pantheon with McAfee in my opinion. His sparse but pretty powerpoints are on Slideshare.

Crowd Survey

He started by asking how many had internal bookmarking. Perhaps 10% of the audience did.

Too Much or Too Little?

He's learned that what you get after 6 months to a year is different than what you expect going in.

The "one year club" either says:

1) Nobody is using our services--only 2-5% using them


2) Oh my goodness we have way too much information here.

1) Too Little Tagging

In the first scenario, how do you encourage use? Adoption rate does not vary between generations (boomer, X, Y, millenial) once value and understanding is known.

Improving Adoption

A) Guidance

Like much of Enterprise 2.0, the consumer space is way ahead of the enterprise. Amazon has a variety of ways that guide consumers in their use of tags.

  • Label tags correctly and plainly, e.g., "Tags Consumers Associate With This Product."

  • Describe process of tagging with a "What's this" link.

  • Say what your behavior will do, e.g,. "Click on a tag to find related items, discussions, and people."

  • Add shortcut key / guidance--e.g., "Press T twice to access."

  • Suggest terms.

B) Understand that even light use can have high value

C) Don't worry about the number of tags per items, as most things get tagged only a few times even in Delicious.

D) Understand who is using the service, and assess the value gained. Value can be assessed from four perspectives:

Personal--Tagging can help a user refind things better, without input from anyone else. Some people also learn through tags by investigating who else might have tagged an object.

Group-- Most tools called "collaborative" are actually collective. A collective approach is people working in parallel on their own documents. Concept of editing someone else's page/work is scary to most. Collaborative is many different people working on one document/task.

Newbie--The Newbie hasn't tagged, but consumes tags developed by others.

Service Owner--Tags add to value to the service owner by acting as a pointer. Pointers help own search and helps Google seach external web site.

E) Show Commoncraft tagging videos.

F) Provide many use cases.

How would Marketing or R & D use tagging? Can it tie to CRM? How would middle managers use this tool?

For instance, he has seen managers use tagging to speed up monthly reporting process, through developing initials + monthly / yearly tags (0508=May 2008), and then collecting the information thus tagged.

G) Integrate tagging into all of other tools.

Tagging within Sharepoint is now available. ConnectBeam lets you show what certain people have bookmarked, subscribe to their bookmarks. Integrating tagging with search is key to adoption. Social search will show who else that I know has tagged something, and how many times. I have also seen tagging effectively integrated into enterprise search as Lynda Moulton's term social search with Vivisimo's Velocity 6.0, which I reviewed in October 2007.

2) Too Much Information

In the second scenario, where administrators and users are complaining that there is too much information, what do you do?

A) Single tags

People new to tagging will sometimes tag too much as "document" and then not see utility. e.g., Scuttle.

The proper solution is to have the user interface encourage a diversity of tags. Prompt with "did you mean to only use one tag?"

B) Tools too simple / Lack Context

Delicious doesn't surface who is doing tagging. Cogens and others do surface people. The smaller scale of an enterprise lets you surface context and role of people doing the tagging. If you know who is doing the tagging, you can understand more about the tag.

Another solution would be to group tags by the role or location of the people doing the tagging. [In the law firm environment, for instance, a tag from a litigator for a "settlement agreement" means something entirely different than an M & A lawyer tagging a "settlement agreement."]

C) Suggest facets of tagging

Is it a "red" a product , geographic referral, or a color? For these types of words, ask at the time the tag is applied to group them into categories.

D) Self-stem

Let searches and tag application both encompass the extended version of the word (tag, tags, tagging).

E) Synonyms

Ideally, tagging tools should surface the different meanings of words.

F) Mispellings

Simple tools don't spellcheck

G) Tools need guidance and self-help

(see 1.A. above)

3) Tagging Administration Practice Tips

A) Hire A Taxonomist.

Use a taxonomist who understands folksonomies; they can add structure to the tag set.

B) Watch scarce tags.

Address attention to tags that are used a lot. Watch tags used somewhat less. Use long tail to identify synonyms.

C) Embrace structure.

Co-occurence of terms;
Knowledge of social relation with tagger; and,
Link with existing tools such as search, profiles, and taxonomies.

D) Three tag contexts :

Human context--what are people calling it
Related Terms--what else are people calling it
Object--content of tagged thing

F) Value Proposition

The real value of tagging is refindability. Put that up front and users will adopt it.

4) Questions

I asked whether the Amazon "suggested terms" works within the enterprise. Thomas suggested that using other people's terms limits findability, it's better to suggest terms that the individual already uses, possibly by drawing on the user's terms that others have tagged the resource with.
Can suggest terms if they are from the users own slide set. The less time and thought that was put in, the better the refindability.

Some of this is in vendor roadmaps.

Another participant asked about delicious. Delicious has plateaued. It's missing contextualizing, stemming, and spelling. Delicious can't add in many-to-many relationships because it's so processor-intensive, but tagging inside the enterprise can pull it off.

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