The Value of Social Metadata

Web 2.0 has made content easily available via wikis, blogs, RSS, podcasts, social networks and more. While it’s great to have so much content easily available it can be overwhelming. How can I get to relevant content without wasting hours looking for it?

While its only part of the solution, social metadata can help organize and navigate to relevant content. In this context, social metadata is data added to content by people other than the content creator, such as tags, ratings, votes, comments, etc. Examples can be found everywhere on the web; ratings and comments on amazon.com, tagging in digg.com.

In the past accessing data in an enterprise application was controlled by an engineer who developed a predefined path through the application. An example I remember using was to display a list of available content or links to the user. The list could be narrowed by selecting one keyword from a drop down box. Keywords were typically created by the team implementing the system and didn't always represent the way the users would describe the content.

Now, our social applications are taking advantage of social metadata so that a user can dynamically create a navigational link to content. For example, I can tag a presentation that is relevant to me and choose the tags I believe best describe that presentation. The keywords I choose help organize and categorize the content in a way that’s meaningful to me. Later I or my colleagues can use those tags to locate data using meaningful keywords.

Using social metadata in a social network with a focused purpose (be it a product, team or region) can help users navigate to relevent content even quicker because members can use social metadata to provide context and relevant description to the content.

Comments:

What about a push architecture that reaches the individual with this peritnant informaiton? using platforms like Zaptxt.

Posted by James Lin on October 15, 2008 at 01:45 AM PDT #

Hi James, The push architecture is also a good example of how social metadata can add value. The important aspect is that the user gets to define the criteria for what content is delivered. This provides a dynamic link (and filter) that the user defines.

Posted by Marta Studinger on October 22, 2008 at 01:19 AM PDT #

Interesting article. But it also brings to light how complex and messy metadata can get! You mentioned "I can tag a presentation that is relevant to me and choose the tags I believe best describe that presentation." In the very same way if every individual starts using 'personalised' tags, where is conformity? Where does the semantic web even start? You'll end up with so much metadata, might even have to create metadata for metadata! Very reason why I've stopped using del.icio.us

Posted by Deepak John on December 15, 2008 at 07:11 PM PST #

Part of the problem with things like del.icio.us is that the whole site is a huge social network. We are looking at social networks that are more contextual, so the huge overload you see with those kind of sites can be mitigated by participating in social networks that are of interest to you. Say you are in the Pharmaceutical business, then the tags you are looking at are more contextual to your industry. The notion of "...choose the tags I believe best describe that presentation" really refer to two things. First, I can seed a document with tags that I always want to be present in that document, I can only do that if I'm the publisher. Second, I can apply my personal tags as a consumer which then create the uniformity you seek; there's a little more of how we use this internally that I can't quite discuss yet until we ship it.

Posted by Francisco Casas on January 30, 2009 at 06:51 AM PST #

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