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2008-01-06 RDF and Free Tagging

Lost in Tagging

RDF is providing a method to make a specific statement about a web resource. To take a very simple "triple" example out of my foaf file :

<> <> "adulau"

Meaning roughly :

<> has a foaf nickname with a value "adulau"

Here, the subject is the "" with the property (in RDF terminology it's a predicate) "foaf nickname" and the value (in RDF terminology, it's the object) is "adulau". Don't ask me why each standard is often using a different term for naming similar things… but that's the today's topic. In free tagging, that's often the issue as people use different ways to tag something similar. If we take the previous example with a free tagging approach (like used in a social bookmarking system, we could have the following : adulau alex udalau nickname:adulau alexdulaunoy foaf:nickname=adulau

First of all, I make a small assumption that everyone tagged the same subject/URI but that's not always the case (just imagine URI with the domain name only or without the anchor). We can see that every user has his own way to classify the URI. Some are just using the nickname as a tag, some are using another nickname, some have misspelled it or some are using a machine tag (sometime called the poor mans RDF).

At a first glance, RDF looks cleaner so why is everyone using tagging and not directly RDF ? I think that because free tagging keep the user free to choose is own classification and how he perceived the world around him. I know that I could be stoned by saying that as RDF can be used with any kind of name space but you must define it before using it… That's why free tagging is simple to use (you don't have to look at convention before using it) and simple to implement (the parsing of tags is minimal compared to a well formed XML document).

My view is the following between the RDF world and the free tagging world. Those two worlds must live together and trying to benefit from each other. I really think that RDF has really an important role for exchanging description of resources between machine(s) (as long as the service providers are providing open interfaces between their services). But free tagging helps to ease the interface between humans and machines. Another advantage of keeping the user free to use his own classification, we could discover more about us (human) with a free classification scheme than a predefined limited scheme. It will just render the system to analyze the information a little bit more complex while keeping the interface very simple. That's just my Sunday's point of view… and now feel free to stone me ;-)


geo: Les Bulles, Chiny