Folksonomy in the Enterprise: Will it pay off?

Although semantics in content management are being discussed and marketed for a long time already and always make up for a cool topic at conferences, they are rarely being used in real life. It is already hard enough for CMS users to get the content right and it is even harder to put it in the right context of a metadata set (especially if it is a large controlled vocabulary). This is where corporate “librarians” come into place, who control the use of controlled metadata – but they cost money…

Theresa Regli, principal with CMS Watch, published the article Human Touch, discussing today’s problems and solutions to motivate users of content management systems to annotate/tag/classify/etc. information with metadata. The currently preferred solution for the taxonomy dilemma is group-dynamic annotation (folksonomy), as the article states:

â??The best motivation for tagging is almost instantaneous feedback,â? adds Busch. â??Things like Flickr,, and Technoratiâ??the key to those is the instantaneous feedbackâ??the alerts, the feeds, the group tagging. Thatâ??s why people get into it and get excited about it.â?

It will be interesting to see, how large businesses and SMEs will adopt that strategy. They are not likely to communicate with the outside world to establish a swarm-intelligent taxonomy. Large enterprises might set up their own tagging infrastructure, while SMEs fall back to existing vocabularies, but don’t share the tagged information externally.

Additionally, there are different levels of confidentiality concerning corporate information: Some of it is for all employees, other only for the top management, certain teams, etc. This fragments the group-dynamics due to confidentiality gaps especially in large enterprises, who could actually profit from a broad collective intelligence when it comes to a high quality folksonomy.

The big hope concerning Social Tagging For The Enterprise is of course to optimize knowledge flows and to save money. Yet, it needs to be testified whether collaborative annotation can really live up to its expectations in firms. The larger and more complex the corporate environment, the more likely you will need dedicated and professional metadata reviewers. It would be an illusion for large enterprises that folksonomy translates into knowledge-management-for-free. SMEs on the other side could suffer from limited resources to ever have a useful folksonomy at hand. They might be blinded by a massive tag cloud.

On the other side, as with all data that becomes part of the public domain: in the end, all sorts of enterprises and organizations could profit from social annotation, simply because experiences are already being made by many people. Related Open Source software and publicly showcased approaches are being constantly refined, existing tag collections are readily available to be directly included or used for inspiration. That will in sum lift up all enterprises when it comes to how effectively they make use of their organizational knowledge with the help of a tagging staff.

The question is not, how much enterprises will profit from folksonomies, the question is how effectively they will make use of it by combining social software with a corporate culture where most of the employees are happy to share what they know by providing hints what their knowledge means to colleagues.

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