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Tagging is the reverse of “foldering”, Part I

Posted by Gia Lyons on April 23, 2008

Program Note: This mini-series is for those of you who “get” social software, and have the task of helping your more traditional co-workers “get” it. It’s in many parts so that you don’t glaze over after three minutes.

I spoke with a large telecom customer yesterday. One interesting idea resonated well, especially in light of the all-out push to slurp knowledge out of an organization’s “wisdom holders” before they exit, stage left. Um, good luck with that, by the way. My advice? Get them to trust/mentor/repeatedly talk to a new hire who likes to blog. People typically only share their precious information with people they trust, either in person, over the phone, in email, or instant messaging.

Where was I? Oh yeah. Tabling the whole social-software-as-neo-KM discussion, let’s get simple. Let’s talk about where it hurts every day.

Traditional Worker (T.W.) says, “Why can I find more information about our company using Google on the Internet than I can searching our intranet?”

Well, finding intranet content is vastly different than finding Internet content, and even deploying Google’s search appliance internally won’t magically give you Google-like search results. Why?

Google makes use of the vast and growing user participation on the web to find the good stuff based on reputation through a secret and ever changing formula.

The FASTForward Blog » Internet vs Intranet vs. Enterprise 2.0 Search

Andrew MacAfee said it best back in 2006:

[The Web’s emergent nature] is a key difference between the public Internet and private Intranets. Public Web sites are built by millions of people, while most Intranets are built and maintained by a small group. Emergence requires large numbers of actors and interactions, but Intranets are produced by only a few people (even though they are passively consumed by many). In addition, most Intranet pages aren’t as heavily interlinked as pages on the Internet.

Another important difference is that Web 2.0 has accelerated the rate of emergence on the public Internet. I think of Web 2.0 tools and technologies as accomplishing two important goals: increasing the number of people who are contributing content (and the ease with which they can do it), and increasing the number of ways to let content creators (and consumers) interact with each other. These new interactions are the further mechanisms, beyond linking, for emergence – for letting patterns and structure emerge from low-level behavior.

Tagging, as implemented on, Flickr, YouTube, Yahoo’s My Web, etc., is a new and clearly powerful way to let structure emerge.

Andrew gives us something to shoot for, later in his entry. To paraphrase, corporate intranets could stand a large dose of user participation in order to make search better, but it’s hard to get people to participate, because these new tools are not intuitive for a Web 1.0 mindset. But, once they start using them, it’s hard to stop them.

Tomorrow, Part II: T.W. says, “Whuh?”


5 Responses to “Tagging is the reverse of “foldering”, Part I”

  1. Great Blog! I think the more we are able to show how social networking will help achieve business objectives will go a long way to converting the sceptics (I was one not so long ago!)………. and how tagging can absolutely improve access to information which will enable us to be more productive, effective and informed. Looking forward to the next edition……………. And yes once started, social networking can transform how a person works for the long haul!

  2. Gia Lyons said

    Thanks, Michelle! Getting over the “this is useless” hump is the hard part.

    I’ll be posting part II in the morning…

  3. […] About Gia Lyons « Tagging is the reverse of “foldering”, Part I […]

  4. […] Gia Lyons « Tagging is the reverse of “foldering”, Part I Tagging is the reverse of “foldering”, Part II […]

  5. […] Part I for […]

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