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Release 1.0 – Taxonomies and Trees

I wrote the current issue of Esther Dyson’s Release 1.0 newsletter, a looong piece on taxonomies and tagging. Esther has given me permission to post the introduction to the article. It attempts to give an overview of taxonomies, trees, faceted classification, tags and folksonomies. Here’s how it begins:

The narrative that tells of the first man and woman encountering the tree of knowledge focuses on its tempting fruit. But after we took the bite, we apparently looked up and got the idea that knowledge is shaped like the tree’s branching structure: Big concepts contain smaller ones that contain smaller ones yet. Over the millennia, we have fashioned the structures of knowledge in just such tree-like ways, from the departmental organization of universities (liberal arts contains history and history contains ancient Chinese history) to the hierarchy of species. The idea that knowledge is shaped like a tree is perhaps our oldest knowledge about knowledge.

Now autumn has come to the forest of knowledge, thanks to the digital revolution. The leaves are falling and the trees are looking bare. We are discovering that traditional knowledge hierarchies that have served us so well are unnecessarily restricted when it comes to organizing information in the digital world. The principles of organization themselves are changing now that they are being freed from the constraints of the physical world. For example …

Click here to read the rest of the introductory section… [Technorati tags: ]

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10 Responses to “Release 1.0 – Taxonomies and Trees”

  1. David, wow. I wish I could afford to subscribe to Esther’s pub. You’ve managed to simplify something very complex. Of course, I’ll try to simplify it further.

  2. Great article! I wish I could buy.
    As I know near to nothing about this, a question: Is folksonomy really the same as tagsonomy? Folksonomy seems should be used as tagsonomy by folks. I mean folksonomy is a branch of tagsonomy. So tagsonomy can also be “centrally controlled” and “be decided beforehand”. The owner of data can have as many tags as s/he thinks are suitable for an object. Of course that is when the owner can manage that, i.e number of objects that is not so little and no so many .

  3. Continue:
    For example in when you tag your own bookmarks, it is taxonomy suited for your own benefits, but the whole is folksonomy.
    Also in your own account there you can prevent “apple” problem by adding other tags like “Computers” and “Fruits”.
    I serached Internet to find how we can tag wisely, but nothing found up to know. It seems experts like you can guide people about this, of course, as evident, with the emphasis beforehand that they can use whatever tag they like, but good to obey some limited rules. Then “apple” problem is prevented to some degree.

  4. I’ve heard people say that folksonomies and tagsonomies are the same.

    Yes, you can avoid the “apple” problem as you describe, and computing systems might be able to guess at which you meant even if you don’t add any extra tags by looking at other things you’ve tagged and what your social group has tagged. But, if tagging really and truly catches on, I think we’ll see some unexpected solutions emerge. If I knew what they were, I’d invent them! :)

  5. Really well written stuff. An proof-reading note for you… Near the end, the following sentence appears to be missing a couple of words:

    “They are also easier maintain than trees because adding [a] new item requires only filling in the information about facets, rather [than] having [to] make [a] decision [about] exactly which category it should go into.”

    Or perhaps you meant to type “having to decide”?

    Thanks again.

  6. I enjoyed the article, which I found on The link on the article back to your blog is broken.

  7. Elaine and Mark: Thanks for the corrections. I’ve fixed the page, which is based on my final draft, not on the final draft that got printed. I hope!

  8. thank you!!!
    your work is [email protected]!!

  9. Tags e a gentenomia

    Caramba! Comecei este post depois de ver a página de tags do CCMixter, e sacando a boa idéia de visualmente escalar as tags na relação ‘tamanho x itens’ (, e sacando a boa idéia de visualmente escalar as tags na relação ‘tamanho x itens’ (

  10. tornei di poker on line…

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