The new Journal Of the Hyperlinked Organization (JOHO) metaphorically paints folksomony and controlled vocabularies as “trees vs leaves”:
Folksonomies are different in important ways from top-down, hierarchical taxonomies — the shape we’ve assumed knowledge itself takes.
The old way gets some experts together who create a nested tree of concepts into which everything in a particular domain can be slotted. Think of the Dewey Decimal System. Think of the Tree of Life. The new way invites users of information to add a word or three to the objects they want to find again.
The old way provides the vocabulary we are to use. The new way lets us use our own words.
The old way puts the control of the classification system in that hands of the owners of information classifying it.
The new way gives control to the users of information.
The old way creates a tree. The new rakes leaves together.
This is not an either-or. The old way — trees — make sense in controlled environments where ambiguity is dangerous and where thoroughness counts. Trees make less sense in the uncontrolled, connected world that cherishes ambiguity.
Nicely painted, eh?
But I admit, I have been super sloppy on my del.icio.us tagging, willy nilly and not consistent:
I have “learningobject”, “learningobjects”, “learning” and “object”! What tag gunk.
So on my “some day to do list” is to rake these leaves into a slightly neater file. Part of it will be helped by the interface of the experimental del.icio.us bookmarklet tool that not only provides the form fields, but also a clikckable lost of all tags you have used (click any to add it for the page in view) as well as ones recommended from the wider audience.