Cornucopia of the commons

Roland Piquepaille has latched onto

I read all the entries I posted on my blog since March 31, 2002, in chronological order, and I assigned a category to all these stories. Now, I have a full archive of all my posts.

Before, if I wanted to know if I already wrote about a specific subject, I used PicoSearch or Google. But a search by word is not always efficient. Now, I open my archive and I click on a tag.


Now, what about you? Have you found other creative or innovative ways to use [Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends: How do you use]
As I mentioned here, the key phrase when thinking about a service such as is Dan Bricklin's "cornucopia of the commons." This is so fundamentally important that I'll quote again from his seminal article:
We've heard plenty about the tragedy of the commons --in fact, it pops up in several other chapters of this book. In the 1968 essay that popularized the concept, "The Tragedy of the Commons," Garrett Hardin wrote:
Therein is the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit -- in a world that is limited. Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.
In the case of certain ingeniously planned services, we find a contrasting cornucopia of the commons: use brings overflowing abundance. Peer-to-peer architectures and technologies may have their benefits, but I think the historical lesson is clear: concentrate on what you can get from users, and use whatever protocol can maximize their voluntary contributions. That seems to be where the greatest promise lies for the new kinds of collaborative environments. [Dan Bricklin: Cornucopia of the Commons, Peer-to-Peer, Chapter 4]

What Roland Piquepaille is doing here, like what I'm doing here, begins with self-interested personal information management. We categorize our own items first and foremost for our own benefit, so that we can find things more easily and so that we can better understand how new items relate to our collective works.

But is also a social system. The tagging I do is also potentially useful to you. For example, Roland's entry today cited several of my prior items about A shorthand way to refer to those -- and, in fact, to all six (soon to be seven) items in that set -- is: That's a nice convenience.

Here's something that goes beyond convenience, and really starts to illustrate the power of social software. Consider this page: There, Roland is collecting links to items about AI topics. Some of those have already been posted to by other people. For example, this link shows us that by the time Roland routed his Fractal Imaging Gives Robots a Body Language item to, on 10/22, it had already been bookmarked by other people on 7/10 and 10/19.

This data is of enormous interest to a blog author. We can measure reaction to our items in terms of blog postings that refer to them -- for example, here -- but the activation threshold for posting a blog item that comments on another item is fairly high. Social bookmarking is a lightweight mechanism. It's easier for people to cross the activation threshold. As a result, there's more attention data enabling us to gauge interest in, and reaction to, our stuff.

There's more. The two people who bookmarked Roland's article clearly have an affinity with him, relative (at least) to the bookmarked item. Those people are known to as and By virtue of their shared interest in Roland's item, a group of three like-minded people is implicitly formed. Roland can, if he chooses, subscribe to the link trails emitted by those minds. For example, peritus' bookmark used the tag robots. If Roland subscribes to the corresponding RSS feed, he'll be notified when peritus posts a bookmark to that topic.

Still more: on Roland's page, he can see the following set of related tags from other users:


We see peritus here, but amygdala is missing in action. Why? Look at the sets of tags applied to Fractal Imaging Gives Robots a Body Language by these three people:

rpiquepa: AI Future Psychology Robotics
peritus: anthropomorphism fractals news research robots technology
amygdala: anthropomorphism simulacra

There's a relationship between rpiquepa and peritus, by way of Robotics/robots. But the system can't correlate amygdala's use of anthropomorphism (which, interestingly, is also used by peritus) with rpiquepa's AI or Robotics.

Should that correlation exist? Roland can decide for himself. If he agrees that the tag anthropomorphism, used by both amygdala and peritus, is a useful additional categorization of his item, he can add that tag to his instance of the bookmark. He might then choose to subscribe to amygdala's and peritus' anthropomorphism tags -- or, perhaps, to the collective anthropomorphism tag.

This is the kind of feedback loop that, I believe, will enable metadata vocabularies to converge in a decentralized way. Think "cornucupia of the commons": self-interested use leads to collective abundance.

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