Wikipedia's Word on Folksonomy
Posted by: Rob Hof on July 14, 2005
Steve Rubel notes that there’s a debate at the online encyclopedia Wikipedia about a new listing for the word folksonomy, which it defines as “a neologism for a practice of collaborative categorization using freely chosen keywords.” It appears that debate is rather one-sided, with nearly all commenters voting for inclusion.
The most interesting thing about the fuss is how much it reveals about why Wikipedia is becoming so popular. Dig down into why there’s a debate, and you see the care with which Wikipedia and its community have set up policies to ensure entries are useful and accurate. Visitors can suggest a deletion, and vote yea or nay on that suggestion. There’s a detailed deletion policy, including suggestions for alternatives to deletion. And much more.
As even some former Wikipedians have written, Wikipedia is far from perfect (though as Clay Shirky has noted, comparisons to standard encyclopedias may be beside the point). But the care illustrated in this one debate seems to defy the easy criticisms of what’s becoming the de facto online reference source.
UPDATE: On the other hand, Thomas Vander Wal’s post (in Comments) indicate that other criticisms are quite valid. Vander Wal, who coined the term folksonomy, tells of his efforts to correct what he—with clear authority—considers a flawed definition, only to see it changed back. The debate over community vs. authority on Wikipedia, it seems, is far from over.