Over the last few days there’s been some very interesting discussion on the ngc4lib mailing list. It’s for the discussion of the next-generation catalogue (what exactly that means is part of the reason for the list).
Last Tuesday, Tim Spalding of LibraryThing posted When Tags Work and When They Don’t: Amazon and LibraryThing. Go read it, if you haven’t. Here’s his abstract: “This is an extensive post, revealing the results of a statistical comparison between Amazon and LibraryThing tags, and exploring why tagging has turned out relatively poorly for Amazon. I end by making concrete recommendations for ecommerce sites interested in making tagging work.”
Spalding posted a link to this on ngc4lib and discussion ensued about why people tag on LibraryThing (and other places where tagging has worked well) and don’t on Amazon or WorldCat (or other places where it’s a dud). Someone brought up having private and public tags. There was chat about the difference between tags like “fiction” or “medieval history” and “gift” or “in bedroom.”
Tim Spalding said: “I think there’s a sort of misplaced Platonism in this concept. (This is also my problem with FRBR.) There is no ‘Price and Prejudice’ in the sky, only copies situated in the real world. ‘At mum’s house’ and ‘Victorian’ may divide alone item/work, but what about ‘English class’?”
Mike Taylor replied: “What about it? It seems pretty clearly a property of the work rather than of the item.”
Spalding had also said: “(The latter is very personal, but the physicality isn’t important–maybe you lost your copy and got a new one.)”
Taylor replied, with great insight: “Right — which is why I argued that the important distinction here is not between Personal and Public tags, but Work and Item tags.”
The thread continued, with Spalding saying FRBR is a binary model and referencing David Weinberger, Jonathan Rochkind commenting on that, and more. More mail has come in while I’ve written this. Go browse through the archives and see what Karen Coyle, Kent Fitch, and others are saying. It’s lively and thought-provoking.