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Controlled and suggested vocabularies: Are tags making us dumb?

This post, by David Weinberger, offers wonderful insights on the pros and cons of folksonomies. Although much is said about the bottom-up, emergent properties of folksonomies, I'm still quite skeptical about the current state of folksonomy implementations. Decentralizing to these extremes always has its limits. Weinberger in his post lists some of these limits. I would add the phenomenon of the 'long tail' and 'information cascades' to his list.

I can't help thinking about the possibility of having a bottom-up 'synonym ring' which connects all the varying terms used for the same item. For example, PC Forum = pcforum05 = pcf = pcf05 etc. This falls into the 'aggregator' role that James Surowiecki talks about in his book, The Wisdom of Crowds. Surowiecki gives the example of Google as an aggregator of bottom-up links between pages. Here Google just identified and brought to life an already existing emergent parameter that existed between pages - the page rank via page referrals. Similarly, can a tag aggregator leverage the tag rank using tag referrals? If yes, then we have an emergent 'preferred term' with its surrounding synonym ring, which can be used to increase the recall and precision of a search.

This is getting a little out of hand. I think I need a holiday :)

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