Home > Semantic Web > I will pay delicious $100 for hierarchical tagging

I will pay delicious $100 for hierarchical tagging

June 19th, 2009

Just saw Jim’s post on What is the Semantic Web really all about?

I have been wondering about this problem too. What is Semantic Web? Yesterday I have asked a question “Why few (or none?) Web 2.0 sites provide hierarchical tagging?” on LinkedIn and get some pretty good answers:

http://www.linkedin.com/answers?viewQuestion=&questionID=496785&askerID=14212719

For your convenience, I attached my LinkedIn post at the end of this blog.

There are two things in the answers that draw my attention:
* Many do _not_ believe tags, or even hierarchical tags, are semantic; “semantics” means RDF or triples at least to them;
* Some believe that even implementing a hierarchical tagging system is not easy in engineering or social aspects.

I think these two beliefs, among many other reasons, may explain in part why the “Semantic Web” is still far from a reality. The first is about the overestimation of what is “semantics”: triple is one way to express semantics, but it is a question that whether it is _the_ way. The second is about the underestimation of “Web”-scale: realizing a knowledge system, even if is conceptually “simple”,  on the Web can lead to serious scalability problems, both for machine (can you make <1s response for all queries?) and for people (on changing their way of thinking).

Here is what I believe about “semantic web” (note no-capitalization). First, it is not necessarily “the Semantic Web” (just like there is no “the Mobile Web”), as defined by W3C standards or the layered cake model. Semantics is a way of organizing things, RDF and OWL are some ways to express it, but other ways should be encouraged too and sometime work better. Second, tools and services should be “web-ish”, something like a semanticized version of youtube or gmail; after all, “web users” are rarely a bioinformatician or can master a Java-based ontology editor.  Third, start deployment with very very basic semantics like trees (yeah, I know some will protest) and sameAs, but do it in a very very efficient way – if we can’t even come up with a Web-efficient tree reasoner, then how realistic we can come up with a Web-efficient RDF or OWL reasoner?

Now I’m prepared to dodge tomatoes :D

by Jie Bao

===============

My original post on LinkedIn (reorganized a bit)

Why few (or none?) Web 2.0 sites provide hierarchical tagging?

Gmail label and delicious tagging are flat, which is troublesome all the time for me. I have to add (unnecessarily) many tags even if they can be easily inferred. I didn’t find an alternative that allows me to organize my tags in a tree or network. Is there any technical or marketing reason?

People have been talking about semantic web a for a while and are looking for a killer app. It’s apparent that hierarchical tagging is semantic, is in high demand, and is relatively easy to do. Why there is none in popular sites?

PS 1: Let me clarify some situations when hierarchical tagging will save me a lot of time: recently I’m reading a book of Qian Mu, a historian, and tagging my notes on delicious with tags “qianmu“; I also want all those notes be tagged with “history“, but I have to always add both “qianmu” and “history”.

Sometimes I want more than one tags to be inferred. For example, when I add “wuxu” (the year of 1898), I want tags “qing“, “china” and “reform” to be added. You will find how trouble it is to add all 4 tags together when you have about 10 notes on “wuxu”.

In another example, I want to share my tags in both Chinese and English. If I can define two subclass relations between two tags, each in a different language, I will not have to always add the both tags.

Now I have about 1000 tags on delicious. I’m really really in despair need for a hierarchy. I’m willing to pay delicious $100 for such a service.

PS 2: Further clarification: I don’t believe I will need a tagging system that always requires me to pick up terms from a tree, DAG, or a network. I can still freely add tags. But I need some way to clean up my tags from time to time, and organize them. It is just like how i clean up my “download” folder: put them into different folders, and if a folder is too big make some subfolders.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.5/10 (2 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
I will pay delicious $100 for hierarchical tagging, 8.5 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
Author: Categories: Semantic Web Tags: ,
  1. June 19th, 2009 at 16:49 | #1

    PS: Just realized WordPress (the system TW blog is using) supports hierarchical tagging :D

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  2. June 20th, 2009 at 12:00 | #2

    Very interesting post. You should take a look at pearltrees.com, we do some organization based on hierarchies. Here an example of organization where I guide readers through the semantic web. In few monthes we will let our users export their maps in a standard format (RDF). It will be interesting to see what kind of reasoning the semantic web community will be able to do.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  3. June 20th, 2009 at 13:44 | #3

    I have noticed the same problem some time ago. Over the last couple of years some of my research activities were devoted to improving this situation. There is a couple of things I managed to do.
    The first project was TagsTreeMaps http://tagstreemaps.sourceforge.net/TagsTreeMaps.html In the context of hierarchical tags: it allows to deliver clustering solutions to get clustered tags out of del.icio.us for better browsing. The component was integrated into JeromeDL platform (e.g., http://library.deri.ie/)
    However, that did not solve the issue with del.icio.us completely. That is why, first in notitio.us (a research prototype) and not in digi.me (online service that will go public next week) – you can make use of hierarchical tags:

    1) you can import you delicious tags, they will be clustered, but you will have a chance to reorganize the hierarchy the way you want to do that (we are testing synchronization with delicious at the moment)
    2) digi.me uses controlled vocabularies for tagging – it means that you can choose terms from dictionaries and they will already have more relations. The upcoming release of the OpenVocabulary component that does the trick will also enable creating own relations between tags (uncontrolled terms)
    3) finally, they way digi.me works is that you create folders, organize them into hierarchy (using folders created by others as well), and annotate folders with terms. So that each time you put a resource into one of folders is like adding all terms associated with this hierarchy and that particular folder. Saves a lot of time. Plus – you can easily add URLs simply by pushing one bookmark let, typing in “d:Name-of-your-folder” and voila. Take a look at http://blog.digi.me/2009/02/12/tutorial-part-2-bookmarking-and-annotating-interesting-sites-with-digime/

    As I said – digi.me will go public on Monday, but if you want to test it before – drop me an email.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  4. June 21st, 2009 at 23:22 | #4

    Jie, just to clarify – is it your opinion that hierarchical tags are semantic, while regular tags are not? I don’t have a problem with that if so, since everyone has a different definition, I just wanted to make sure.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  5. June 22nd, 2009 at 01:19 | #5

    @Yaron: I believe both hierarchical tags and flat tags are semantic somehow. Flat tags (like RDF) describe the extensional knowledge, while a hierarchy (like RDFS) describes the intensional knowledge (such as subclass relations). This is, of course, a completely subjective view.

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  6. June 22nd, 2009 at 15:47 | #6

    Jie, ThreeTags (www.threetags.com) is an online note/bookmark manager with an advanced hierarchical tagging system. And it’s free – no need to pay $100. :)

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  7. June 22nd, 2009 at 16:06 | #7

    @ThreeTags I tried ThreeTags, and it is awesome. I wish delicious had offered the functionalities of ThreeTags.

    It will be even more useful if ThreeTags offers a toolbar button to browsers to add a link with one click.

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  8. June 22nd, 2009 at 16:21 | #8

    Re: a toolbar button: yes, we know that this is what people want. But it is hard to add on-the-fly encryption to a toolbar button, and client-side encryption is something we strongly believe in. Maybe a browser extension will solve this – still under discussion.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  9. June 22nd, 2009 at 18:22 | #9

    Jie,

    Hierarchical tagging is much more difficult in managing than flat tag cloud. In real life, as long as we start to do some serious work in contrast to play toys, maintaining a well organized hierarchical semantics is unbelievably hard. From the beginning, it seems simple. But when it starts to extend, the degree of hardness grows exponentially. I believe it being the main reason why this effort is hardly sustain in any generic application.

    In analogy, to do hierarchical tagging is like to do what in a famous story—to put rice in all the blocks of a chess board in sequence while you double the number of rice in a block each time. At the first glimpse, it seems not a big deal. But just lasting the process for a while, it soon becomes extremely painful.

    yihong

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  10. June 22nd, 2009 at 20:05 | #10

    @Yihong Ding Why users can get used to arrange files in folders, but not tags in a hierarchy?

    I’m also thinking that we do not really need a hierarchy that connects everything. We need some relations between tags, they can be sparse, can be disconnected, and can be limited (such as up to a few levels). We don’t necessarily build a rooted tree for tags. If a tagging system can only work with 100 tag relations per user (so the exponential-growing difficulty will have a cutoff), it is still better than having none.

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  11. June 23rd, 2009 at 02:54 | #11

    Hi,
    tags are an easy way to name things you are interested with. Organizing these things in a hierarchy (or better, in a graph where tags can have several parents) is indeed a natural need.
    I came to RDF and the SW through my interest for tagging using tags organized in a graph. I made a tool for my personal use : http://www.semanlink.net
    It lets you add tags to web pages and documents on your disk. Each tag gets its own URI (with all the LOD stuff), and you can organize your tags in a graph of tags (parent/child relationship. Basically, it is using SKOS concepts as tags.) You can have a look, and download it if you want. (I had developed import/synchronizing with delicious, but not used it for a long time – not sure how it behaves now)

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  12. June 23rd, 2009 at 10:34 | #12

    @Jie Bao
    Folder is not a good example of hierarchical structure. A complicated folder system is hard to maintain, while a simple folder system has no significant difference from flat tag cloud.

    A few simple hierarchy is not a problem and a few social tagging tools even have started to support this feature (e.g., the mixture of folders and labels used by Google). The problem is to really produce the sophisticated meaningful relationships as you look for. This is hard to be sustainable unless there is a very good automated service supporting underneath. To develop such a service is, however, not only non-trivial but also very very difficult.

    yihong

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  13. Dave Winer
    January 29th, 2011 at 23:17 | #13

    Look at the category element in RSS 2.0.

    http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/rss/rss.html#ltcategorygtSubelementOfLtitemgt

    If you get delicious to implement hierarchic tagging, RSS will be ready for it. :-)

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  1. April 12th, 2011 at 16:53 | #1