I did an online presentation a couple months back for a user group, sharing some strategies for developing a strong metadata taxonomy. One of the participants reached out recently with an interesting question: How does taxonomy improve social collaboration?
Having a defined taxonomy helps foster collaboration by helping people quickly align content and artifacts that they upload with a set of defined, accepted keywords and terms. This metadata helps put the content in context to other content within the system, helping users find the right content and interact with it. While you can move forward without having a structured, defined taxonomy in place, it will make your life much more difficult. SharePoint without taxonomy is like giving a bunch of sugar to a 3-year old, and then trying to get him to sit quietly and listen to a story. You may eventually get him to calm down, but there will be a lot of running around and yelling until the sugar-high crashes.
A taxonomy gives your collaborative activities structure, serving as a launching pad for team interaction. It is a framework for your conversations, helping you organize your content around a known construct. Your team adds to the taxonomy through various interactions -- such as tagging when uploading new content, using the social features to discuss and markup the content -- the taxonomy becomes more robust, and search relevance improves.
Folksonomy (end user-generated metadata), when managed through sound governance principles, helps expand your taxonomy by making it more relevant -- by adding new terms, new synonyms, and creative misspellings. Because your taxonomy is more robust, search becomes more relevant -- because it now includes the exact language being used by your end users, not just the high-level taxonomy created by a panel behind closed doors.
In short, social tools and social interactions add to the folksonomy, and folksonomy is used to improve the taxonomy. #socialmedia
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