Tagging Electronic Records - There’s No ‘onomy’ in Folksonomy

By Susan Cisco posted 01-03-2011 17:17


Organizations need a strategy for tagging (assigning metadata to) records and information in ECRM systems. Referencing work by Clay Shirky, Emanuele Quintarelli, and others, Tom Reamy summarizes recent findings in a must-read article on the myths and benefits of taxonomies and folksonomies in ECRM systems. http://www.kmworld.com/Articles/ReadArticle.aspx?ArticleID=71998

Reamy lacks confidence in folksonomies as the sole approach to tagging records. Since they lack a system of rules (the “onomy”), folksonomies end up as a set of key words ranked by popularity. In on-line communities such as Flickr and the AIIM expert blog communities, this bandwagon effect produces tag clouds that emphasize the popular tags and not necessarily reliable tags which often contain misspellings, incorrect grammar, and other mistakes. Reamy suggests that choosing a metadata tag from a simple structured list (taxonomy) may be easier and more effective than making up tags (folksonomy).  Finally, he recommends a hybrid system of taxonomy and folksonomy for ECRM systems from which end users choose a term from a simple taxonomy and add their own tags independent of the taxonomy.

My observation of folksonomy use at the enterprise level is that it hasn’t been very successful. Isn’t that what happens when organizations allow end users to organize and maintain records and information without management controls or naming conventions?

A simple taxonomy appears to be a more reliable approach to tagging electronic records. At the enterprise level, I’ve seen the structured-functional hierarchy of categories in retention schedules (business functions, records series, and record type examples) used as the foundation for enterprise taxonomies. A very limited subset of the record type examples is exposed to end users from which they make a choice. Behind the scenes, the record types are mapped to the record series in the retention schedule, enabling retention periods to be automatically assigned. Additional metadata may be needed for high risk/high value records such as contracts, required regulatory reports, and personnel files.

What’s been your experience with the use of folksonomies and taxonomies for enterprise records and information management?

#Taxonomies #ElectronicRecordsManagement #Folksonomies #electronic records management