Then last. fm brings in tagging and filtering and presto; no longer does your search on where Mr. Scruff or DJ Vadim might be found this time depend on whatever the resident expert has come up with; it can be labelled by several names at the same time, and they're the ones that most people turn out to associate with the music. As someone who has spent some frustration going through various possible sections of a record store to find which category they'd put them in this time, I can tell you that's an easily more reliable indicator of what you might associate it with than the opinion of the owner of London Records or the music editor of Breakbeat youth. That's a very effective application of crowd wisdom.
Yup... But it's not only crowd wisdom applied in the tagging system...
It's also that people (including software architects) have come to think in a container structure. Which is really weird, considering that we're talking about information.
But apparently, somebody thought it would be easier for people to grasp the idea that, say, a Word document should be treated like a physical object. Which means, you'll put it into a folder, which you put e.g. on your desktop (see the physical-world-terminology?), and that's where you'll find it again later.
That makes a lot of sense, considering that people are used to this idea of handling stuff. You've got your CDs at home, you want to sort them... well, you'll put them into a specific place, maybe using a specific system. Sorting them alphabetically, or whatever.
Now, the metacrap dude (I googled him, found really only one reference.... is it really that
Cory Doctorow - the science fiction author? Yes it is.) says that, look, having a global system of organizing things by meta information will never work. Mainly because you put this thing in this place, I'll put it in that place. You'll name this bit a widget, I'll name it a what's-it. That where the mess starts, he says. To organize information, you'd have to get everybody, globally, to use the same system of organizing information. To put the same things into the same containers.
And then he goes off on a rant, finding all the various reasons why that will never happen.
Thing is: I agree.
But we're not talking about physical objects. We're talking about information. Unlike the physical object (e.g. a CD, a letter, ...), the information doesn't have to be put into one place
Filing a specific news article under "Politics" makes just as much sense as filing it under "International News". Both things might apply at the same time. And as we're not talking about physical information here, we don't have to decide to put it either
in one or
in the other category.
How do you do that? You come up with a new structure. The old model of folders and subfolders doesn't make sense any more.
And that's where labels or tags come in. As in nimh's example above, you can attach several tags to one bit of information. And you can find the information in several "places".
And all of a sudden, it doesn't matter that users attach different labels to the same bit of information. That people lie. Or that people are lazy, stupid, or whatever.