Discussing ontology and the internet

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Valerie has brought this really interesting article to our attention. I've read it through, and I think it has a lot of merit, but it also has faults, and I don't think this author's description of physical categorisation applies to wiki categorisation. Just like he said, there is no shelf. I'm going to write up a response over the next day or two that will make a comparison between what Clay Shirky is talking about and how MediaWiki approaches Ontology. I'd like to hear what everybody thinks about this article, and if anyone has enough time to search the interwebs for more articles on ontology and the internet, that would make for a marvelous, scholarly discussion!

Jesse Groppi (talk)23:28, 23 October 2009

removed from main page

Maintainability is another big issue for the WikiEducator solution. For Wikipedia, the purpose is pretty clear and all contributors have the same objectives - to make Wikipedia a really good source of information. So having strict categorization is do-able. On the other hand WikiEducator contributors have personal and institutional requirements that override the WE community goals.

Or, WE could alter the basic assumptions to align with the Wikipedia model - you are a contributor, not an owner of an OER. Then anyone and everyone can contribute and edit to make each OER better. There would need to be the whole system of specialty editors with additional privileges to enforce the categorization.

Scale needs to be considered in any categorization scheme. Yahoo is a good example of extensive professional categorization of online resources that eventually outgrew the ability to scale. WE has the additional challenge of being a largely volunteer effort.

Vtaylor (talk)14:03, 24 October 2009

I'm really not sure what it is you're trying to say. Could you elaborate on this? What is it you think we're trying to do with this workgroup?

No specialty or additional privileges are required to educate and guide users on the categorisation guidelines. However, it is vaguely in the plan to designate volunteers for this, as it is typically used in wiki environments. Some of our outputs are tools for this volunteer, but the position itself would probably be a part of a larger group of helpers, which is also a part of the outputs of the style guide workgroup.

Jesse Groppi (talk)18:08, 24 October 2009
 
Edited by author.
Last edit: 18:09, 26 October 2009

After reading Shirky's article and also a few critiques written around the same time, Clay Shirky's viewpoints are overrated and Ontology is overrated followup, my take is that Shirky has created a dichotomy between user-created tagging and the kind of categorisation that he thinks is a problem (and I'm not exactly sure I understand what that is). Shirky doesn't talk about wiki categories. Seems like wiki categories is an option that has some of the advantages of tags. Interestingly, WikiMedia calls wiki categories "category tags", see Putting an item in a category.

Shirky states that his concern is with "that strategy of designing categories to cover possible cases in advance...." Wiki categories are not set up ahead of time, but rather are ever responding to author and user needs.

Later on Shirky says:

If, on the other hand, you believe that we make sense of the world, if we are, from a bunch of different points of view, applying some kind of sense to the world, then you don't privilege one top level of sense-making over the other. What you do instead is you try to find ways that the individual sense-making can roll up to something which is of value in aggregate, but you do it without an ontological goal. You do it without a goal of explicitly getting to or even closely matching some theoretically perfect view of the world.

This idea of sense-making rolled up into something which is more valuable, without a predetermined goal, seems to me what wiki categorisation is all about.

As for whether tags or categories are a better approach, I'm not sure. I can see some benefits and downsides of each.

ASnieckus (talk)19:04, 24 October 2009

WikiMedia calls wiki categories "category tags" - good point. I think there could be a distinction between a formal ontology and user provided information. However, that is not what is implemented with "category tags" in WE.

About the "develop method" task - perhaps it it enough just to say that a helper might make some inquiries and/or suggestions. Does the "how" need to be proceduralized?

Does making a category suggestion have any more weight or authority than any other help like grammatical and typo fixes?

Is there a general WE guideline / procedure / method for offering help and suggestions?

Vtaylor (talk)17:48, 26 October 2009
Edited by author.
Last edit: 18:07, 13 November 2009

I'm not sure we're all talking about the same thing, hrmm. From my research into the field on Wikipedia and in reading the family of linked articles that branch outward from Shirky's, I think I've come to an understanding of the meanings of the terms "ontology", "taxonomy", and "folksonomy".

taxonomy
This is the umbrella term for the other two concepts. Taxonomy is the science/art of classifying things, of putting things into categories. (It began with biological classifications)
A taxonomist asks, "What makes a thing what it is?"
ontology
This is the structure within the taxonomy. In other words, ontology is the hierarchy, signifying relationships between the categories, which can augment the meaning of them, but doesn't define categories in any other way.
An ontologist asks, "How are these things related to each other, and how can I represent the big picture of these relations in a way that people can understand?"
folksonomy
This term describes the method in which a thing is classified. It also suggests a distinctive lack of ontology (structure). To this point, folksonomy does not appear to be defined as lacking structure, merely that it has not had any, traditionally. What I have read suggests that this is because it has not been feasible to divert resources into guiding the process in any way.
A folksonomist (read as: you and me) asks, "How can I describe this so that myself and others can find it when necessary?"

Does everyone else see these terms being defined this way?

Here are a list of the articles I have been reading:

The shame of it is that I can't seem to find anything more contemporary than a few years ago. The conversation is very old by internet standards, and worse, the debate doesn't seem to have run its full course.

About the "develop method" task, I wasn't thinking that was so much about proceduralising, as it was about discussing how we would keep track of these interactions and issues, whether it's a suggest or direct sort of communication, maybe providing a template that links to tutorials and help pages as well as providing some brief instruction on the issue.

Weight of suggestion - in both cases, each situation needs to be evaluated on an individual basis. Did the author mean to spell "mispelled" as "misspelled"? Absolutely. Did she mean to write "neighbor" or "neighbour"? That's something needs to be discussed. Does a resource on long division belong in the maths branch of the category structure? Definitely. Which age group based category does it belong in? Well, that depends on what country curriculum it was written for, so discuss it. If the author is a part of a school organisation, does the resource belong in the school organisation's category? Maybe, maybe not: ask.

If you're asking if we can make an author do something related to categories, then I'd swiftly answer, "no way!" But can we add categories without asking permission, I'd say, "why not?" Adding categories does not affect the resource in any way, nor can it negatively affect the way in which a category is found. It's in removing them that issues can arise, especially if the author's organisational intent doesn't match up with a category administrator's ideals. Removing categories should always be discussed, and I don't think we should give ourselves the right to remove categories without the author's permission.

Developing a procedure for offering help and suggestions is part of our task list. I don't believe we have one, just yet.

EDIT: Apparently I forgot to complete some paralleled points I had meant to make! I added them in (the questions in the definitions section)

Jesse Groppi (talk)23:14, 4 November 2009

Jesse - WOW - you have done an amazing job on this! I have learned sooo much. Thanks!

Vtaylor (talk)19:35, 5 November 2009

Thank you very much, Valerie, but I think you deserve the credit for having brought it up in the first place!

Jesse Groppi (talk)18:08, 13 November 2009