Reader for Mobtagging Workshop

Links on social software, tags and CBPP

Mobtagging is the practice of a large group of users who freely apply and exchange tags (metadata) to a set of unstructured online information. The aim is to describe content more adequately, personally or pinpoint interesting information faster than a search engine or online directories. Mob- or social tagging can provide more precise search results for specialized interests and as such is a form of Commons-Based Peer Production (CBPP).


libbooks -

Theoretical readings

In natural languages the reference of a word to an object is clearly defined in dictionaries. But on the everyday level language is continuously developing. Semantic references change, new words are introduced; old definitions are no longer in use. It is this evolutionary trajectory of language which mobtagging reflects. Content on the web is not self-explaining. It becomes meaningful in respective contexts. These contexts are no longer defined by the author but by the reader and user. Applying personal labels to data is hence a proto-linguistic activity which structures the (virtual) world.

"Basic Level Categories" (2003)

By Peter van Dijk
In this short article Peter van Dijk explains basic cognitive categories readers use to identify content. Because mobtagging is strongly related to personal interpretations of object-word relations, basic categories, which are universally understood, can help to structure data. There is an ongoing discussion of what these categories are.

"Folksonomies? How About Metadata Ecologies?" (2005)

By Louis Rosenfeld
In a contribution to his blog, information architect Louis Rosenfeld discusses the advantages and limitation of folksonomies. In his opinion, mobtagging can be a useful extension of controlled vocabularies. Because a large number of users label content individually, they are more flexible than a small group of experts. But finding specific content with tags is difficult because of the openness of the system and the large multilingual vocabulary.

"Folksonomies. Cooperative Classification and Communication Through Shared Metadata" (2004)

By Adam Mathes
Hailed as one of the best introductions to the possibilities and limitations of folksonomies, Adam Mathes maps the potential of mobtagging applications for more diversified taxonomies. Starting with some examples like Flickr and, he emphasizes that folksonomies facilitate sharing files, one of the most important features of the web. He points towards semantic ambiguity, variations across languages and ambivalence as disadvantages of tagging. Still, he is convinced that mobtagging can be a fertile contribution to controlled vocabularies.

"Weblogs, Metadata, and the Semantic Web" (2003)

By Matthew Rothenberg
Blogs are the publishing medium of the future. But keeping together related items can be hard. Updates of pages may go unnoticed. The development of RSS springs from these concerns in the weblog community. Defining common categories of metadata in XML is another. Mobtagging is hence a technique of ‘keeping it all together’. The author discusses the vanguard position of the weblog community in developing powerful and reliable online sharing systems.

"Classification and Categorization: A Difference That Makes a Difference" (2004)

By Elin K. Jacob
Classification and categorization are two different things. Whereas the first is a cognitive ability of individuals to structure any information in a broad sense, the latter is a controlled vocabulary which assigns each entity to only one category (library catalogue). This article distinguishes the semantic and structural differences of classification and categorization. Starting with definitions of information, Jakob summarizes classical theories of how data can be organized.

"Social Bookmarking Tools: A General Review" (2005)

By Tony Hammond et al.
Social bookmarking means bookmarking hyperlinks and share them with others. You can give information about links to others by tagging the bookmark. This provides the user with a personal library. A so called ‘architecture of participation’ comes about whereby a whole new network is formed. But why is tagging useful? And how can we build online communities with this form of social bookmarking? What are the motivations and benefits of tagging? A detailed review of a large number of platforms.

"Folksonomies: Power to the People" (2005)

By Emanuele Quintarelli
A summary of folksonomy cases and theory based on the assumption that "tools of social connection are emerging", which "are producing an incredible amount of distributed information that we need to link, aggregate, organize in order to extract knowledge". Folksonomies are tools to organize distributed content. Drawing her arguments from cognitivist and learning theory, she argues for a "middle path" between broad and narrow folksonomies, to implement free tagging as The Tool of data organization.

"Learning Through New Media Objects" (2003)

By Karen Woo
To improve the discoverability and accessibility of learning objects, new media objects are helpful. Metadata is such a new media object. Information about a particular learning object gets a personal tag and enables reliable searching. This principle of tagging is used in closed resource libraries, but appears far more effective on the net. In this article the relationship between learning and new media objects is highlighted. User-applied metadata is one of the possibilities to improve searching and getting access to relevant information for learning.

"The Year of Unique IDs" (2005)

By David Weinberger
Last year, it was Web 2.0 and tagging. This year, it's going to be unique IDs (UIDs), and for the same reason that Web 2.0 and tagging matter: The Web is going miscellaneous. We're about to get very interested in assigning meaningless numbers to lots of things.

"Talk Back to the Web With Flock, the Social Browser" (2005)

By Robin Good
This post explains how Flock enables independent publishers, news reporters, and bloggers to talk back to the Web without having to fire up other tools.

Mobtagging/Folksonomy cases

Soundsharing with Freesound

The Freesound Project is a collaborative database of Creative Commons licensed sounds. Contributions of soundbits can be tagged, looped and downloaded. Freesound uses a display engine.

Photosharing at Flickr

Flickr is a large and popular communicative database with an online photo management and sharing application. Images can be tagged, talked about, commented on or used as connectors (FlickrMail).

Bookmarksharing at is a collection of bookmarks or ‘favorites’. You can share your favorite sites with other users and label these links on your own terms to make them more findable.

Weblog syndication with Technorati

Technorati is a real-time search engine that keeps track of what is going on in the world of weblogs. It tracks the number of links, and the perceived relevance of blogs, as well as updates that occur in the blogosphere, and monitor the communities (who's linking to whom) underlying these conversations. Users can search blogs or blogcontent by keywords.

Content matching with anyMeta

The Mediamatic website is powered by a Content Management System called anyMeta which uses metadata (keywords) to display and find related articles. AnyMeta automatically makes links based on that metadata. In that way new information is directly put into context.

Tagsearch with Flock

Flock is a free, open source web browser which enables users to blog and post directly to publishing platforms, bookmark pages directly on, or post and interact with Flickr. Flock is currently available only as a developer preview.

Commons-based peer production (CBPP)

Mobtagging is one application within a vast field of platforms, websites and data collections which are made by users. This field is described as Commons-based peer production and can comprise highly specific sites for experts (fansites) as well as general resources like an online encyclopedia. Below are some CBPP examples:


An online message board which uses tags to help organize blogposts by users (instead of threads or channels).

The Transitioner

This page is, like many others, a product of a community. The main objective of this page is to promote community based resource pools as a form of Collective Intelligence. A bit esoteric, but still rich database on the uses of CBPP.


First example of an encyclopedia made by users. Every contribution can be changed, improved and commented on by any user. In the long run, this kind of encyclopedia reflects the discussion and knowledge about topics among the contributors. Controversially discussed because of its radically democratic approach to information, Wikipedia claims to be the world’s most up-to-date database.