How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Mess

Shirky, Butterfield, Schachter and Wales
35 minutes, 16.4mb, recorded 2005-03-16
Butterfield, Shirky and Wales
In this dynamic panel from ETech 2005, Joshua Schachter (, Stewart Butterfield (Flickr), Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia) and Clay Shirky discuss several topics important to folksonomies. Surprising aspects of the implementation of tagging in various environments and approaches to balancing the needs of the system to the desires of the user are discussed from various viewpoints.

The participants field questions from the audience regarding aggregation of tagged data from multiple applications, "folksonomic" approaches to large-scale categorization, and feedback for new taggers to increase the usefulness of the data for the user and the group. Throughout the discussion the panel emphasizes both the similarities and the differences between the services, the ways they are used, and how they accomplish what they set out to achieve.

The concept of users collectively describing and categorizing information means that even casual users of a system will have access to broad ranges of knowledge. This discussion of folksonomy methods and patterns emphasizes the benefits and challenges of this shared method of organization.

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Jimmy Donal "Jimbo" Wales (born August 7, 1966) is an internet entrepreneur and founder of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Wales is currently the president of the Wikimedia Foundation, a Tampa-based non-profit organization that encompasses Wikipedia and its younger sister projects. Wales's latest project is Wikia, which combines wiki social norms with search technology.

Joshua Schachter graduated in 1996 from Carnegie Mellon University with a Bachelors in Electrical and Computer Engineering, and he has been working in finance since 1995. Joshua founded the social networking service,, in 2003. Schachter also runs, purveyors of fine links and Internet archeology.

Stewart Butterfield is a director of Product Management at Yahoo! where he oversees the development of He also co-founded and acted as CEO of Flickr's parent company, Ludicorp, before its acquisition by Yahoo! in the spring of 2005.

Clay Shirky teaches at NYU's graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program. He writes and consults on the social and economic effects of the Internet, concentrating particularly on the decentralization of applications (peer-to-peer architectures and programmatic interfaces) and on the current explosion in social software.


This presentation is one of a series from the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference held in San Diego, California, March 14-17, 2005.

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This free podcast is from our Emerging Technology Conference series.