TECH621 Discussion: Web 2.0 Ontology–A Soil and Plants Metaphor

I was always thinking ontology is a very abstract term from philosophy, but it shows up more and more frequently in my reading recently, so now I realize in information science, an ontology formally represents knowledge as a set of concepts within a domain, and the relationships between those concepts. It can be used to reason about the entities within that domain, and may be used to describe the domain. 

In the last TECH621 class, we were discussing the concepts of Web2.0, Social Media, and Social Networking Sites (SNS), and the relationship between them, so basically, we are creating a ontology about this set of concepts. The purpose is to come up with a better way to describe this domain, to establish a common base of communication and to provide a framework for conducting research.

Here is the result of our discuss guided by Dr. V. I added my own thoughts about CSCW (Computer-Supported Cooperative Work) in the process of trying to find the position of email, but then I kind of think it’s not necessary to include CSCW here to mess up with other concepts. I also add internet to include the whole thing, just because I am not very comfortable that half of the CSCW circle is leaving outside.  This is based on our class discussion, but I don’t particularly like using the circles to illustrate here out of the reason specified after this picture. (Please click and zoom in to see clearly)

My Unfinished Thoughts:

(1) Most things we are talking about are based on the modern Internet and the recent and mainstream thinking about social media. There maybe particular cases that are not of interest to research in this field, which we chose to not consider. I feel we are defining things to provide a base of academic communication, also, what our result is heavily influenced by what we refer to in our daily communication in academia. One thing I learned for being a researcher is that (I don’t know whether this is right or wrong), to live with confusion, and to leave things that are not crucial to your research out of mind.

(2) Here are two concepts of platforms and two concepts of channels, which I think is resulted by comparing things of different types. The relationship between Social Media and Web 2.0 is more of “based upon”, so Web 2.0 is platform in the sense of an Operating System. Web 2.0 and Social Media are things of different types, like the soil and the plants. The relationship between Social Media and SNS are more of “include”. They are things of the same type, like plants and a certain family of plants. To illustrate this whole thing using circles (I mean Venn Diagram) is fine, as long as we pointed out that the two platforms are in different senses as Dr. V did it in class, because drawing circles is a very intuitive way of showing relationships. However, personally, I think it’s better to only using circles (I mean Venn Diagram) when categorizing things of the same type, here I more like to use the soil and plants metaphor to illustrate the relationships between Web2.0, Social Media and SNS:

Web 2.0 is like a particular type of Soil with a number of characteristics such as user participation and contribution. That is to say, this soil needs human beings to interact with it to become meaningful soil, otherwise it’s just a piece of empty ground. Web2.0 can also address other possibilities because of this interactive nature, that’s where Social Media comes into play. Social Media is a family of plants that growing in this Web2.0 soil, besides user participation and contribution, it also address user communication. SNS is then a sub-family of the Social Media plants.

Unfinished thoughts, welcome commenting and helping me articulate.



McAfee, 2006


TECH621 Discussion: The “Long Tail” in Social Bookmarking

In response to what we discussed in class, here is some references related to the long-tail in social bookmarking.

Terms in a tagging system are usually considered to follow a power-law distribution. They tend to converge into a small subset of prevalent keywords, and other obscure or problematic tags fall into the “long-tail”, thus get filtered out of the central area. This is regarded as an illustration of Zipf’s Law (Zipf, 1935): “in a corpus of natural language utterances, the frequency of any word is roughly inversely proportional to its rank in the frequency table”. This is useful for filtering out the problematic tags, and reach a converging point of the collective intelligence. However, some researchers point out that there are hidden useful information in the long tail since the long-tail contains informal metadata, and searching method should be improved to search across the long tail, rather than only use a small subset of the tags (Tonkin, 2006).

I also found an online forum ( discussing that you can use long-tail keywords to get traffic to your websites. The basic idea is that you use low competitive keywords to bookmark your website, and each of them get a low volume of searches, but cumulatively, you will get enough traffic. I haven’t looked into whether there are scholarly publications about this idea. I am sure there are tons of other papers mention this, just list a few here:
1. Golder, S., & Huberman, B. A. (2005). The structure of collaborative tagging systems. Arxiv preprint cs/0508082.
2. Tonkin, E. (2006). Searching the long tail: Hidden structure in social tagging. Proceedings of the 17th ASIS&SIG/CR Classification Research Workshop. Austin, TX.
3. Zipf, G. K. (1935). The psycho-biology of language: An introducation to dynamic philology. Boston, MA.