Friday, February 27, 2009

Are tags from Mars and descriptors from Venus?

A study on the ecology of educational resource metadata.

I just finished a paper on the tag evaluations that we did in the MELT project. We had lots of fun with the name of the paper :) the main question being which one, tags or descriptors, should be from Venus...?

Anyway, we were able to show that not all the tags are as far from the Thesaurus descriptors as Mars is from Venus. We had different perspectives for evaluations: end-users, expert indexers and repository owners. For me the most interesting thing that came up was that 11% of end-user generated tags are actually terms that we can find in our multilingual Thesaurus! I assume teachers are "better taggers" than average, usually there is lots of talk about the gap between end-users' language and the one deployed by experts.

Abstract. pdf. In this study, over a period of six months, we gathered empirical data from more than 200 users on a learning resource portal with a social bookmarking and tagging feature. Our aim was to look at the tags from different stakeholders’ points of view; end-users, librarians/expert indexers and repository owners. We first look how users tag resources, and then conduct an evaluation with indexers to understand how they perceive the value of tags as descriptors. We then present a case study from a repository owner’s point of view. Lastly, we study users’ clickstream when searching resources. We find that, even though end-users and expert evaluators apply very different strategies when adding metadata, (end-users have a rather synthetic approach whereas expert indexers an analytical one) there is an overlap in the information in tags and the official descriptors, this overlap is even up to 51%, creating an ecology of metadata.

Keywords: Learning resource metadata, tags, folksonomy, clickstream,
thesaurus, evaluation.

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