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Tagging Wikipedia: Collaboratively Creating a Category System

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Association for Computing Machinery


Category systems have traditionally been created by small committees of people who had authority over the system they were designing. With the rise of large-scale social media systems, category schemes are being created by groups with differing perspectives, values, and expectations for how categories will be used. Prior studies of social tagging and folksonomy focused on the application and evolution of the collective category scheme, but struggled to uncover some of the collective rationale undergirding the decision-making processes in those schemes. In this paper, we qualitatively analyze the early discussions among editors of Wikipedia about the design and creation of its category system. We highlight three themes that dominated the discussion: hierarchy, scope and navigation, and relate these themes to their more formal roots in the information science literature. We distill out four styles of collaboration with regard to category systems that apply broadly to social tagging and other folksonomies. We conclude the paper with implications for collaborative tools and category systems as applied to large-scale collaborative systems.


Thornton, Katherine; McDonald, David W. (2012): Tagging Wikipedia: Collaboratively Creating a Category System. Proceedings of the 2012 ACM International Conference on Supporting Group Work. DOI: 10.1145/2389176.2389210. New York, NY, USA: Association for Computing Machinery. pp. 219–228. Sanibel Island, Florida, USA