Understanding the efficiency of social tagging systems using information theory

Abstract

Given the rise in popularity of social tagging systems, it seems only natural to ask how efficient is the organically evolved tagging vocabulary in describing underlying document objects? Does this distributed process really provide a way to circumnavigate the traditional "vocabulary problem" with ontology? We analyze a social tagging site, namely del.icio.us, with information theory in order to evaluate the efficiency of this social tagging site for encoding navigation paths to information sources. We show that information theory provides a natural and interesting way to understand this efficiency - or the descriptive, encoding power of tags. Our results indicate the efficiency of tags appears to be waning. We discuss the implications of our findings and provide insight into how our methods can be used to design more usable social tagging software.

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