Social Mining – Web 2.0 and Folksonomies

I have been talking about the impact of “Web 2.0”, social software and folksonomies in regards to their possible impact on enterprise knowledge management.

* The Web 2.0 movement is about empowering people to publish their own content quickly and easily with a minimum of knowledge. Flickr, Youtube,, Blogger et al allow people to publish content with little knowledge of apache servers, domain name registrations and the rest of the system admin knowledge usually needed to run a web site.

* Social software (which Clay Shirky put as, “the stuff that gets spammed”) allows people share their content with others, to learn who is interested in their content and to learn who has interesting content. It is the “who” part that is of interest. Social software enables the discovery of people of interest similar to how Google enables the discovery of content of interest.

* Folksonomies enable the loose classification of content. This classification is done by people and is not a rigid hierarchical taxonomy but a loose metadata based classification scheme. This classification scheme is great for informal content such as blog entries or URLs and content that may be interpreted differently by different social groups.

Knitting these three things together, we get a system which enables the easy publishing of content, discovery of the people behind the content and of others interested in similar content and a simple way to classify information content. Employing these systems inside of an enterprise should allow for much better communication and collaboration with the added benefit of social discovery. Jon Udell uses scripts to analyze data to discover people with similar interests and content that they are reading that he has missed (Jon Udell: Collaborative filtering with

In the early days of System Operations and enterprise computing, we were working on Data Management. The big question was, “how do we store all of this data and then recall it when we need it?” Huge tape libraries with colored number codes were built and technicians fetched and threaded tapes. We then advanced to Information Management where the issue changed from data management, which is raw and uninterpreted, into, “How do we find the actual information inside all of the this data?” It was no longer good enough to find the file by file name, we wanted to find the file that had the information we needed. This was followed by the Knowledge Management movement. The enterprise wanted to find the patterns that were present in the information to glean a higher level understanding of the enterprise.

Enterprises that take advantage of the Web 2.0 / Social Software / Folksonomy movement will move on to next level: Social Mining. This will enable users to mine the informal content within the enterprise and find others with similar interests and the content that those others find interesting. As one person I work with put it, “it is virtual mentoring”.