Saturday, 16 August 2008

Word of the day

Today's word is crowdsourcing, and thank you to Rebecca for pointing it out, and to the JISC posting which we both saw. I was sure that I had used it before in this blog, but I haven't. I have just remembered where I did use the word, which was in the text of this library's IT Strategic Framework, developed early in 2007. So the word has been around for a while.

According to the Wikipedia, it means "the act of taking a task traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people, in the form of an open call." Crowdsourcing has been coined along the lines of outsourcing, with which it is compared and contrasted. For us, crowdsourcing is most often applied to user-contributed keywords, or tags. There is an interesting article in Boingboing about the Library of Congress "using Flickr to crowdsource tagging and organizing its photo archive." And Flickr is the great example of user-generated subject descriptors - billions of them.

There are discussions amongst librarians about whether user-contributed tags are "better" than structured subject headings. Here is the definitive answer to that question: yes, and no. They do different things, both useful.

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