heavy meta parking lot

I like books because they tend towards linearity and being one little knowledge parcel of something. However more and more when I read (latest book: Book of Lists, 90’s edition) I have a little index card that I use as a bookmark — card catalog card, actually — that I make notes on. The notes often turn into Google searches, del.icio.us links, MetaFilter posts and emails to my Mom. My books become more than themselves by being dissected and shared.

So, this has been the theme for this weekend, a weekend that had me teaching my Mom how to use Greasemonkey scripts to show more photos on her main Flickr page. I also taught her how to use Grab to do screen captures, how to take long shutter photos with her camera and why del.icio.us is considered “social.” She even discovered she had fans on del.icio.us, what fun! Three other things that sprang up, regarding the meta level of things.

  1. Flickr Machine Tags – tagging is great, but most people agree that some sort of structured taxonomy complementing a folksonomy is a stronger and more useful way to make information findable. Enter machine tags. Also known as “triple tags” they add an almost faceted layer of classification to Flickr, but still in a totally “roll your own” way. So, for example. I took a picture of my Mom. She is also a Flickr user. In the past, I could add a tag that said “Mom” or “Muffet” (her user name) but there would be no way to explicitly link her Flickr identity to the Flickr picture of her except with a clunky HTML link which makes sense to a human reader but isn’t super clear to a machine. If you check the picture I linked to, it has a new sort of tag flickr:user=muffet which you create just like a normal tag, but it has parts to it. Right now it’s the Wild West as far as what you can build into machine tags — see hoodie:color=orange there aren’t really any standards or even accepted practices, but there are a lot of people doing a lot of talking and it’s an exciting time to be into taxonomies.
  2. Ed “superpatron” Vielmetti and I have been sending del.icio.us mail this evening. This diagram should explain everything.
  3. Back to books for a second. How great would it be if, while you were reading a book, you could have a graphical representation of the places talked about? Well, one of the rocket scientists over at Google Book Search is building just that sort of tool. Their post Books:Mapped explains a little of how it works. The about page of the book on Google Books will have a map, if one is available. Here is an example from David Foster Wallace’s book The Girl With Curious Hair or perhaps more dramatically The Travels of Marco Polo.

7 thoughts on “heavy meta parking lot

  1. wow, thats some cool stuff. i like the concept of graghic representation in a book…it will stop me from associating childhood places with places in books :)
    cute photos of you

  2. heavy meta parking lot really needs to be made into a tshirt

  3. What excites me about machine tags is the combination of formal classification with the collaborative power of community tagging. Imagine the power of a tag like “MARC:650=”Cats — Fiction.”” This could be the beginning of something big.

  4. Mike, glad to read you saying that, as I was just thinking something similar about Dublin Core and Flickr machine tags this morning. So if that is a crazy idea, at least there are two of us who are crazy.

  5. “How great would it be if, while you were reading a book, you could have a graphical representation of the places talked about?”

    You might be interested in Revish, where you can do just that right now. Here are a couple of examples:


    The site pulls photos from Flickr which are machine tagged with the book’s ISBN. There are more details on the Revish blog at:


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