Crowdsourced taxonomy

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Crowdsourced taxonomy is the idea of managing a taxonomy in a way which allows one or more global taxonomies to be created and managed without arbitrarily giving any individual user special privileges.

In environments such as Wikipedia (and the MediaWiki software in general), taxonomies are created by usage of "category" tags within the text of an article. This allows any user to add or remove taxonomy links created by another user. Resolving disputes (which may devolve into an edit war) ultimately requires the intervention of an "admin", i.e. a user given special powers to block specific other users from editing. By default, this creates an unaccountable concentration of power unless accountability is somehow built into the process by which admins are appointed, and is therefore something to avoid.


My current thinking is to allow global taxonomies to emerge from aggregation of individually-managed taxonomies. I'm still working out the details, but the following seem likely to be a part of the final design:

  • an initial default taxonomy created by the site founder (this may be somewhat minimal, just to set the overall shape)
  • the ability for users to correlate any given twig on their taxonomy with a twig on the global taxonomy
  • some kind of user-credibility rating system (this is also an essential component for other reasons)

It may be that the system will allow different users to see a different global taxonomy depending on their credibility ratings for other users.

It may also be that the system will recognize the existence of groups within the venue, and allow founders or members of those groups to appoint "taxonomy librarians" to be the ultimate arbiter(s) of the group's taxonomy. Each user can choose whether or not to recognize the group's taxonomy as valid; every user who does so gives that taxonomy more weight within the global taxonomy.