Monday, August 14, 2006

Language over Time

I'm not sure about this as an interface. Maybe it isn't an interface, and is in fact an experience, and it's just me making a category error, believing it to be a way of gathering information, or performing operations on content.


I think the thing that I'm struggling with is the fact that it is a very word heavy way of looking for pictures. I know that tags are lovely, in that they let you make semantically significant inferences about something that isn't machine readable... But still. What would happen if the background was significant pictures from the day, with a much slower turnover, and the description - the words - were slightly less busy, less demanding? Is it really that significant reading the words, rather than taking in the much more information dense pictures?

It is fascinating, though, to see how the significant words change over time on flickr. Right at the start the tags are tiny, almost illegible; presumably because so few users were tagging so few pictures in relation to today's torrent of snaps. Over time the subject matter of the pictures gets less geeky - fewer tech conferences appear, the tags get more inexplicable as the softer, less librarianlike secondary adopters flood into flickr.

But there is one thing that seems sad; the names disappear. I had a moment, watching the words drift by at first, when I wondered if it was something that an acquaintance had been involved in making - there was a philgyford and a foeromeo and a tomcoateshatsproject in there. After a moment of puzzling about it, I realised that the totality of flickr is now bigger than any one individuals' significant event. I'm still seeing FathersDay and prideparade - gatherings of lots of people, all documenting the same event, but the individual voices are lost now.

How *do* you keep the massive sea of data personal?

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