critical reading for the rude

TIDE, tagging, and authority control

Seems that the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) is growing big, big, big. Its managers worry that the amount of info in it will be way too much for humans to handle — maybe even too much for humans handling machines to handle.

When you want to be extra extra thorough, your tendency is to include more rather than less, and figure on using better practices in the future to weed out what you don’t need. You figure it’s better to have too much (and possibly incorrect records) than not enough information.

But this leads to problems quickly, and more quickly than ever before. I’m concerned about civil liberties, yes, but I also think we’re in some ways beyond that debate. I grew up in a household where it was just sort of assumed that your phones were tapped, that black helicopters were watching you, that the state was not accountable, that Big Brother was real (but he looked like Bob Barker, and hey, maybe he was Bob Barker), and that one fine winter morning we’d wake to a red dawn. I make no presumptions that the state won’t do exactly what the hell it wants to do, no matter what the law says.

The issue is this. If TIDE works better, not only do we catch more “terrorists”, but we also spare many citizens from getting wrongly tagged as terrorist. If librarians are interested in civil liberties, the freedom to access information, equal access, and all the rest, maybe we ought to offer up some of our best cataloguers to do pro-bono work on these spooky databases. (An idle suggestion, by the way… But could some very large, reasonably respectable library-related organization/s make forays into that world for the benefit of us all?) Make them leaner, meaner, and make them work better for the spooks who manage them now, and for the citizens who won’t then get wrongly tagged as enemies of the state.


This is just one instantiation of a problem in its infancy. The semantic web vs. good old hierarchical taxonomies. Folksonomy versus authority control.

Now on a massive scale there’s no way we can or should expect everyday internet users to plug in standard metadata elements to Flickr, MySpace, or You Tube on a voluntary basis. No way that’s gonna happen. But if some automated vocabulary control isn’t hatched fast, we’re going to (still) have an internet without an index — we’ll be (exponentially increasingly) dependent on the 2.0 masses to use “good sense” when posting files and images in such a way that others can easily find what they post. “I’m Feeling Lucky” every time I cast out a search query.

Could an “attention economy” market model use its invisible keyboard to push us toward good practice? In other words, if my pics get blogged quicker and more widely than your pics because I’ve used good filename practices (so they’re easier to find), will using better filenames be an evolutionary advantage on the web? etc.

ah so. she hopes so. i can see it in the one eye she has left.  in her right eye.


March 25, 2007 - Posted by | info sci

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: