Along with Optimal Browser and OPod (now Grazr powered) I'm finally spoiled for choice in Feed Grazers so my attention is turning more to grazer fodder - OPML directories and taxonomies. A Taxonomy can be defined as "a system of classification, frequently hierarchical". The top-level classification I've been using for a while now in the Open Irish Directory is -
- Arts, Culture & History
- Business & Economy
- Community, Home & Family
- Computers & Communications
- Entertainment & Shopping
- Government & Law
- Health & Environment
- News & Media
- Sport & Recreation
- Transport & Travel
I didn't re-invent the wheel of course, I merely produced a hybrid structure from several tried and tested taxonomies, including Yahoo! Directory, DMOZ, and niceOne. And a right mess I made of it too! But I couldn't see it until Damien Mulley said -
... all it does is give you more things to click and navigate through and the titles of the nodes become crucial to pique someone's interest. Also there are more than 7 choices which is a no no in UI design terms.
Damien is absolutely right. I'd heard that advice (about 7 choices or less) before but ignored it because if Yahoo!'s professional ontologist thought 15 or more categories were appropriate then surely they were? Not according to Clay Shirky but then again he practically throws out the baby with the bath-water in his ode to folksonomic tagging.
A little extreme perhaps but it did set me wondering about the basic premise behind these online directories - that they can catalog the World Wide Web. Whether or not they can is irrelevant as the World Wide Web is increasingly eclisped by the World LIVE Web. If that seems ridiculous just stop and think about how many hours a day you spend reading new blog posts, email, and IMs and listening to podcasts. Those are all part of the live web, the feedosphere, and they certainly occupy the majority of my waking hours. And it appears to be trending towards 100% as observed by Matt Terenzio in the 'EveryBuddy Manifesto'.
So what does that mean for Web 2.0 directories? Shouldn't they reflect the underlying transience of what they organize. Shirky's core criticism of traditional web directories is that they impose a physical order on a digital world. They essentially ape the categorization scheme of a real world library -
The essence of a book isn't the ideas it contains. The essence of a book is "book." Thinking that library catalogs exist to organize concepts confuses the container for the thing contained.
... there is no shelf. In the digital world, there is no physical constraint that's forcing this kind of organization on us any longer.
Not only that but the World Live Web is no more a library than a road network is a carpark. RSS items are the vehicles of the feedosphere in a constant state of frenetic motion, racing and swerving, overtaking and braking, turning and shooting off in all directions. And these are quantum cars, duplicates existing in a multitude of places at once, made real by observation.
Like Jack Sprat and his wife, OPML and RSS were made for each other. RSS describes action and change. OPML is all about structure and order. RSS is a verb. OPML is a noun. But the verb is what puts the 'live' in World Live Web, and our directories should adapt to reflect this. We must strip them of nouns.
With these thoughts and Damien's criticism's in mind I was wondering how I might re-arrange the top level view of the Open Irish Directory to better reflect the underlying dynamics and mutability of the feedosphere? Can you break down the life of a human being into a simple set of verbs? It was then that the song from the old Mars bar advertisement came into my head (really!) - "A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play". Is it as simple is that? Is that, in essence, all we do? Perhaps it is everything else is a sub-category -
But what of the overlap and conflict? Think quantum cars! Take the verb 'Shop' for example. Where does that fit in? If you ask my sister its play, my mother calls it rest (incredibly!) and I definitely think its work. But according to the quantum theory of the World Live Web there is no conflict here - we just place the wave/particle in each place at once -
- to Music
- to Radio
- For clothes
- For food
That's just a five minute brainstorm, a 'write it down regardless' first draft and I'm sure it will require much deeper consideration. But maybe, just maybe, Mars Inc. were onto something....