Participation and Patterns

In a long post about why LibraryThing has 10 times as many tags per book as Amazon, Tim Spalding says this:
Take one example: LibraryThing users have applied over 3,900 tags to Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, including “apples,” “office” and “quite boring.” With just a few tags, it might be thought a desert cookbook, a business book or—worst of all—a boring one. But these are all single-instance tags. With a larger number of tags, clear patterns emerge, with high-level descriptors like “history” (755 times) and “anthropology” (293 times) standing out clearly against the noise. Even lower-frequency tags, like “social evolution” (25 times) and “pulitzer prize” (20 times) can be trusted as relevant.
So if you can get people tagging their stuff, i.e., books they read, you can collect enough opinions to see relevant patterns.

This is participation, which the Internet does better than any other medium. It’s not broadcast centralized content, which too many big ISPs (telcos and cablecos) seem fixated upon. It also wouldn’t happen if LibraryThing had to pay for a premium channel to reach all those people. Participation is a big reason net neutrality matters.


PS: Seen on Joho the Blog.