FAQ: Web 2.0 information gathering

Your news-aggregration questions answered

What do Web 2.0 gathering sites accomplish?

They allow readers to suggest, rate and comment on stories they believe will be of interest to like-minded people.

Who are the players?

Most techish readers will be familiar with Slashdot and Digg; other players include Techmeme, MetaFilter, Shoutwire, Reddit and Newsvine.

What is tagging?

Tagging is a form of metadata, usually generated by a human who has examined the content being tagged and formulated an opinion about it. Sites such as del.icio.us and Technorati sort blogs and other pages based on user-created tags composing a "folksonomy."

What is folksonomy?

(Other than a perfectly hideous word.) Folksonomy is user-generated taxonomy -- that is, a body of tags chosen and assigned by a user or users. A really good folksonomy is both extremely flexible (more so than a more formal taxonomy) and remarkably suited to the sensibility of the group of taggers who organically develop and use it. And since there is no formal taxonomic hierarchy to learn, anyone can do it.

How does everyone get on the same page with folksonomies and tagging? You say to-may-to, I say-to-mah-to, and someone else says wolf peach. Now what?

Individuality happens -- but that's considered a feature, not a bug, in matters folksonomic. Inconsistency in tagging can cause a certain amount of disconnection, one tagger's soda being another tagger's pop. However, there's no rule against using multiple tags for one object, so such disconnects are less problematic that one might think.

What is RSS? What's an RSS reader?

RSS (Really Simple Syndication, though the three-letter acronym stood for other things in the past) is a format for publishing content in blogs, wikis, podcasts or the like. By subscribing to RSS feeds, users can keep an eye on changes to those sources, visiting only when something's changed.

A user can subscribe to an RSS feed in several ways, but the most popular are Web-based readers and stand-alone applications. Google and Yahoo both can gather information from RSS feeds. Google uses RSS to dispense one headline at a time at the top of Gmail pages and also offers the more robust Google Reader. Yahoo has incorporated RSS feeds into its My Yahoo service. Bloglines and Netvibes are popular Web-based RSS reader/managers; FeedReader is a well-liked stand-alone application, and NewsGator integrates with the omnipresent Microsoft Outlook.

Didn't I delete this back from my machine back when they called it "push?"

You're funny. Actually, RSS readers are "pull" technology; they query the server.  

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