January 24, 2007 19:31 | WebTech

Talking to machines

or "Flickr introduces tags to the Semantic Web"
or "Folksonomies, meet Folktologies"

Aaron, one of the flickereenos, just announced what they are calling "Machine Tags"

Machine tags are tags that use a special syntax to define extra information
about a tag.

Machine tags have a namespace, a predicate and a value. The namespace defines a class or a facet that a tag belongs to ('geo', 'flickr', etc.) The predicate is name of the property for a namespace ('latitude', 'user', etc.) The value is, well, the value.

Like tags, there are no rules for machine tags beyond the syntax to specify the parts of a machine tag. For example, you could tag a photo with :

* flickr:user=straup

* flora:tree=coniferous

This is of course quietly huge. Flickr is providing a way to store and retrieve namespace:predicate=value strings, which means you can now have (single level) ontologies in your tags, and better, you can get together with your friends (colleagues ;) and agree on namespaces to use and share.

The real power here comes from the fact that Flickr provides a means to query these machine tags and extract just the bits you want. (It's mentioned in the "Ceci n'est pas un FAQ". Scroll down to "# Can I query the various part of a machine tag?")

This means you can have your machine talk to their machine for useful structured data. whirr whirrr whirrrr.

How this is different from Del.icio.us "tag bundles":
- no API to query directly
- no real community tools to gel consensus to generate enough valuable shareable namespaces. this might jump start that though, and Joshua has said they are focusing on adding more community-y features.