Some good criticisms

Today we sent out advance notice to a lot more smart people and got some great feedback. (Tomorrow we will ask for discussion on the IAI mailing list.)

Bud Gibson pointed out that our meme naming scheme resembles Shelley Powers’ Tagback technique. Shelley combines a “bb” prefix for her own site (not too unique and extensible) with an adapted version of her post title, e.g, “introducingtagback.”

She includes a link to Technorati’s tag page for this tag. Something like our aboutness page for the meme? Anyway, like a shareable RDF resource URI?

Bud and others recommend we follow Tantek Çelik’s microformats principles, especially the reltag microformat.

The memetic web seems to fit basic microformat principles.
1) Design for humans first and machines second
2) Use simple open formats
3) Build on existing and widely adopted standards.

Memography is very simple. And it uses today’s search engines as is.

The microformat rel=”tag” attribute added to a hyperlink provides metadata that the page, or blog post, is about whatever is described on the page linked to. (The example used is a technorati page.)

Thus it is comparable to our memelink, which points to the meme’s aboutness page on the memography wiki.

Lou Rosenfeld asks how this will look from a users perspective. I know the complex meme ID’s are off-putting, trying to find a public one to share is a massive UI problem, and the delay between embedding it and getting crawled by the robots may be unacceptably long for pages with low rank.

We need a mechanism for people to easily make their own meme IDs.

A memespace prefix can be built by inverting your domain name, thus Shelley Powers owns MEMO.COM.BURNINGBIRD, which won’t conflict with other memespaces, as her “bb” is bound to do.

Thomas Vander Wal notes that Trackback might have accomplished something like this but for its spam problems. Popular memelinks will no doubt be spammed. Will it help that a memelink is on an identifiable web page?

Thomas points out that mis-tagging and rapid evolution of popular memes will reduce precision and recall pretty quickly. The hope is that results will remain good for relatively stable and specialized memes and ones that are kept relatively private (inside intranets, for example).

5 Responses to “Some good criticisms”

  1. Kevin Marks Says:

    The point is that as the rel=”tag” uses a URL, you don’t need to burden the tag itself with namespace paranoia.
    Linking to says that you are defining the tag via that link.
    Technorati currently chooses to fold tags in different tagspaces together, but you are free to keep them distinct with your own parser.

  2. shiftless Says:

    The Memetic Web Announcement

    There was an announcement for the Memetic Web broadcast today on the SIG-IRList, a moderated search and information-retrieval mailing list I subscribe to. The basic idea seems to be a compromise on the semantic web and tagging (Flickr, technorati, del….

  3. matthew smillie Says:

    I got wind of this via the SIG-IRList.

    Long and rambling response:

    Summary: I think you’re misapplying the recall measure (ratio of relevant documents retrieved to total relevant documents). A good definition of “relevant documents” should be in relation to a particular human-level information need, not simply “contains the query string”. In the terms you’ve defined, documents should be relevant in relation to the *meme*, not simply the meme id. Defining relevance in terms of the meme id only shows that Google crawls regularly and indexes very rare strings.

  4. Administrator Says:


    Thanks for your comments and your long thoughtful post on shiftless.

    Relevance has always been subjective and in the eye of the beholder. As you say, it should be in relation to a human need. We are twisting it, I know, but for memography, relevance is “some human tagged this page with the meme I am looking for.”

    Note that we will still only have high precision and recall, since some taggers may make mistakes, there will be spammers, etc.

    Perhaps we should call it “relevence” to distinguish it (with deference to Jacques Derrida and his “differance” that made such a difference, and to the “Relevence of Misspelling,” a topic I will address shortly).

    Bob Doyle

  5. matthew smillie Says:


    I’ll state it as clearly as I can: that definition of relevance is completely useless for anyone using the system, for anyone evaluating it, and for anyone maintaining it. It leaves a gaping and obvious hole in the results: what about documents clearly relevant to a given *meme* (e.g. Harvard for the zip code example) but which don’t incorporate the *meme id*, and are hence not in the results of a search?

    Any sort of “meme id adoption rate” would reduce to the same sort of relevance judgements (which applications of the id are spam, and which aren’t?), and would simply define a ceiling on an appropriately-defined recall measure - you can’t get away from human-level relevance in a search system.

    By relying so heavily on the meme id, you’re cutting out what could be potentially the most beneficial aspect of the system, and the one that has the most resonance: the meme itself as a locus of meaning for the meme id. What does it do in the search? What effect does it have on results? As far as I can tell, the answer to both of those questions is “nothing”.