Tuesday, August 01, 2006

xpound.org is a new Web 2.0 site that provides passage search, blogging, and social connections, but with an interesting new twist of Bible tagging, along the lines of del.icio.us. (I'm not sure if it's pronounced with equal stress like "slashdot", or "ex-POUND", like the verb) The basic idea of tagging is that, rather than a top-down, authoritative organization and labeling of knowledge, people can simply attach whatever labels make sense to them, in a bottom-up, unstructured (and, some would say, chaotic) fashion. The natural advantage of this kind of folksonomic tagging is that, at internet scale, it can overcome a lot of the messiness, while highly structured knowledge management approaches don't always scale. As with other tagging sites, there's no guarantee that what somebody tags as, say, africa, will have meaning to anybody else. But it means something to the person who tagged it, and thus becomes a highly personalized way to organize information.

I think using this approach for Scripture makes some sense, and i've blogged about it previously. But i also have some questions. With del.icio.us, the item being tagged is clearly defined: it's a URL. But what's the natural unit for tagging Scripture? Verses are one answer, but they often don't have enough context. Books are generally too large, and chapter divisions don't necessarily line up with the content you'd want to tag. Of course, you can tag arbitrary passages: but here's where the comparison to del.icio.us breaks down. With del.icio.us, others who use the same tags as me can point me to sites i didn't know about. But where the passages aren't necessarily bounded the same, aggregation doesn't work quite the same way.

Here's an example: a few days ago Josh tagged Ephesians 5:3-4 with five tags: gratitude, greed, immorality, impurity, and saint.

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. (Eph.5.3-4)

If you search on these tags (like gratitude), you'll find this unit. If instead you search by verse for Eph5.3, you still see the tag for gratitude, presumably inherited from the larger unit that was tagged (though you could argue that gratitude really only applied to verse 4). And of course, the following verses also talk about immorality and impurity, though (since they weren't included in these tags) they're not retrieved.

One of the most interesting new capabilities that del.icio.us creates is knowledge discovery: if i find someone who has bookmarked several of the same sites as i have, i can go look at their other bookmarks, and often find new sites i was unaware of. This provides a kind of search by likeminded community intelligence, a really interesting counterpart to typical web search engines. I haven't found this capability in xpound, but it would be a great addition.

(Hat tip to the ESV Blog for pointing me to xpound.org)

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