Robert Rebholz is not only my boss*, he is also my muse, ideological sparring partner, alter ego, and mentor. Bob is possesed by a special kind of genius, with a sort of Jeffersonian breadth and intensity that makes it a pleasure and honor to collaborate with him, on a day-to-day basis. In my opinion, Bob is one of two people on Earth who can talk about the BIG idea that is Claimspace, with absolute confidence, competence, and credibility. If you have even a passing interest in online communities of practice, folksonomies, reputation systems, credibility, identity, recommendation systems, rewards, "flow", collaborative filtering, "social search", & related areas, I encourage you to subscribe to my RSS feed and Bob's RSS feed.

Yesterday, Bob posted an excellent post about Claimspace that wades into the broad river of uses that it might one day support, for both users and "community owners", across the Web. He cites the following potential uses:

  • "Long tail recognition system"
  • Solution to the "Who can I trust? issue"
  • "Generalized polling mechanism" (and portable)
  • "A simple REST API gives everyone (and I mean everyone -- the mashup possibilities are just staggering -- caveat, keep the crawl, walk, run idea in mind) the ability use the data in a manner best suited to their needs: community (MVP or other influencer) reward programs, product design input, product feature voting, bug prioritization, and on and on and on, all without a ton of custom code. Any Digg-like application would love this kind of data. Can you imagine -- hottest claims, hottest people making claims, most used claims, newest claims, by product, by solution area, by geographical region, and the list goes on."

  • Lastly but not leastly... Bob identifies the possibility of using Claimspace as a bizarro substitute for a traditional, taxonomically hobbled, binary choice or n-scale rating system, which he describes thusly: "Claims can be created and applied by anyone, including the people hosting the community. They could be built right into the forums application, for instance, to support assertions or claims such as "was this post helpful", or "this post answers the question asked". A library team could, for instance, create several standard claims (a claim/assertion taxonomy) that relate to the quality or usefulness of the posted library content."

Alas, it is true. Perversion will occur.

Alas, we must accomodate the taxonomy-doers and guide them to the right path, if we can. But Claimspace is a folksonomy.

Personally, I believe that the taxonomy-doers will come to see the futility of their ways and that if they don't, they will lose the vast majority of their customers, over time. For example, if Typepad disallows xClaims and Blogger allows them, Typepad runs the risk of making Blogger appear to be a much better blogging platform than it actually is, relative to Typepad ;-).

It's tempting and easy to impose one's way of thinking on others; to deprive one's minions or customers of the ability to control the means by which resources of their creation are published, organized, discovered, and evaluated by other people. The organization of information, access to publication mechanisms, and permission to cite, annotate, edit, and otherwise alter the organization or substance of information resources or its metadata, both online and offline has ALWAYS been closely and jealously guarded. Those who control "the tree" of information control you. The taxonomy-doers derive personal benefits from that control, often at our expense and often, in the absence of compensatory benefits. In many cases, taxonomies are indeed helpful. But Claimspace is designed and is being developed primarily as a "folksonomical" resource rating system. As such, Claimspace has the potential to be medium of social evaluation that empowers the little people: you, me and millions of other self-publishers, to gain recognition and evaluate credibility, on our terms, rather than in a way that is strictly and uniformly defined by AOL or Microsoft or O'Reilly or Yahoo or Google.

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*Note that this is the first time I've mentioned Bob, in my blog. Talking about one's boss in a public forum is tricky, both socially (wrt personal credibility) and from a career perspective. However, I feel that Bob's ideas deserve your recognition, as they command my attention and respect, and not just because he looks like Zod.