August 8, 2005
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Tags and Hierarchies

Peter Merholz offers a thoughtful critique of Shirky's recent writing on tags, and concludes with an interesting simile: Clay Shirky as Jakob Nielsen.

Clay has pretty much decided to be to tagging what Jakob Nielsen is to usability. Vocal, bombastic, attention-getting, and frequently specious. Read his words carefully, because while his rhetoric might induce a lot of head-nodding, his arguments have a tendency to fall apart.

We should consider why our tech culture rewards -- and perhaps insists on -- exactly this rhetorical approach. If you're careful not to argue beyond the evidence and if you're thorough with your research, it seems, you're likely to be stuck as a respected but obscure academic researcher. Add a little more bombast and subtract a lot of restraint, and you can be a star.