Everything is toothpaste


Imagine my surprise when I read the following paragraph on pages 196-197 of Everything is Miscellaneous by David Weinberger:

For example, when Flickr automatically splits photos tagged “Capri” into photos of the Italian island or of the Ford car, it also shows the additional tags associated-sort of, kind of-with each of the two groups. Thus, next to the Capri island cluster it lists “italy,” “sea,” “island,” “water,” “Italia,” “blue,” “naples,” “Napoli,” “Europe,” and “boat.” The first three in the list are in boldface to indicate that the statistical correlation is particularly strong-“73 percent in a category,” in Schachter’s terms. Likewise, if you browse all the photos at Flickr tagged “Italian,” you’ll see photos of Capri, the Colosseum, a plate of roasted pork loin on top of asparagus, an Italian plant manager in what seems to be a motorcycle factory, a red beverage, a high-voltage sign in Italian, and a glamour shot of a toothbrush loaded with toothpaste. Such a cluster of photos is not a true case of a family resemblance, because all of those photos do indeed have one characteristic in common: Someone has tagged them “italy.” But, like a family resemblance, there is no single explanation of what makes “italy” an appropriate tag. It’s obvious why the photo of the Tuscany landscape was tagged that way. We can guess why the photo of the pretty, dark-haired woman was tagged “italy,” although we can’t be sure if it’s a photo of an Italian or of a visitor to Italy. . . .There are relatively few photos at Flickr tagged “italy” and “toothbrush,” but many tagged “italy” and “rome,” so it would not be hard for Flickr to isolate some photos as likely to be prototypical of “italy.”

Toothpaste, 31 July (PM)

That’s me. That’s my toothpaste. While there were a lot of points that I tried to make about tagging with toothpastery, Weinberger does hit one of my main points. And, I couldn’t be happier.

Incidentally, Marvis – the Italian toothpaste – is the most fantastic toothpaste I’ve ever used.

5 Responses to “Everything is toothpaste”

  1. Mike says:

    “Weinberger does hit one of my main points”…. what point?

  2. Joanna says:

    That Flickr could use the other tags to narrow to a sensible, more meaningful set of photos. While Weinberger confuses “italian” and “italy” as tags, the point he’s making is that the associations with other tags would make the data more meaningful.

    I deliberately sought out toothpaste with names that I knew would infect common tags with completely inappropriate photos of toothpaste. Desert Essence Natural Tea Tree Oil Toothpaste with Baking Soda & Essential Oil of Fennel and Colgate Luminous Enamel Strengthening Paradise Fresh mixed in photos of toothpaste with cacti and beaches.

  3. Hah! The miscellaneous strikes again! I never expected the photographer to read the book, much less blog about the photo! Nice picture, by the way.

    And: D’oh! Do you know how carefully copy-edited the book was? Very! Even so, this slipped through. I’ll note it in the book’s errata (which is at http://www.everythingismiscellaneous.com). Thanks!

    Glad to meet you.

  4. Joanna says:

    No one else has ever described my OCD toothpaste photos as glamourous.

  5. Very interesting insights about tags. By the way, it’s good to know that you are keen to care for your oral health.