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Software

Ask Slashdot: Tags and Tagging, What Is the Best Way Forward? 142

siliconbits writes "The debate about tagging has been going for nearly a decade. Slashdot has covered it a number of times. But it seems that nobody has yet to come up with a foolproof solution to tagging. Even luminaries like Engadget, The Verge, Gizmodo and Slashdot all have different tagging schemes. Commontag, a venture launched in 2009 to tackle tagging, has proved to be all but a failure despite the backing of heavyweights like Freebase, Yahoo and Zemanta. Even Google gave up and purchased Freebase in July 2010. Somehow I remain convinced that a unified, semantically-based solution, using a mix of folksonomy and taxonomy, is the Graal of tagging. I'd like to hear from fellow Slashdotters as to how they tackle the issue of creating and maintaining a tagging solution, regardless of the platform and the technologies being used in the backend." A good time to note: there may be no pretty way to get at them, but finding stories with a particular tag on Slashdot is simple, at least one at a time: Just fill in a tag you'd like to explore after "slashdot.org/tag/", as in "slashdot.org/tag/bizarro."
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Ask Slashdot: Tags and Tagging, What Is the Best Way Forward?

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  • fuck tags (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:35PM (#44425871)

    that is all

    • by rullywowr ( 1831632 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:50PM (#44426055)
      Well usually before tagging, I will arrange all the items on long folding leg tables. I try my best to group them with like categories of items. I pick a day when the weather will cooperate and post some ads online and in local newspapers. Once I am ready to tag, I simply write down the requested price on a self-adhesive tag with a pen, Sharpie or similar instrument. Larger items require larger tags. Once the tagging is done, I sit back and prepare for profit!
    • by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:58PM (#44426147) Homepage Journal
      What exactly is "tagging"?

      *sigh*

      I guess I'll have to click the links and read and see if a definition of tagging is in the linked article...but I couldn't surmise from the synopsis what tagging referred to.

      • by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @01:12PM (#44426325) Homepage Journal

        Really??? Tagging is a mystery to you? Tags are an extremely common kind of metadata. This is a tech website that uses tags.

        • Re:fuck tags (Score:4, Informative)

          by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @01:47PM (#44426821) Journal
          Ahem! [xkcd.com]
        • Re:fuck tags (Score:4, Interesting)

          by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @02:01PM (#44426997) Homepage Journal

          Really??? Tagging is a mystery to you? Tags are an extremely common kind of metadata. This is a tech website that uses tags.

          I've seen the tag thing here on slashdot, but I'd not seen it anywhere else on other sites I use..so, I figured it wasn't something so limited as that, to my perception.

          And frankly, I've never really see the use for the 'tags' they have here on /., I can't find what they are really used for even here.

          I'd heard about people tagging or identifying people in pictures on FB, but it didn't seem to be about that....and I'm not on FB, so not sure if it is used there.

          So, I was just asking, the synopsis of the article seemed to assume everyone knows what they meant by 'tags'....as if they were so ubiquitous as to be common knowledge by everyone.

          • by khellendros1984 ( 792761 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @03:47PM (#44428257) Journal
            They are fairly common. It's a way of attaching information about some form of post, identifying a category for the post, a list of related terms, etc. It makes it easier for someone else to find that information when they do a search for it later.
            Tagging someone on Facebook is an example. It makes it possible to add that picture to a list of "Pictures that Bob is in". One of the tags on this article is "tagging". That means that I can search Slashdot for "tagging", and this article will be one of the results.
            The idea of a tag is tied into the "semantic web". This is the idea that you ought to be able to read a blog post and click a tag at the bottom to find other blog posts that have been tagged with the same word, so you can continue reading things related to the tag that you clicked.
            One of the challenges is that there isn't a standard way to specify a tag. Should I call something "#LongMultiWordTag", "#long-multi-word-tag", "long_multi-word_tag", or some other variation? I just went to the Comic-Con convention in San Diego. Should I tag my posts #CCISD, #ComicCon, SDCC2013, or what?
            Some of the other posts have been harsh. Honestly though, if you've spent much time online in the last decade or so, it's been increasingly difficult *not* to be in constant contact with tags. You may as well have been asking what a "link" is, circa 10 years ago.
        • by pjt33 ( 739471 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @02:29PM (#44427389)

          The term is heavily overloaded. It could just as well be about RFID tags on inventory or GPS + radio tags to enforce parole conditions on convicts.

      • Re:fuck tags (Score:5, Insightful)

        by plover ( 150551 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @01:15PM (#44426355) Homepage Journal

        It's nothing more than associating an identifier or keyword with something. The asker is bemoaning the lack of standards in those identifiers, how to apply them, how to search on them.

        The question really misses the point, though. If you index the entire contents, then anyone searching will find it based on what they know, not what you think of in advance. Google seems to do pretty well at locating pages, despite many fine pages lacking meta tags (and despite many poor spam articles trying to abuse meta tags.) If the keywords aren't present in the article, it's probably not a very useful article anyway, as it obviously is lacking a common description.

        • Re:fuck tags (Score:5, Interesting)

          by mcmonkey ( 96054 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @01:54PM (#44426881) Homepage

          The question really misses the point, though. If you index the entire contents, then anyone searching will find it based on what they know, not what you think of in advance. Google seems to do pretty well at locating pages, despite many fine pages lacking meta tags (and despite many poor spam articles trying to abuse meta tags.) If the keywords aren't present in the article, it's probably not a very useful article anyway, as it obviously is lacking a common description.

          Nail, head. Having people provide tags or keywords is asking people to adapt to the way computers work. While not perfect, Google shows us we can have computers adapt to the way people work.

        • by Darinbob ( 1142669 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @02:07PM (#44427083)

          Why would someone form a business, and others invest in that business, when it's merely about keywords. If it's so simple then why is the article so obtuse and full of flowery language? It definitely sounds like some sort of hipster insider club.

          I sometimes think tagging is about figuring out who someone is in a picture and then making it searchable without that person's permission, in which case this article should be marked with the "privacy" and "your rights online" keywords.

          Then maybe I think they're like hashtags, but I'm uncertain what hashtags are except that they're on twitter and made fun of on Psych.

          And if slashdot does have a tagging scheme, what is it, and where can I see these tags, and how to I engage in slashdot tagging? Do I need a can of spraypaint? I want to be cool like all the other kids here.

        • by PapayaSF ( 721268 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @06:30PM (#44429783) Journal

          Google seems to do pretty well at locating pages, despite many fine pages lacking meta tags (and despite many poor spam articles trying to abuse meta tags.)

          I believe the SEO types have been saying for years that meta keyword tags are useless because they were too easy to game, so Google and other search engines basically ignore them now.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @01:27PM (#44426535)

        Simply put, tags are a way of reducing the complexity of a piece of information so that people of similar mindset can identify it as data supporting their personal opinions. Note that tagging is not exclusive, so multiple tags can be assigned to the same information, summarizing it in diametrically opposite ways.

      • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @01:45PM (#44426801)

        What exactly is "tagging"?

        *sigh*

        I guess I'll have to click the links and read and see if a definition of tagging is in the linked article...but I couldn't surmise from the synopsis what tagging referred to.

        Tagging is a name for Gang Inspired Graffiti spray painted on walls and trains etc. Its used to mark territory, and generally piss property owners off. A similar function is often used for computer data, for roughly the same purposes.

      • by Darinbob ( 1142669 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @01:51PM (#44426849)

        Slashdot editors are now 13 year old kids and don't feel that they have to explain their social website slang to anyone else.

    • by cod3r_ ( 2031620 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @01:11PM (#44426315)
      #fuck #tags #, #that #is #all #.
  • Made up problem (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mugnyte ( 203225 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:38PM (#44425897) Journal

    Tagging isn't anything. It's a construct within a semantic web design; a common-language-everywhere issue. Essentially, you want everyone to agree to a tagging vocabulary, or morph things into it using automation. Why not just ask everyone to speak Esperanto?

    My questions for OP...
    why use words of any language?
    why isn't everything online (include video, images, sound) simply act like a tag with "search the web with this input"?
    isn't the best database of tags the web itself? in that case, isn't our best query a search engine?

  • by MrEricSir ( 398214 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:38PM (#44425899) Homepage

    * Put CCTV cameras up near common targets
    * Restrict sales of spraypaint to adults
    * Beat patrols

    See? Tagging isn't so hard to solve.

  • surely if "tagging" things on the internet was popular they would of figured out something...

    wait...

    Hyperlinks [wikipedia.org]
  • Tagging? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:45PM (#44425995)

    Are we talking about labeling, tagging in the version control sense, egocentric graffiti? Can't figure it out from the summary.

  • by TheNastyInThePasty ( 2382648 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:47PM (#44426015)
    My tag "firetheeditors", to catalogue the poor editing jobs and dupes of Slashdot, has yet to catch on...
  • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:49PM (#44426045)

    I do not think "luminaries" means what you think it means.

    Also, WTF is Graal?

  • by sootman ( 158191 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:52PM (#44426089) Homepage Journal

    ... or some other language where every word has one and only one meaning.

    "Somehow I remain convinced that a unified, semantically-based solution, using a mix of folksonomy and taxonomy, is the Graal of tagging."

    So basically you want everyone to agree on what to call everything. HA! Will never happen. Words mean different things in different contexts. A word that's overly-general in one context will be overly-specific in another. Also, fun fact: not everyone on the planet speaks the same language. Hell, even time changes words. 10 seconds ago, I learned that "Graal" was a word: "Holy Grail, or "Graal" in older forms" [wikipedia.org] If you want a good tagging solution, start by not trying to be so cute and showing off how smart you are and use words that are used today -- call it "the grail" like everyone else in this century. People like you are what breaks tagging systems. :-)

    We'll probably solve the problem of how to identify people [kalzumeus.com] before we come up with a unified way to name things.

    • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @01:23PM (#44426487) Homepage Journal

      10 seconds ago, I learned that "Graal" was a word

      I knew it but I didn't know why.

      Probably something to do with this [beeradvocate.com]

      Enjoyed the names article, by the way.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @01:47PM (#44426819) Homepage

      There's a lot of things that'll never be properly described by tagging, a few examples I can think of:

      1. "cats", what if I want just real cats? Usually you end up with something like "cats -cartoon -cgi -anime -drawing" etc.
      2. Things that usually have one meaning but in a few contexts don't, like cats the musical and cats the animals. In the domain nature photography just tagging it "cats" is as natural as doing the same in the domain of musicals, but globally it's a mess.
      3. Does "nude" imply "topless" or does "topless" imply not nude? People disagree.
      4. Mixed tags, for example find pictures with one person nude and one person non-nude, tagging it with both is a big no-no.

      Besides, people aren't generally interested in the tedium of tagging and tagging rules, most people just type up some keywords they think fit in a mingle of personal opinion and adjectives together with fact-based tagging.

    • by Chuckstar ( 799005 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @02:35PM (#44427451)

      Isn't the whole point of tags, also, that there isn't a unified solution? I thought the whole point was that a unified set of descriptors would be too limiting.

    • by i.r.id10t ( 595143 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @06:05PM (#44429595)

      Probably wanted to avoid "Holy Grail" since it would make the thread devolve into a Monty Python quote fest... not that there is anything wrong with that.

    • by markjhood2003 ( 779923 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @06:37PM (#44429829)

      So basically you want everyone to agree on what to call everything. HA! Will never happen.

      So very true. For those that remember, the Great Usenet Namespace Wars is the canonical example. Every newsgroup had a hierarchical name that was supposed to exactly describe what discussions would take place within that group. This worked pretty well for the tech-oriented groups, but when it came to the soc.* hierarchy there were huge fights between the news admins and users over what to call them.

      These wars were eventually what drove people like me away. Since then the web happened and it looks like people are still trying to start the same futile battles.

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:54PM (#44426109) Homepage

    Somehow I remain convinced that a unified, semantically-based solution, using a mix of folksonomy and taxonomy, is the Graal of tagging

    Tags are random stuff about what people are thinking of at any given time.

    So if I tag something as #anyhoo #whatever and #squork -- that's what I felt like tagging it as, and in the process I might want to make tags which aren't there or make up new ones.

    If tags are meant to be a measure of the zeitgeist and what people are thinking, they're not going to do is according to some taxonomy.

    Besides, some bastard will just want to come along and monetize tags and be the canonical source -- #screwem #taxonomyneednotapply

    Having a "unified, semantically-based solution, using a mix of folksonomy and taxonomy" is someone trying to impose structure on something which is inherently not structured, and people will never conform to it.

    I can see why in corporate contexts you'd want a taxonomy, but for the rest of the world this sounds like a solution in search of a problem. The world isn't something for librarians and archivists to tell us how we should categorize things.

  • by iggymanz ( 596061 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:57PM (#44426143)

    Every article on slashdot gets the default tag "story".

    Fucking useless.

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @01:12PM (#44426327)

    ...you have too much time on your hands. Get a dog, a girlfriend, or anything else with demands on your attention and your worries about tagging will happily drift away.

  • by voidstin ( 51561 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @01:22PM (#44426473)

    In what I like to call "the real world" -ie, the place where no one has heard of commontag, Freebase, or Zemanta, and maybe not even gizmodo - the #tag is the closest you're ever going to get. People use it on twitter and instagram, and advertisers have embraced it. Do any of these giant companies want their users going to other sites? Hell no. Facebook brought back the walled garden, and open systems are going to suffer.

    Now that we've realized it's unlikely to happen, would you even want it if it did? If you add an ubuntu link on pinboard, would you want to instantly see all the old ubuntu stories on slashdot? Tag a flickr picture with "hotdog" and see all the tweets about hot dogs? Or take a picture with some app that adds its own tag (#vsco or some such) and see all the other pictures taken with that app? Some of these things actually work, but why? I could see doing something like subscribing to only slashdot/bizarro or gizmodo/tv in your RSS reader, but take a look at the RSS market and no one really gives a shit about that either.

    I think wide-area tagging is quasi-useless. Even in closed silos (twitter, instagram), it's a messy sea of miscategorization and gamification. If it helps out the sites search engine, great. If it helps your own organization in whatever tool, great. It may even be good in workgroups - i'm interested to see how it pans out in OS X Mavericks.

  • hierarchy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bzipitidoo ( 647217 ) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @01:28PM (#44426547) Journal

    One thing file system directory trees have shown me is that hierarchy is lousy for categorizing. Convenient for file systems, bad for people. The example I like to use is 2 applications organized into binary and data files. Should the files be put in these directories: /app1/bin, /app1/data, /app2/bin, /app2/data ? Or in these directories: /bin/app1, /bin/app2, /data/app1, /data/app2 ? Or should we use some kind of directory linking, so we can sort of have it both ways? This leads to a question about OOP. If hierarchical organizations are bad for files, maybe they're also bad for classes?

    Whatever else tags do, they dispense with hierarchy. A file system that truly did away with the hierarchical directory structure and used tags would be interesting. The problem in the above example would vanish, with the files in question merely being tagged as app1 or app2, and as bin or data. Ask for a directory listing of all files tagged as bin, and get all the files tagged as app1 and bin, and app2 and bin. Strips the ordering out of the problem, leaving categorization, which is still a tough problem.

    I ran into this tagging problem when thinking about an app to sort images. The idea was to compare 2 images, and come up with a percentage value of how similar they were to each other, with 100% being identical, and 0% being totally different. But, on what criteria should images be compared? I saw that it was much too simplistic to boil down a comparison of such intricate data to just one number.

    • by oneiros27 ( 46144 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @02:00PM (#44426983) Homepage

      You're assuming that each item only has one natural parent -- which may be true in most taxonomies, but more complex systems (thesaurii*, ontologies), allow for more complex parent-type relationships.

      What you're dealing with is even simpler -- facets. You have a bunch of items with two attributes (application, type of file), and each attribute has a limited set of mutually exclusive options. Some file systems can store extended attributes, but they're not always that efficient (as it's not something in high demand). BFS was the only file system that I know of that really pushed it as a main feature.

      * Roget's Thesaurus is a synonym ring, not a thesaurus.

    • by DidgetMaster ( 2739009 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @03:40PM (#44428193) Homepage
      This is exactly the problem that lead me to develop a whole new data management system. It turns files into objects called 'Didgets' (short for Data Widgets) and lets you tag them any way you want. Unlike extended attributes on files, these tags let you find your data fast and easy without something like Spotlight or Windows Search indexing all your metadata into its own database (taking a few hours to do each time). I can import my whole boot volume (about 500,000 files) and can then find anything in a second or less. "Find all JPEG photos with tags Vacation=Hawaii and Year=2011" will give me all my photos with those two tags in less than a second. It can do that if there are 5 photos that match or 50,000. Check out DidgetMaster.blogspot.com for info and video demonstrations.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @01:36PM (#44426691)

    I would say the biggest problem is when someone tagged claims that they were not actually tagged because the person who is 'it' "didn't get me". Although this can sometimes be an honest mistake, especially in cold climates where heavy clothing may prevent the tagged person from detecting the tag, more frequently it is just some asshole who doesn't want to admit they were tagged.

  • by StripedCow ( 776465 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @01:45PM (#44426803)

    Commontag, a venture launched in 2009 to tackle tagging, has proved to be all but a failure ...

    Apparently, your best bet is with this company.

  • by phizi0n ( 1237812 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @01:49PM (#44426839)

    http://slashdot.org/tag/gps [slashdot.org]

    Now if only timothy would train the other monkeys.

  • by gestalt_n_pepper ( 991155 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @01:59PM (#44426969)

    There will be no tagging system that matters. After AI can determine meaning, you won't need a tagging system.

  • by zbobet2012 ( 1025836 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @02:08PM (#44427101)
    #tagging No really, people will self organize on tags all on there own. The simples, and best way to "tag" the internet is to agree on a standard format ala twitter ("the #") and just let it run from there. Parse out the results.
  • A classic book on the ontology of categories by George Lakoff. The tagging problem, in a nutshell, is that different cultures (and different individuals) create different category systems. The Tower of Babel on the semantic level.

  • by q0 ( 1040214 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @02:40PM (#44427537)

    One interesting cross-domain tagging system, which I use extensively, is Fluidinfo [fluidinfo.com]. It allows users to attach tags, which can have typed values, to arbitrary objects identified by any unicode string (or by a UUID). There's a query language that lets you find things based on your own tags and, subject to permissions, other people's tags. It was discussed previously on /. [slashdot.org], but now has more interesting public data in it, such as most of the books from the British Library's catalogue, e.g. Animal Farm [appspot.com] and that old /. favourite Pride & Prejudice [appspot.com].

    Another recent development that could be significant for tagging is the announcement by Apple that OS X Mavericks will have more extensive support for tags [apple.com] on files both in the OS and in iCloud. Since tags look like being the only way Apple will offer to organize files in iCloud, it is possible these will catch on in a big way, and this could lead to a broader interest in tagging as a general alternative/addition to hierarchical organization.

  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @03:04PM (#44427783) Journal

    When I was using Flickr, I had one killer app for tags and now I don't use Flickr so I don't use tags. Tags on Flickr were a nice lazy way to organize photos and show people "all the pictures related to #blah" without going through the hassle of creating a set.

    I see the tags on Slashdot articles and I'm like... "that's nice"; but I don't use them for anything. If they're useful to you for some reason, fantastic. Come up with your own taxonomy and have a ball. Quit trying to come up with the Ultimate Living Room Organization Scheme (TM), because it's not gonna happen. We all want to put the TV someplace different. Deal with it.

  • The real problem of tags is that there's usually fuck all useful semantics associated with them. There's only a benefit to using tags in the first place if many people use the same tagging system and consistently assign the same meaning to the tag as each other. Having just a tag is a bit like just having a scent marker on the information: not much use for saying more than "big primate was here, urinating on this data". There have been clear phases when slashdot tags were exactly on this level. (Does anyone remember when every last post was being tagged with "itsatrap"? It amused me to watch it unfurl, but it was less use than a chocolate bath plug.)

    But where there's something more that, a way to get and debate the shared definition of the tag, to see what's been tagged, to be notified when something new receives the tag... that's when the tag acquires real value. There's an advantage to the tagger in using the tag "correctly" and so a fair chance that they will do that. The various stackexchange sites do quite a good job here.

    Of course, there's a whole level of tagging above and beyond, with formal semantic tagging via RDF to build a Semantic Web. It would be ever so powerful, except it's really a PITA to work with and needs far more curation to be really useful than web content actually normally has. The very richness enabled by the advanced model they have with formal descriptions of the tags and so on renders it all far less useful precisely because it is so much less commonly used; I suspect a less formal system that has lots of actual data wins out as the semantics are more readily derived from network analysis rather than direct declaration. (I suspect not all my colleagues would agree...)

  • by symbolset ( 646467 ) * on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @04:35PM (#44428803) Journal
    Make slashdot.org/tag the index page for the list of tags. http://slashdot.org/tag/$tag [slashdot.org] isn't cutting it. Put more than five seconds of effort into its format. Put a link to it in the left column menu, or next to the toe tag icon. Sorted. Optionals: On the tag search page put a top 10 list of "related" tags - tags which most commonly occur in conjunction with this tag in a story. This provides a "conceptual web of themes" or meme map. Allow searching for tag1+tag2-tag3... and so on. Normalize the tag database: in the index list of tags will be some misspellings, synonyms and such - hunt those down with search and replace to get rid of redundant and obvious error tags to get the length of the tag list down to something comprehensible. I would suggest some more, but that's a lot of work already.
  • by Beorytis ( 1014777 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @04:35PM (#44428815)

    I am not a computational linguist, but I do think one could help.

  • by darkfeline ( 1890882 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @06:00PM (#44429531)

    This concerns more file "tagging", but a while ago I grew frustrated with the lack of real solutions for file organization (the oft-discussed but surprisingly absent-in-implementation semantic file system), so I decided to start writing my own. It can best be described as a multidimensional hierarchical abstract file system that is implemented on top of regular POSIX file systems using hard links and a handful of scripts and FUSE. It's still not feature-complete as I want it, but the basic tagging framework is done. Here's the repository for anyone interested: https://github.com/darkfeline/dantalian [github.com]

  • by RedHackTea ( 2779623 ) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @07:56PM (#44430355)
    I'm hoping for more tags, so that I don't have to read TFA or TFS. I'll just look at the tags and comments and be done.
  • by WOOFYGOOFY ( 1334993 ) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @10:47AM (#44435975)

    Please tell me. To eliminate diversity of thought? To make it easier for advertisers and others to colonize our lives? What's the GOAL here?

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