I have been giving some attention of late to tagging, partly because of some research I am doing for university, and partly in response to a challenge Matt Moore gave me a while back to start putting some of my photos up on Flickr.
A key feature of Flickr is tagging, but tagging has become much more widespread. US research indicates that tagging is a popular user generated activity with 28% of internet users having tagged online content.
Thomas Vanderwal has written a great post on tagging. In it, he describes the history and current state of tagging and what improvements he’d like to see (stemming to see different versions of the same word, for example).
What I find interesting, coming from a background in librarianship and functional thesauri, is that there now seems to be more interest in organising tags so they become more meaningful and less ambiguous. Ambiguity is a real issue for modern libraries, particularly structuring folksonomy tags in public libraries.
Tagging works well with scale because scale gives weight to more popular tags than others. Popularity of tag terms becomes the defacto preferred term that a thesauri might recommend under a controlled vocabulary environment. However, popular tags may have even greater weight and value if the same tags are agglommerated with like tags (tags that are either similar or the same, using a different word or spelling for example).
One initiative that has some promise is FaceTag, a semantic collaborative tagging tool, described in a recent article in ASIS&T Bulletin. It’s early days but FaceTag may be on the right road in looking at relational and heirarchical issues within tagging folksonomies.