On the positive side of tagging

In the light of what I discussed yesterday with respect to my conference presentation on Tuesday, I want to move on to tagging. Tagging is essentially unstructured metadata that is assigned by the content creator and the readers/users of the content, the latter called collaborative tagging. The user-generated classification that emerges is called a folksonomy.

Examples of digital content using tags include de.licio.us, Flickr, LibraryThing, Technorati, and Youtube. Even the web-based news services are using tags, like the ABC in Australia.

In addition to the tags themselves and the act of tagging content, a collection of tags into a group showing relative emphasis or popularity is called a tag cloud.

There are a number of benefits from using tagging and they can be broadly summarised as the following:

  1. terms meaningful to the content creator and/or readers (and not just those terms allowed by a single classification authority)
  2. establishes relationships between content and the people connected to the content (both content creators and readers)
  3. is inexpensive to undertake, especially in relation to traditional cataloguing and thesauris construction
  4. scales exceptionally well, thereby suiting the miscellany of digital space
  5. aggregates especially well, thereby harnessing the so-called wisdom of crowds
  6. permits multiple access points to information instead of just bibliographic data
  7. permits discovery of a range of other items tagged by other content creators and readers
  8. overcomes the lack of currency when using traditional fixed forms of metadata (like the established classification systems)
  9. is highly participatory in that people freely choose the relevant tags they regard as appropriate to their own content and to the content of others
  10. as more applications make tagging available, and as the new digital generations increasingly enter the workforce, tagging will become the established norm in the digital information environment (we can see how blogs may offer such an opportunity)

Point 10 is especially important. There is already some evidence of tagging popularity from a Pew Internet Report showing that nearly one-third of US internet users tagged content. As tagging becomes more familiar and mainstream, new opportunities will open up to enhance the popularity of tagging – what I have called “the tagging locomotive”.

I’ll stop here (but with another post to come) with some recommended readings:

Everything is miscellaneous by David Weinberger

Ontology is overrated by Clay Shirky

Folksonomies: power to the people by Emanuele Quintarelli


5 responses to “On the positive side of tagging

  1. Hi Brad,

    Good post. Keep Blogging !

    Abdel Olakara

  2. Brad, I think that’s a great summary of what tagging is and the benefits of it. You leave out the disadvantages, of course. I think these are: duplication and redundancy, because the vocabulary is uncontrolled; and lack of hierarchy. However, I believe that these disadvantages (compared to a true taxonomy) are very unimportant compared with the advantages. Would you agree?

  3. Simon,

    I certainly agree. My next post will be on the disadvantages I mentioned in my presentation last week. My next post should be out later today.

    Thanks for your interest and comments.

  4. Pingback: Being good with Tagging | www.mindfuldigitalcitizen.com

  5. Pingback: Tagging « andrewhernandez80

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