More Tagging Insights

An interesting panel on tagging explored some of the applications and the social and commercial implications of tagging as these tools mature.

One angle that interested me is that groups develop their own syntax for tags and the characteristics of those tag lists are different as a result. One panelist pointed out that “,” “social_network” and “socialnetwork” have different meanings on different sites and in different communities because the groups who agree on these syntaxes are using them to tag different kinds of content. On, people tagging “design” are referring to visual design while on Magnolia they’re referring to software design. Same tag, different groups, different meanings.

I was also interested in some interesting applications of tagging to more traditional collecting. Some libraries are making it possible for their visitor to tag books in their collections. This makes it possible for libraries to build super-catalogs that are much richer than traditional card catalogs. Some museum curators are finding that visitors to their collections have very different descriptions of what’s in them than the curators themselves. Tagging enables them to unlock that consensus of critical opinion.

One panelist pointed out that tagging serves a hierarchy of needs and as you advance in the hierarchy, it becomes more important to tune in to the syntax that others are using. At its most basic level, tagging is a way to save information. As you move into community applications, it’s important to understand and adapt to standards used by others. It’s also important to become more thorough in tag selection so that you help refine content descriptions for others.

Tags can affect traffic to your own content. One panelist noted that his sister’s photos tagged “voyeur” get more traffic than any other photos, clearly because they appeal to a base human instinct.

They’re also a way to find out what groups are thinking. Look at these tags for an album by Kevin Federline. Does this tell you something about this artist? Incidentally, Amazon has moved into tagging in a big way as a means to help customers find products that interest them. In this application, Amazon is relying on other customers to recommend products through their tags, without the intervention of professional editors or retail professionals.

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