Thursday, May 04, 2006

Tagophobic

David Sifry (CEO Technorati) just published a two-part "State of the Blogosphere: April 2006." Part one is all about growth.
  • The blogosphere is doubling in size every 6 months.
  • On average, a new blog is created every second.
  • 55% of new bloggers are blogging three months later.
Part two is on language and tagging. I perked up about the tagging.
  • Technorati now tracks more than 100 Million author-created tags and categories on blog posts.
  • The rel-tag microformat has been adopted by a number of the large tool makers, making it easy for people to tag their posts. About 47% of all blog posts have non-default tags or categories associated with them.
Am I going to get in trouble (as a librarian, I mean) when I say that I'm not doing this? True confession: I tag a few things on Flickr, my other blogs use categories sparingly, and I have a del. account that I'm literally afraid of. I feel extremely, um, incompetent in my use of these tools. I think the fact that I know I'm not a cataloger - that "Controlled Vocabulary" was my most painful course in library school - keeps me from being a regular-person sort of tagger. I can't just put a word down that I think describes something without being like "this is so incomplete!" or "what if this is wrong?" And then there's the fear of discovery - that I am actually not any sort of 'IT girl' - but instead 'the derelict librarian'. I can hear my cataloging teacher's voice in my ear: And you call yourself a librarian? An information professional? Everyone's talking about radical trust. I'd like to radically trust myself!

Don't get me wrong - I do appreciate how "easy" it is, technically speaking, to now add a tag to my blog post. I have marveled at how tagging has changed the way we think about organizing & retrieving information over the last few years, not to mention its obvious connection to my favorite subject: online community. Seriously, some of my best friends are taggers. Strangely, being a librarian seems (so far) to prevent me from actually becoming one.

Any tips for the tagophobic?

6 comments:

K.G. Schneider said...

Tagging is one of those things... I keep meaning to Get A Round Tuit. It's like de.licio.us... I saw it, I "got" it, and I'm not using it. Don't really know why.

Maybe you aren't tagophobic... you're pre-tag. Or post-tag. Maybe you're so cutting edge the rest of us need to catch up!

Laura said...

1. Accept that your system is going to suck.
2. Accept that your system really only needs to work for you; it doesn't need to conform to everyone else's--though, that said,
3. Look at some other people's tagging structures and see if there's anything you'd like to emulate. Do they have a "toread" tag? (Mine, I must admit, is just "read"--imperative rather than infinitive, although I don't know that it gets me to read the stuff any sooner). Would a list of stuff you want to read someday suit your purposes? How about a list websites demonstrating library community building? I collected everyone's ALA election recommendations under one tag to make it easy for me when it came time to vote.

I hope others comment, though--I still feel like an idiot a lot of the time when I'm tagging, and I shudder at the thought of anyone with a taxonomy background looking at my del.icio.us account. But hey, it does what I want, most of the time.

kiki said...

Laura is very, very right about it only having to work for you!

To her list I'd add:

4. Accept that your system is not set in stone, and might change over time.

When I started using del.icio.us, I used very basic tags, but added more as I got used to it. Then I started using the notes field. It's a new system--allow yourself to get used to it, instead of thinking that you have to have it "right" straight out of the box.

If you want to see just how sloppy mine is, go to del.icio.us/gohomekiki

David J. Fiander said...

del.icio.us is too big for me. I "get" the idea of sharing, but browsing through del is just daunting, but I've started using it with a special tag for a work project to share links amongst a group.

I concur about your tags working for you. The interesting thing about tagging is that the economists' "invisible hand" of self-interest leads to everybody creating tags that actually do work for everybody else. Then again, one of the most common tags on Flickr is "me".

Chrystie said...

I am so totally post-tag. But I do appreciate the guidelines identified if I ever do want to "go back" to the tag era. Thank you! :)

Andy Havens said...

Tagging is a complex issue, for sure. The great thing about tagging (folksonomy) vs. ontology, is that there is no need for either/or. There is more than enough room for both. It's the same thing as search vs. nav on a web site. Should you limit your users to only *one* method of finding your content? Of course not! If they want to search the full-text for key-words, does that mean that menu-driven navigation is "dead" or unhelpful? Not at all. Just different.

Same with tagging. But like anything else, you need to tag with goals in mind.

The easiest and most readily understood goal of tagging is contained in one definition of it: "shared bookmarking."

Suppose, for example, a University asked all its professors to tag (using del.ici.ous, for example) all the sites they reference in all their lectures with a common set of tags:

OurUniversity (name of university)
Profname (name of professor)
Classnumber (ID # of class)
Classname (description of class)
YearTerm (most recent use)
Subject (general subject)

And then any other tags they'd find helpful.

As time passed, and professors tagged online content, any student at that U. would then have an enormous resource by simply going to del.ici.ous and searching for links with the apprpriate combination of tags.

In addition, a professor who put his/her own classwork online (class notes, syllabus, homework, etc.) could use this system plus additional tags (homework, syllabus, etc.) to point students at even more specific resources. But even if students DIDN'T KNOW about those specific tags... if they knew about the system in general, they could look up what a professor was tagging, and get some useful links.

A department, then, could also post a page with the combined tag pages of all professors in that department.

You could further identify what links require authentication or not with a tag of "locked" or "unlocked" "auth" or something, letting students know when they'd need to use on-campus resources or an authenticated source to view materials.

Tagging is only as "loose" as you let it be. Which can be as loose as tagging a picture of a dog as "Newton" because that's the name of the dog. Which isn't incorrect... it's just personal. Which is the power of tagging. Not "bad." Just different.