March 12, 2006

Tagging 2.0 at South By


I’m going to try to group the comments into subject areas. Let’s see how well that works.

Tags going mainstream

Don Turnbull:

Who’d have thought we’d be talking about metadata on a beautiful Sunday morning in Austin?

Is tagging the key element of Web 2.0? (Probably not.) The ETech definition: Web 1.0 was the read-only web. Web 2.0 is the read-write web.

Thomas Vander Wal:

I coined the word folksonomy… and the correct definition wasn’t given in the beyond folksonomy panel.

People used to tag on the command line. Web 1.0 tagging didn’t work. Tools like Bitsy. Cory’s “metacrap” article. Web 2.0: delicious and flickr, actually useful for finding and re-finding information.

More than 40 sites are doing social bookmarking.

60 to 70 sites using tagging as their main way to bring people in. (7 travel sites, for example, using tagging as their appeal.) More than 200 services have included tagging (Amazon).

What are tags useful for?

Don Turnbull:

Are these systems useful beyond a few types of tasks or categories of information?

  • Re-finding information
  • Creating personal metadata
  • The new command line (quicker than drag/drop, sort, click)
  • Gateway to the next PIM?
  • Tags as verbs (”buy,” “sell”), expanding the vocabulary (ratings: “*,” “**,” “***” etc.)
  • People-centric view of data, vs. system-centric.
  • Good for keeping track of things you already know about, but what about discovery?
  • It’s more interesting to find a like mind than just a resource

Adina Levin:

Tagging is social, helpful to the individual and increasingly valuable to the group.

Tag games (Flickr came from the game design world), example of red and green game leading to joining the Japanese Maple group, aircraft spotters.

Jon Udell’s InfoWorld Explorer tool crawl’s delicious and aggregrates InfoWorld articles by genre, author, date, tags, title

Why is Tagging better than Categorization?

Rashmi Sinha:
I’m going to be a cheerleader for tagging

When categorizing, we choose between multiple concepts. Tagging is easier. Joshua Schachter in his infinite wisdom figured out you can just write down what comes to mind. Note all concepts instead of choosing one and invoking a hierarchy.

Better than any other social system on the web, tagging approximates the wisdom of crowds:

  • cognitive diversity
  • independence
  • decentralization
  • easy aggregation

The moment of tagging is you and that object alone (but – I interject in my mind – what about delicious’s “recommendations”? – isn’t that influence from the crowd?).

Social formations supported by tags

  • ad hoc groups
  • lots of weak social ties
  • conceptually mediated ties

Flaws, Issues, Usability

Don Turnbull:
Are these systems usable beyond alpha geeks?

  • Interface improvements: Good import? Teach vocabulary? Make re-finding information easier.
  • Tag clouds probably not the answer
  • Spamming, gaming, TagFraud
  • Tagging is implicit (good and bad)
  • Not all resources are as identifiable (microcontent?)… granular, web pages; items, commerical products
  • Tags as identity (how so? i-tags?)

Vander Wal:

  • “Re-findability sucks… We need to fix the re-findability problem.”
  • Looks messy to others.
  • No identity in Flickr. (Example: can’t see the 40 things Don has tagged with “orange”)
  • Folksonomy triad (one person), dual folksonomy triad (including community) – really need slide to illustrate
  • Context often missing, it gets messy, we have silos

Prentiss Riddle:
Six dirty secrets of tagging

  1. It’s the content stupid
  2. Ordinary people don’t get tags (text box prompt gets a sentence response or maybe a Google search) and tag clouds
  3. It’s the UX, stupid – flickr guides you
  4. Tags don’t play well with others (interop)

    • Character sets
    • Delimiter wars (commas, spaces, etc.)
    • Synonyms (singular vs. plural, homonyms)
    • aggregration, portability
  5. Rich functionality requires rich metadata (where’s my flying car? I wouldn’t want to use them for medical applications, managing money, hunting terrorists)
  6. Nobody wants “real tags” (simple keyword metadata, no control, no hierarchy, no syntax or semantics, minimal cognitive effort by the user). What people really want is “tagginess” (Stephen Colbert image)… delicious for:username, Shadows @group, geotagging, consensus tagging (sxsw2006, chosendarkness), hierarchical tagging (,… it’s the oppostie of tagging

Faceted tagging: Mefeedia (by place, by content, etc.), is available for sale.

Adina Levin:
Tags are messy (blog, blogging, blogs) in tag clouds, compound words

Tag refactoring: consolidate synonyms, fix and standardize spelling, add hierarchy

Don’t make me think, loss of tag snark, loses “bottom-up” purity, a hybrid of top-down and the group mind

Rashmi Sinha:
Tips for tag designers

  1. How are you serving the individual motive
  2. does the individual understand and want to fulfill that goal
  3. What is the relationship between social and perosnal
  4. Is it too easy to mimic the tags of others
  5. Is finding all about the most popular, most tagged?
  6. Enable discovery, exploration, finding new things
  7. Don’t force users to do things differnetly than what come snaturally
  8. Solve problems by ensuring good finability


Q: How to deal with Tag spam, tag fraud?

Thomas Vander Wal: blacklists, another reason why you need to see who tagged it and what object was tagged.

Question: How to work with synonyms and homonyms

Prentiss: Clustering at Flickr works well because they have so much rich metadata available to mine.

Adina Levin: I like delicious’s suggestions

Rashmi Sinha: In input let the user do what they want. In the findability stage deal with the problem.

Technorati tags: , (in case Technorati’s not picking up our native tags)


  1. Thanks for the great notes, Christian. I’ve posted my own notes and slides in my blog.

    Comment by riddle — March 13, 2006 @ 9:57 am

  2. Tagging 2.0 talk at SXSW

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    Trackback by IAlog — March 13, 2006 @ 9:59 am

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  4. South by Southwest and Tagging

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    Trackback by Hogtown Consulting — March 16, 2006 @ 12:33 pm

  5. [...] ’re at all interested in tagging check out the extensive notes on the panel here and here. I was particularly impressed by the things that Rashmi Sinha was talking about, tagg [...]

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