Teaching Examples

Use of tags as a social act
May 2, 2006, 12:31 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I don’t know how easy tagging is for the average writer or blogger. To me, it’s not hard, but it’s a bit of an annoyance — an extra step. I tag because tags are what allow me to find my own stuff, and they are a large reason why I blog as much as I do — tags make the entire blog an easy-to-search repository for my own stuff. As an added bonus, my tags also help other people find my stuff.

Here is what makes tags easy, from an in-depth article by Ulises Mejias:

Part of the allure of classifying things by assigning tags to them is that the user can give free reign to sloppiness. There is no authority — human or computational — passing judgment on the appropriateness or validity of tags, because tags have to make sense first and foremost to the individual who assigns and uses them.

Ten years ago, at The Washington Post’s first attempt at producing its own online site, I ran the project to devise a system of tags that would be used by the copy editors in the newsroom. We ended up with between 60 and 70 tags (I’ve forgotten the exact number). Until then, the only classification attached to content from the newspaper was the section name. We had “business” but not “oil”; “sports” but not “baseball.”

For a variety of reasons — all tied to technological limitations of the day — we had to limit the number of tags on our list. Copy editors were not free to create their own ad hoc tags. What’s more, those tags were used by the system (a pre-WWW online content application) only to drop stories into sections of the online site — they were not used in user-initiated searches.

As far as I know, other than The Washington Post, today’s online newspapers are still not tagging stories.

… the whole point of distributed classification systems (DCSs) such as del.icio.us and flickr is that the aggregation of inherently private goods (tags and what they describe) has public value: When people use the same tag to point to different resources they are organizing knowledge in a manner, commonly referred to as a folksonomy, that makes sense to them and to others like them (Mejias).

I love tag clouds.

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