Web 2.0 – What’s in a Tag?

The first workshop I attended this morning was all about tagging – how people use tags to find content they are looking for, help others to find it, and direct searchers to their own content.  Tagging is used by sites like Flickr, Technorati, Del.icio.us to categorize content by having website users tag their own content with keywords (or by tagging other content with keywords).  This has been described as using a ‘folksonomy’ (as opposed to a taxonomy).  The beauty of this method is that your users create the links between content instead of trying to come up with a taxonomy that may or may not work across all your content.  The difficulty is that there isn’t a great way to have only one tag to describe an item.  For instance, the Web 2.0 conference could be tagged as web2, web20, web2.0, web 2.0 – all of which are the same to a human, but quite different to a computer.

Search engines infer that certain keywords are related to each other, why not use that information towards tagging?  Or by using social networks?  Or some combination thereof.  How do you deal with information that is relevant now and that very few people are linking to or tagging, but which has a high relvancy and value?  How do you place value on content which isn’t from a large content publisher?

Flickr has seen widescale use of tagging by ‘normal’ people, but they tend to tag their photos in a very generalized way.  All the photos taken on a trip to Disney World are simply tagged ‘disney world’ with no further information about what is in the images.  This makes it difficult to get more value from the tagging unless someone else sees the image and adds their own tagging to it.

How do you handle misbehavior so that tagging doesn’t go the way of meta keywords?  Meta keywords are invisible and may or may not be relevant to the content on a page.  Content publishers may forget to update their keywords, or just have sitewide keywords that are not relevant to individual pieces of content.  Perhaps a trusted or democratic systems needs to be put in place so that misbehavior is filtered out by the masses.

I can see real value for tagging in our own web sites.  We are currently looking at the problem of trying to suggest content to users.  How do you suggest content to users if you can’t accurate create keywords for that content?  Do you leave it up to the editors to create those keywords?  How do those keywords relate to the keywords in other industries which apply to the same thing?  What about keywords which refer to different things in different industries?  A tagging system has interesting potential for the users of our websites to create a ‘folksonomy’ and truly control what they see without us having to spend the effort to create a corporate-wide taxonomy.

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