Organizing Conten with Tags 

Thom Johnson at I’d Rather be Writing has been writing a series of posts on findability – or more precisely – organizing content. There are 50 entries since 2010. It’s eclectic – simulation, navigation, faceted – and much more. One one Using Tags to Increase Findability explores the value of tags as metadata. He draws from a book by Gene Smith – Tagging, People Powered Metadata for the Social Web.

Value of the Tagging System
Tagging Human Knowledge

Paul Heymann, from Department of Computer Science, Stanford University, delivered this lecture about tagging systems and their value. Only 15 minutes long.

“A fundamental premise of tagging systems is that regular users can organize large collections for browsing and other tasks using uncontrolled vocabularies. Until now, that premise has remained relatively unexamined. Using library data, we test the tagging approach to organizing a collection. We find that tagging systems have three major large scale organizational features: consistency, quality, and completeness. In addition to testing these features, we present results suggesting that users produce tags similar to the topics designed by experts, that paid tagging can effectively supplement tags in a tagging system, and that information integration may be possible across tagging systems”

Problems of Relevance
Google Tech Talk: Reconsidering Relevance by Daniel Tunkelang, The Noisy Channel (Jan 8, 2009)

Daniel Tunkelang, Chief Scientist at Endeca, has posted slides of a presentation on Reconsidering Relevance at SlideShare of a talk he gave on the weaknesses of relevance-centric search and what might be used as alternatives.

“We’ve become complacent about relevance”. This would be developers and users. As users, we are easily satisfied by the results we get from web search engines and don’t appreciate that much can be done to assist and promote exploratory search. He reminds us that “information needs evolve as we learn”. Faceted search and tagging, in particular, can assist searchers refine and clarify.

Look for the notes on the slides.

Social Tagging at Museums
There are some interesting postings about tagging and folksonomies at site hosted by Archives and Museums Informatics.

The site is described as “a collaborative space for professionals creating culture, science and heritage on-line”

J Trant posts entries to the archimuse blog about tagging. One refers to her presentation on Access to Art Museums Online: A role for social tagging and folksonomy?. Findings come fromSTEVE:The Museum Social Tagging Project.

Taxonomy Directed Folksonomies

TAXONOMY DIRECTED FOLKSONOMIES — Integrating user tagging and controlled vocabularies for Australian education networks — by Sarah Hayman and Nick Lothian at, 2007

This paper was presented at theWorld Library and Information Congress at the 2007 IFLA Conference.

It opens with the key question — “What is the role of controlled vocabulary in a Web 2.0 world? Can we have the best of both worlds: balancing folksonomies and controlled vocabularies to help communities of users find and share information and resources most relevant to them?”

Paper includes a review of the growth and characteristics of user tagging and folksonomies on the Web. Throughout there is a discussion of the value that user tagging provides – along with some of the difficulties.

The aim is to examine if the folksonomy and formal taxonomy can be used together. The answer is Yes – and the authors have a proof of concept model that they are using at

“Is it possible to combine the two approaches and gain benefits from both? Some attempts have been made already and a few are mentioned here in a consideration of some future developments for social tagging. We then discuss our own model: the taxonomy-directed folksonomy for the myedna proof of concept.”

Meta-tagging in the office

The EnterpriseSearch blog by Mike Kehoe has entries on taxonomies as well as many enterprise search vendors such as Endeca, Microsoft, IBM.

He seems to favour user tagging but when combined with some forethought on types of metatags. In this article from 2004 he recommends a full study to determine what tags would be best used. 5 Steps to Better Tagging

Posted by Gwen Harris at 11:17 AM 0 comments


Tagging and Social Web Book

Many enterprise search companies are incorporating elements of collaborative tagging into their systems. The book Tagging: People-Powered Metadata for the Social Web is intended to help people understand the tagging and folksonomies and design for it in their systems.

Peter Morville wrote, “In Tagging, Gene Smith has written the definitive book on designing applications for the social web.”

The author, Gene Smith is an information architect, blogger, designer, consultant and “tagging aficionado”. He is principal atnForm User Experience in Edmonton, Alberta and has advised clients like Comcast, and the Canadian Patient Safety Institute. [From bio at Northern Voice.]

Some notes and materials are at the companion web site –Tagging. This has a couple of interviews and some footnotes for the chapters. Potential readers would most like to see the table of contents, but this is not at either the web site or the Amazon page.

Mr Smith also maintains the blog Atomiq which is largely about information architecture and tagging.

For an introduction to the principles of tagging see Tagging 101, his presentation to Northern Voice available through Slideshare.

Social Tagging in Communities Study
Collaborative and Social Tagging Networks

Emma Tonkin, Edward M. Corrado, Heather Lea Moulaison, Margaret E. I. Kipp, Andrea Resmini, Heather D. Pfeiffer and Qiping Zhang gather a series of international perspectives on the practice of social tagging of documents within a community context.

Ariadne, Issue 54 January 2008

From the introduction:

“Social tagging, which is also known as collaborative tagging, social classification, and social indexing, allows ordinary users to assign keywords, or tags, to items. Typically these items are Web-based resources and the tags become immediately available for others to see and use. Unlike traditional classification, social tagging keywords are typically freely chosen instead of using a controlled vocabulary. Social tagging is of interest to researchers because it is possible that with a sufficiently large number of tags, useful folksonomies will emerge that can either augment or even replace traditional ontologies. As a result, social tagging has created a renewed level of interest in manual indexing [1]. In order for researchers to understand the benefits and limitations of using user-generated tags for indexing and retrieval purposes, it is important to investigate to what extent community influences tagging behaviour, characteristic effects on tag datasets, and whether this influence helps or hinders search and retrieval.

This article reports on research presented on a panel at The American Society for Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T) 2007 annual conference which investigated the use of social tagging in communities and in context. The panel was co-sponsored by SIG-TAG, a special interest group of ASIS&T that is interested in the study of social tagging, the Special Interest Group on Knowledge Management (SIG-KM), and the Special Interest Group on Classification Research (SIG-CR).”

“Several models of tagging behaviour, aimed at describing the ways in which people tag, are invoked in these studies along with metrics such as the number of tags given, tag co-occurrence and measured frequency. This reflects an ongoing dialogue between researchers; some apply methods from social network analysis, some from the many subfields of linguistics, knowledge management and classification research. Tagging practice is generally from a known stance, such as metadata, keyword or thesaurus provision, a matter of situating the relevance of the concept to known disciplines. Here too, we begin with a familiar theme; writ large, this panel examines certain facets of contextuality in information retrieval.”

Semantic taggin in Reuters

Reuters Embraces Tagging, Semantic Web by Jennifer Zaino, Intranet Journal (Jan 29, 2008)

Reuters has made a major move to encourage tagging of content for better understanding and discovery. In 2007, Reuters bought ClearForest Ltd noted for the semantic capabilities of its technology for tagging structured and unstructured data and extracting meaning. Through the Calais web service the technology is to be extended from internal content tagging to using externally generated tags on blogs and other sources.

That vision is being realized as the company extends its internal web service for content-tagging structured and unstructured data (its vast store of corporate information as well as reporters’ stories), based upon ClearForest technology, to the world at large.

From Reuters Releases Open API for New Calais Web Service, Centre Daily (Jan 29)

The Calais Web service enables publishers, bloggers and sites of all kinds to automatically metatag the people, places, facts and events in their content to increase its search relevance and accessibility on the Web. It also lets content consumers, such as search engines, news portals, bookmarking services and RSS readers, submit content for automatic semantic metatagging that is performed in well under a second.

The Calais Web service generates semantic metadata automatically, and adds metadata from publishers.

Posted by Gwen Harris at 5:57 PM 0 comments


Everything is Miscellaneous

David Weinberger answered questions about his book, Everything is Miscellaneous, in an interview with Hugh McKellar, KMWorld (Nov 1, 2007)

He explained that he doesn’t mean miscellaneous as a jumble of things that are unrelated to each other but as “the aggregation of everything, with the important difference that with the digital miscellaneous, we find all sorts of ways that the things are alike, all sorts of connections and relationships”. He believes in the power of user tagging – of using the relationships that people identify as the means for finding information in an enterprise.

“Tagging systems let the users of information decide how they’re going to think about that information, or what that information means to them. Tagging within the corporation is potentially a very powerful tool for sharing knowledge and for enabling social networks to emerge around shared expertise.”

On being asked if this replaces the traditional top-down taxonomies, Weinberger comes very close to saying yes, although in the end he seems to see them as being complementary.

“The real importance of a folksonomy is that it retains much more information than the traditional top-down taxonomy does. The top-down taxonomy only knows, typically, that x is a member of y and y is a member of z. With a folksonomy, you know that 17 percent of people think of x as a member of y, but 23 percent think of it as a member of q, and 42 percent of them think that it’s really the same thing as an x.” … “The folksonomy doesn’t have to replace the taxonomy with another static set of categories. It can instead allow the people who are in the minority a way of thinking about something to search the way that they want to. The folksonomy can surface those minority relationships.”

Follow David Weinberger’s musings about the organization of information at his blog Everything Is The main page also has links to interviews, videos, and podcasts with Weinberger.

Professor Michael Wesch’s video Information R/Evolution is especially recommended as it brings home the point that organizing digital information is much different to what civilization worked out for paper.

Semantic Web Blend

A Smarter Web – New technologies will make online search more intelligent–and may even lead to a “Web 3.0.” By John Borland, MIT Technology Review (March 2007)

The Semantic Web – the structure that will enable us to see connections between databases and gather information with less effort – is getting closer. This article describes the objectives, the progress, the players in making smarter tools for organizing and finding information. Ontologies are involved as are user-generated tagsonomies.

“The Semantic Web community’s grandest visions, of data-surfing computer servants that automatically reason their way through problems, have yet to be fulfilled. But the basic technologies that Miller shepherded through research labs and standards committees are joining the everyday Web. They can be found everywhere–on entertainment and travel sites, in business and scientific databases–and are forming the core of what some promoters call a nascent “Web 3.0.””

The writer traces the history to organize information from Melvil Dewey’s days, through the early days of directories on the Web, and the increasing acceptance of using metadata to describe information objects.

Eric Miller, an MIT-affiliated computer scientist, has been one of the contributors to furthering “semantic web” enabling technologies.

Meanwhile, social tagging has been gaining acceptance imposing a “grassroots order” on collections.

“No one knows what organizational technique will ultimately prevail. But what’s increasingly clear is that different kinds of order, and a variety of ways to unearth data and reuse it in new applications, are coming to the Web. There will be no Dewey here, no one system that arranges all the world’s digital data in a single framework.”

Folksonomies and Tagging

The current issue (Oct/Nov 2007) of the Bulletin of the American Society of Information Science and Technology is entirely about folksonomies and tagging. Diane Neal, as the guest editor, introduces the issue with an overview of folksonomies as a hot trend, how and where they are applied, their strengths for information retrieval and user involvement, and the weaknesses. Neal is assistant professor in the School of Library and Information Sciences, North Carolina Central University. It’s interesting to see the growing acceptance in the Library and Information Science communities of user tagging.

Introduction: Folksonomies and Image Tagging: Seeing the Future?by Diane Neal

Folksonomies and Taxonomies
Thomas Vander Wal, the person who coined the term folksonomies, spoke with Paul Miller of Talking with Talis about folksonomies and their relationship to taxonomies. User tagging can co-exist with formal taxonomies and validate them. There are many interesting points about the ways people organize information for themselves in this podcast of 58 minutes.

Thomas Vander Wal Talks with Talis about Folksonomies (Aug 3, 2007)

Tagging Practices and Their Value

Tagging Practices on Research Oriented Social Bookmarking Sitesby Margaret E.I. Kipp ( Faculty of Information and Media Studies, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario.Delivered at Canadian Association for Information Science 2007 (CAIS/ACSI)

[Also available through ]

“Abstract: This paper examines the tagging practices evident on CiteULike, a research oriented social bookmarking site for journal articles. Tagging practices were examined using standard informetric measures for analysis of bibliographic information and term use. Additionally, tags were compared to author keywords and descriptors assigned to the same article.”

Shows that user tagging can enhance findability over full-text search by keyword and indexing with controlled vocabulary.

Conclusion: “The differing terminology use in tag lists suggests that tagging may be a working example of Vannevar Bush’s associative trails. He argued that associative trails better represented how users actually work with their documents: by association rather than by categorisation. (Bush 1945) This suggests that user tagging could provide additional access points to traditional controlled vocabularies and provide users with the associative classifications necessary to tie documents and articles to time and task relationships as well as other associations which are new and novel.”

Debate about tagging
Is Tagging A Disruptive Innovation? – Joel Lamantia asks that question at (July 21, 2007. The spread of tagging could distract from creating or maintaining taxonomies and possibly in use of metadata. But there could also be a large element of hype in the attention tagging is getting. This is one piece of a longer discussion. Lamnatia concludes “Though it’s been a few years since tagging became visible, it seems too early to understand what kind of changes – if any – will occur in the metadata management ecosystem as a result of tagging’s emergence.”

One wonders if people really want to spend the extra few seconds to tag an item, and if they do tag to use something more useful than “read later”. I suspect that tagging will remain personal, and that general access will depend on automatic categorization based on business rules.


Tagging practices study

Patterns and Inconsistencies in Collaborative Tagging Systems: An Examination of Tagging Practices by Margaret E.I. Kipp and D. Grant Campbell, Faculty of Information and Media Studies, University of Western Ontario


This paper analyzes the tagging patterns exhibited by users of, to assess how collaborative tagging supports and enhances traditional ways of classifying and indexing documents. Using frequency data and co-word analysis matrices analyzed by multi-dimensional scaling, the authors discovered that tagging practices to some extent work in ways that are continuous with conventional indexing. Small numbers of tags tend to emerge by unspoken consensus, and inconsistencies follow several predictable patterns that can easily be anticipated. However, the tags also indicated intriguing practices relating to time and task which suggest the presence of an extra dimension in classification and organization, a dimension which conventional systems are unable to facilitate.

Posted by Gwen Harris at 2:41 AM 12 comments


Does Tagging Work?

User tagging is much talked about on the Internet, and is extensively used for social bookmarking (, magnolia, rawsugar), blog posts (Technorati), community news sites (, Newsvine), photo sharing sites (Flickr) and video sharing (YouTube). Subject directories such as Yahoo and Open Directory Project with their subject classification structures are considered very old Web 1.0 and nearly obsolete.

This presentation (Sept 2006) by Thomas Vander Wal (InfoCloudSolutions) on Understanding Folksonomy: Tagging that Works is a very good overview of what tags are and why some people love them.

In tagging, he explains, “People are not so much categorizing, as providing a means to connect items (placing hooks) and provide their meaning in their own understanding.”

There are good examples from the main social bookmarking sites on how to use the tags to dig into a topic.







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