Folksonomy (Tagging) in Practice

Steve alluded to recently
, I like tagging. A lot. Brandon used to poke fun at me (rightly so) from time-to-time about it.

So, as it’s become more “mainstream” (I’m sooo cool for liking it before it cool. Yay me.), what are some of the practices people have been using, or seen people using? By “practices,” I mean a things like:

  • Do you use the plural or singular? For example, would you use “friend” or “friends“? I try to always use the plural, figuring I’m not just tagging one instance of a friend, but all instances of my friends.
  • How generalized do you get? For example, if I find a link about XP, obviously, I’ll tag it with “xp.” But, I’ll also tag it with “agile,” the sort of “conceptual parent” of XP. I wouldn’t however, tag it with something even more general like “software.” How ’bout you?
  • On places like flickr, how do you feel about tagging other people’s photos? I didn’t realize this ’till Robert and I were hunting down some privacy settings for his photos, but by default, your friends and family can add tags to your flickr photos. They can’t delete other people’s tags though. I’d be happy for people to add tags to my photos, but I’m not sure how other people would feel about it.
  • If you’re tagging a bookmark to a story
    about the Symantec-Veritas merge
    , would you use both “symantic” and “veritas,” or just one or the other? (I used just “symantic“). An all too easy answer to this one would be, “if you want to be able to look up the bookmark by searching for/using veritas, you’d add veritas.” Yeah. As my dad would say, “no shit, Sherlock.”
  • How strict are you about how “close” a tag is to describing the thing being tagged. For example, I have a real strong urge (that I act on sometimes) to categorize anything about XML syndication as “rss,” whether it’s about ATOM or “true” RSS. You might call this “The Xerox Problem.” I’ve thought I should use something more general like “feeds,” but I don’t.
  • When, if ever, do you use abbreviations for tags? For example, instead of “philosophy,” I always use “phl.”
  • When do you “let yourself” not tag something?

I’m sure I could come up with more. That’s a question in itself for everyone as well, what questions, ideas, “open issues,” and thoughts do you have about tagging

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  1. Interesting topic. Well, the same things that hold for folders also hold for tags/labels/whats’o’ever, I think. The main pupose is to bring some structure to your data. However, what is considered structured may vary from person to person.This is one of the main problems I see with public tagging like on Your example of tagging feed related stuff as “RSS” is actually a good one. It makes perfect sense to you, but somebody else may prefer tagging it “syndication”, or “feed” or divide atom and RSS into different tags. Beeing able to tag other peoples public content therefore seems a good idea, since it makes it accessible for people with different mindsets.Generally spoken, tags are evolving. If your amount of data is small, you won’t need any or just a bunch of tags. This is comparable to the stage where you put everything into the “My documents” folder. But since your content grows, you most likely will introduce some subfolders, which still are of general purpose, like “Work” and “Private”. Until there’s too much stuff in them, which leads to another branching. In the end you end up with a hierarchy of foldes where each folder is more specific then its parent. Having general purpose folders like “Work” makes perfectly sense here. But does this hold for tags, too? I doubt it, since it doesn’t narrow the content. It’s maybe a matter of taste, but I cannot handle tags that contain more then say two to three pages of links.Personally, I currently have just three tags in blogging, softdev and webdev, which shows I use abbrevations. As the content grows, I will most likely split webdev into “css”, “accessibility” and “webapp”, for example, and abandom the webdev category or use it as some kind of doesn’t-fit-into-the-other-web-related-tags-tag.Gerd Riesselmann

  2. Thanks for the long reply. Those are interesting comments. I esp. like the reminder of the life-cycle, so to speak, of bookmarking via analogy to the My Documents folder thing.And, the point about other people being able to tag things is interesting too, ’cause it’s a quick and dirty solution to the point raised that tagging needs to be normalized somehow if people aren’t going to all be using the same tag(s) for the same content.

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