I agree completely: technorati tags suck*.
On the other hand, you’d have to pry my del.icio.us tags out of my cold dead hands, after a long drawn out fight, followed by many attempts on my part to run away with my tags intact. I love those things! And I use them all the time. You’d also have to pry Google and Spotlight (which I use to search my mail on OS X) away from my cold dead hands.
I don’t buy that you only need really good, unstructured search. Or, that you only need tags. You need (or, “I want”) both. Sometimes I want to search, sometimes I want to browse (by tags).
Now, sure, if you were to tell me, “but Coté, right now you we have search technology that will take any URL, and generate the same tags you would have applied to them! You can still look things up by tag, there’s just no need for you to type them in!”
Then I’d be all, “who do I write my check to? Do you accept Visa?”
(…or maybe not.)
Now, that’s just for taxonomizing things. I also use tags for other things like: rating stuff, telling myself that this URL is to_read, pushing URLs onto other people, and other stuff, like an easy way to create a filtered list of systems management stuff that Feedburner can suck into my oh-so-exciting Systems Management and Monitoring feed.
The other thing I try to do with tags, and want other people to do, is use them to express my thoughts (or theirs) and intentions about something. It’s a short way to label something with a tag that describes what I think about the subject of the URL. I love that kind of semantic thing: an RSS feed of people’s thoughts…in a sort of half-ass way. Someone(s) call this “Thlinking”.
In short, I overload tags as much as possible. They’re good for ad hob to do lists, for establishing network links between me and others, as a good enough web service for tying together content across different CM’s of mine, etc.
This use of tags probably wasn’t intended by the original idea, but it’s supra-powerful. With all the categorization and rationalization data-store, content-management-y things out there — CMDBs in my 9-5 domain — I and others (that I hang out with in my little echo chamber) look at tags and we think: “oh, that’s how I can stuff my data into something.”
Yeah, you’ve still got all the spammers if you move outside your “namespace” (in most of the cases above, my del.icio.us or flickr tag clouds). I won’t deny this fact at all.
But, I really don’t care too much about spammers. People get all worked up about them, but I’ve never had the thought “damn those spammers!” I just delete their email, or fix my wiki pages when they fuck them over. Maybe it’s just my general nature of being glib and aloof (which, I understand, some find to be a major character
flaw), but I just figure it’s the cost of doing business.
On the other hand, spammers (and those dumb-asses with their never-ending questions where they should just RTFM or read the FAQ! Whew…calm down…) destroyed USEnet. Tragic!
Tags Rulez the Schoolz!
So, yeah, if we wanted to replace search with tags, I’d be upset. If we wanted to get rid of tags, I’d be equally upset. And, blindly aggregating tags only “works” (has more signal than noise) when The Evil Doers can’t profit from gaming the system.
But I sure do loves me some tags!
(* OK, technorati tags don’t “suck” as in “someone should wipe that code off the face of the earth! It’s terrible!” They just “suck” in the geek sense, i.e., “man, what a good idea! I wish it did more! I want MORE!”)