Is social tagging a success?

9 Nov 2006 - 8:48am
8 years ago
14 replies
733 reads
jbellis
2005

Is social tagging a success?

I'm not a strong user of it, so I'm curious what the perception is. It seems to be highly adopted, but I want to know if it works well when seeking out information?

My Luddite hardcopy background makes me wonder if its lack of hierarchy is an Achilles' heel. (Perhaps specifying multiple tags is the workaround.) I've also noticed a recently-mentioned site where one term seemed infiltrated with overly promotional links, thus my motivation to inquire.

-Jack

Comments

9 Nov 2006 - 9:27am
Sara Summers
2006

> Is social tagging a success?

In my limited experience it seems that it is a success.
The only lasting hurtle is naming conventions or the lack of them.

Other than that I feel that I have always found what I needed as long as
I was willing to type things a few different ways.

Sara Summers
www.meccabug.com

9 Nov 2006 - 10:59am
Thomas Vander Wal
2004

On 11/9/06, jackbellis.com <jackbellis at hotmail.com> wrote:
> Is social tagging a success?
>
> I'm not a strong user of it, so I'm curious what the perception is. It seems to be highly adopted, but I want to know if it works well when seeking out information?

On the findability front it is not perfect, but for people using it
for refindability it is incredibly strong. People are applying their
own vocabulary and context to objects they would like to hold on to.
This starts getting at a huge technology painpoint (refinding
information that we have seen when we want it and need it
(refindability)).

The social aspects of social tagging are another really strong points,
if you find a person whose tag or tags you agree with, they could be a
good resource for discovering information you want. Searching on many
of the tagging services leave a lot to be desired, currently the Yahoo
related tag searching (del.icio.us and MyWeb) seems to be a bit broken
(or at least the result set sorting is does not have structure).

> My Luddite hardcopy background makes me wonder if its lack of hierarchy is an Achilles' heel. (Perhaps specifying multiple tags is the workaround.) I've also noticed a recently-mentioned site where one term seemed infiltrated with overly promotional links, thus my motivation to inquire.

You are correct with the multiple tags aiding in understanding of the
terms being applied. Having each tag tied to an identity also helps
understand the definition or use context for that tag term. Lacking
in hierarchy is often seen as an advantage by many as it allows for
more direct connections between facets and categories.

Most tagging services offer the ability to block identities (keep
spamming identities from showing up) as well as the ability to follow
a specific identity or set of identities for a tag. Many sites also
have algorithms for limiting spam/promotional links.

All the best,
Thomas

9 Nov 2006 - 7:17pm
Cwodtke
2004

define "success"

jackbellis.com wrote:
> Is social tagging a success?
>
> I'm not a strong user of it, so I'm curious what the perception is. It seems to be highly adopted, but I want to know if it works well when seeking out information?
>
> My Luddite hardcopy background makes me wonder if its lack of hierarchy is an Achilles' heel. (Perhaps specifying multiple tags is the workaround.) I've also noticed a recently-mentioned site where one term seemed infiltrated with overly promotional links, thus my motivation to inquire.
>
> -Jack
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
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--
Christina Wodtke
Principal Instigator

Magazine :: http://www.boxesandarrows.com
Business :: http://www.publicsquarehq.com
Personal :: http://www.eleganthack.com
Book :: http://www.blueprintsfortheweb.com

cwodtke at eleganthack.com

10 Nov 2006 - 11:21am
jbellis
2005

Christina,

"Useful," "Valuable Tool" "Useless but Indispensably Entertaining?"

I think in my use of the term, its interpretation is a subjective matter at
the discretion of the person answering the question. For instance, I might
have used some sort of test like "is very helpful for seeking out things on
the web" but right away I learned that it's also used for filtering, which
presumably implied pulled-pushed information.

In case you were wondering, I wasn't after a numerical value such as
adoption ratio. It wouldn't concern me that only a small fraction of users
have adopted it, but rather, the degree to which those users consider it a
success.

Kind regards, Jack

----- Original Message -----
From: "Christina Wodtke" <cwodtke at eleganthack.com>
> define "success"
>
> jackbellis.com wrote:
> > Is social tagging a success?
> >
> > I'm not a strong user of it, so I'm curious what the perception is. It
seems to be highly adopted, but I want to know if it works well when seeking
out information?
> >
> > My Luddite hardcopy background makes me wonder if its lack of hierarchy
is an Achilles' heel. (Perhaps specifying multiple tags is the workaround.)
I've also noticed a recently-mentioned site where one term seemed
infiltrated with overly promotional links, thus my motivation to inquire.
> >
> > -Jack

10 Nov 2006 - 12:21pm
Lorne Trudeau
2006

Personally, I've never been too fond of social tagging as a navigational
or searching tool. However, it can be useful for research or "getting a
feel for" content. Here's a really neat example:
http://chir.ag/phernalia/preztags/
Lorne

10 Nov 2006 - 5:56pm
Gabriel White
2005

Jack,

I feel that it's kind of like asking "are combo boxes a success?" -
social tagging is a design element that can be used - for good or evil
- in various ways to various degrees of effectiveness.

I use del.ico.us to find things, and often it turns up useful stuff.
When I'm trying to track down a photo on a particular subject,
Flickr's tags often deliver the goods. I use tags to "categorise" the
posts in my blog, and it's worked much better than an exclusive
hierarchy of categories. But browse through www.techcrunch.com, and
I'm sure you'll dig up many counterexamples that show tagging is just
plain useless.

So, for del.icio.us and Flickr, social tagging has been successful.
And it's arguable that social tagging is probably a really good way of
solving the particular design problem these sites are trying to
address.

Gabe

www.smallsurfaces.com

On 11/11/06, jackbellis.com <jackbellis at hotmail.com> wrote:
> Christina,
>
> "Useful," "Valuable Tool" "Useless but Indispensably Entertaining?"
>
> I think in my use of the term, its interpretation is a subjective matter at
> the discretion of the person answering the question. For instance, I might
> have used some sort of test like "is very helpful for seeking out things on
> the web" but right away I learned that it's also used for filtering, which
> presumably implied pulled-pushed information.
>
> In case you were wondering, I wasn't after a numerical value such as
> adoption ratio. It wouldn't concern me that only a small fraction of users
> have adopted it, but rather, the degree to which those users consider it a
> success.
>
> Kind regards, Jack
>
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Christina Wodtke" <cwodtke at eleganthack.com>
> > define "success"
> >
> > jackbellis.com wrote:
> > > Is social tagging a success?
> > >
> > > I'm not a strong user of it, so I'm curious what the perception is. It
> seems to be highly adopted, but I want to know if it works well when seeking
> out information?
> > >
> > > My Luddite hardcopy background makes me wonder if its lack of hierarchy
> is an Achilles' heel. (Perhaps specifying multiple tags is the workaround.)
> I've also noticed a recently-mentioned site where one term seemed
> infiltrated with overly promotional links, thus my motivation to inquire.
> > >
> > > -Jack
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
> List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
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> Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org
>

10 Nov 2006 - 8:17pm
Josh
2006

I believe tagging is a "success" for a number of reasons including:

1. It has allowed us to create sites that manage large amounts of varied
user provided content without creating complex taxonomies. - People create
the content, why not let them create the conventions?
2. We now have a user-centric way to connect varied content cross-domain
3. Tagging rocks as a tool when creating recommendation engines (my personal
favorite tool on the Web) because users do the recommending
4. Users in the aggregate may be proving that they know more about how to
connect content than any information architect/creative
director/producer/executive. - Christina, how's that for an instigation?
5. Tagging is like doing one giant card sorting exercise where all of the
sorts are viable and there's no need to choose just one. Helping make the
Web an actual web like it's supposed to be.

As to the issue of it's use, it may be too late to question user adoption of
the technology considering the success of sites that have leveraged tagging
in one form or another (Flickr, YouTube, Myspace, Gmail, del.icio.us,
Technorati, 43things, a whole bunch of blogs, and more). The proof may be in
the pudding.

Oh yeah. I hated tagging when I believed that user provided content sucked.
I know better now.

- Josh Viney

> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
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10 Nov 2006 - 8:51pm
Christine Boese
2006

Interesting topic! I'd like to weigh in here with an example from left
field, the 1980s.

At the time I was a university photographer, and besides shooting for the
viewbook and news releases, and running a professor portrait studio, I was
also the keeper of the university's official photo archives, hardcopy, of
course, slides and negs, some prints, going back to the late 1800s.

When I started the job, I inherited a system that was a godawful mess, and I
had to fix it. As it was, someone would call for an image of some building
from a certain time, and there was no way I could put my hands on it,
despite a card system and a wall full of loose leaf notebooks holding sheets
of slides and negs.

Folks in library science can have a good giggle now, but I was a
photographer, OK? I had to work up a new system for the stuff I was
shooting, and at least start back-cataloging as I found things by request.

The WORST thing about it was the half-assed card system the previous
photographer had used: single category per shoot. That was no help for
locating building shots, images of past chancellors, etc.

I tried using categories like keywords, to generate as many as possible on
the sheets and in the card system, but as you can guess, the job was way too
huge for one understaffed office to do.

The moral of my story, obvious I suppose to library science folks, was that
even with as many categories as I could come up with, my solitary actions
could not anticipate all the possible uses of any one image. The collective
or hive mind would have been far better at the job. But even it could not
anticipate every possible use of the image.

Later, in grad school, my dissertation advisor had a wild theory, that each
and every word should be hyperlinked in a text. Sure, that's nutty, from a
focused IxD usability standpoint, but we were working with Vannevar Bush's
ideas from 1945, of the Memex machine. Bush was a scientist, and he was
wanting to facilitate the accessibility of a rapidly growing body of
scientific knowledge that no one person could ever be expected to master or
stay on top of. And he especially saw hierarchies of knowledge as part of
the obstruction that hurt accessibility.

Bush wanted to increase the number of pathes to any given piece of
knowledge. The Semantic Web, collectively-authored by the hive mind (instead
of top down by CERN or something) allows future AI agents to parse and
conceivably restructure the information in any number of ways. I, for one,
would like to see parts of speech become an element of tagging, for
instance. I'd like to see more meta-data incorporated into it.

So I hear you say (good ears, I have) that bad tagging by less responsible
members of the hive mind will dilute the value of the entire enterprise. No
argument there. My photo catalog at the university was a nightmare
specifically because of such bad tagging practices, but solo bad tagging
practices.

However, does that necessarily HAVE to be the case? What if we think in
terms of Both/And instead of Either/Or? Say you've got a bucket of tags for
any given item. Some tags are useful, and some are poorly typed,
inappropriate, or silly. If there are enough tags in the bucket, wouldn't
the larger number of appropriate tags cancel out the inappropriate ones?

But like a Google Bomb, the system could be gamed. Fill the bucket up with
tags of George Bush and "miserable failure" and the tags are overwhelmed.
That's the biggest drawback I can see. A job for spammers and botnets, eh? A
denial of service attack could bring down the entire future AI-driven
Semantic Web?

Chris

ps I seem to remember George W and Vannevar being related, btw. That's your
irony for the day. But George W comes from the Prescott line, and I think
Vannevar, a different branch, like great great uncle or something.

On 11/10/06, Gabriel White <gabrielwhite at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> Jack,
>
> I feel that it's kind of like asking "are combo boxes a success?" -
> social tagging is a design element that can be used - for good or evil
> - in various ways to various degrees of effectiveness.
>
> I use del.ico.us to find things, and often it turns up useful stuff.
> When I'm trying to track down a photo on a particular subject,
> Flickr's tags often deliver the goods. I use tags to "categorise" the
> posts in my blog, and it's worked much better than an exclusive
> hierarchy of categories. But browse through www.techcrunch.com, and
> I'm sure you'll dig up many counterexamples that show tagging is just
> plain useless.
>
> So, for del.icio.us and Flickr, social tagging has been successful.
> And it's arguable that social tagging is probably a really good way of
> solving the particular design problem these sites are trying to
> address.
>
> Gabe
>
> www.smallsurfaces.com
>
>
> On 11/11/06, jackbellis.com <jackbellis at hotmail.com> wrote:
> > Christina,
> >
> > "Useful," "Valuable Tool" "Useless but Indispensably Entertaining?"
> >
> > I think in my use of the term, its interpretation is a subjective matter
> at
> > the discretion of the person answering the question. For instance, I
> might
> > have used some sort of test like "is very helpful for seeking out things
> on
> > the web" but right away I learned that it's also used for filtering,
> which
> > presumably implied pulled-pushed information.
> >
> > In case you were wondering, I wasn't after a numerical value such as
> > adoption ratio. It wouldn't concern me that only a small fraction of
> users
> > have adopted it, but rather, the degree to which those users consider it
> a
> > success.
> >
> > Kind regards, Jack
> >
> > ----- Original Message -----
> > From: "Christina Wodtke" <cwodtke at eleganthack.com>
> > > define "success"
> > >
> > > jackbellis.com wrote:
> > > > Is social tagging a success?
> > > >
> > > > I'm not a strong user of it, so I'm curious what the perception is.
> It
> > seems to be highly adopted, but I want to know if it works well when
> seeking
> > out information?
> > > >
> > > > My Luddite hardcopy background makes me wonder if its lack of
> hierarchy
> > is an Achilles' heel. (Perhaps specifying multiple tags is the
> workaround.)
> > I've also noticed a recently-mentioned site where one term seemed
> > infiltrated with overly promotional links, thus my motivation to
> inquire.
> > > >
> > > > -Jack
> >
> > ________________________________________________________________
> > Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> > To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> > List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
> > List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
> > (Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> > Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> > Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
> > Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> > Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org
> >
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
> List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org
>

--
christine boese
www.serendipit-e.com

10 Nov 2006 - 9:19pm
Christian Crumlish
2006

> Later, in grad school, my dissertation advisor had a wild
> theory, that each and every word should be hyperlinked in a
> text. Sure, that's nutty, from a focused IxD usability
> standpoint, but we were working with Vannevar Bush's ideas
> from 1945, of the Memex machine.

I still think this is a good idea. There could even be overlapping links
from phrases with pick lists to choose the destination.

I asked the maker of VoodooPad to make it possible for every word to be
a link automatically. He told me it wasn't a good idea. But I'm the
user! It's a feature request. Not everyone would have to use that
mode....

Christian Crumlish
Extractable etc.

11 Nov 2006 - 1:04pm
Cwodtke
2004

Gabriel White wrote:
> I feel that it's kind of like asking "are combo boxes a success?" -
> social tagging is a design element that can be used - for good or evil
> - in various ways to various degrees of effectiveness.
>
This is very much what I was getting at when I asked about success. You
can't evaluate what you can't measure, and you can't measure when you
don't know what you value.

From a business POV: have social tagging allowed us to reduce costs
(fire the IA's) or improve profits (make searches more relevant,
providing more searches and more opportunities for ads)
From a technology standpoint: do social tagging allow us to retrieve
content without topical intrinsic metadata?
From a design standpoint: Do social tags help users retrieve content,
or joyfully find serendipitous content?
From a user standpoint: does the annoying hassle of tagging actually
make up for itself by letting me find that one picture of my dog with a
sock in his mouth I took three years ago?

My personal/professional opinion is that tagging is a big experiment,
and we are only now starting to understand what they might be good for.
So success doesn't really come into it for me; I'm more interested in
the question: after three years, what has tagging taught us about retrieval?

17 Nov 2006 - 5:20pm
fred.welden at ...
2006

From: Christine Boese <christine.boese at gmail.com>
To: discuss at ixda.org
Sent: Friday, November 10, 2006 9:51:59 PM
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Is social tagging a success?

{snip leading content}
But like a Google Bomb, the system could be gamed. Fill the bucket up with
tags of George Bush and "miserable failure" and the tags are overwhelmed.
That's the biggest drawback I can see. A job for spammers and botnets, eh? A
denial of service attack could bring down the entire future AI-driven
Semantic Web?
{snip trailing content}

First, apologies for the antique "snip" syntax: Yahoo doesn't seem to do the quoting thing the way I'd like to see it.

I just wanted to point out that the effect of Google-bomb-like behavior in a social tagging system is to destroy the effectiveness of the particular tags abused, not the materials tagged. In your example, this is "George Bush" and "miserable failure." Given the vast namespace that social tags live in, that's actually a pretty small impact. The remainder of the tags, and all content that is legitimately tagged by them (including pictures of President Bush and other miserable failures), retain their worth.

Of more concern would be a sort of scramble-bomb which would find existing tags and randomly apply them to scores of other content entries. So instead of every item carrying an identical bogus "George Bush" tag, which spoils the George Bush tag but leaves everything else pretty much alone, every tag would point to a bunch of items it did not legitimately apply to, thus spoiling the tagging system itself.

It would be an interesting development task to come up with a way to detect that this was happening and defend against it. Anybody got funding?

____________________________________________________________________________________
Sponsored Link

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18 Nov 2006 - 8:09am
jbellis
2005

Fred,
Very helpful insight.
Do you rely on, and succeed in finding, or filtering things via tags? Is it
an option of first resort, or just an occasional thing that occurs when
"flipping through the channels"?
Thanks,
www.jackBellis.com,

----- Original Message -----
From: <fred.welden at yahoo.com>
> Of more concern would be a sort of scramble-bomb which would find existing
> tags and randomly apply them to scores of other content entries. So
> instead of every item carrying an identical bogus "George Bush" tag, which
> spoils the

19 Nov 2006 - 6:43pm
fred.welden at ...
2006

>From: jackbellis.com <jackbellis at hotmail.com>
>To: discuss at ixda.org
>Sent: Saturday, November 18, 2006 9:09:26 AM
>Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Is social tagging a success?

>Fred,
>Very helpful insight.
>Do you rely on, and succeed in finding, or filtering things via tags? Is it
>an option of first resort, or just an occasional thing that occurs when
>"flipping through the channels"?

The main use I've made of social tagging is in looking for images on Flickr for use in oddball personal projects--for example, a sort of Tarot-like deck of cards with modern iconic images. So, where the Tarot might have "The Hanged Man" mine had things like "The Gun," or "The Librarian."

Flickr tagging worked really well for that. Searches turned up images that might not actually BE guns or librarians, but they MEANT "gun" or "librarian" to someone, in some sense, which made them better for my purposes.

____________________________________________________________________________________
Sponsored Link

Compare mortgage rates for today.
Get up to 5 free quotes.
Www2.nextag.com

19 Nov 2006 - 6:45pm
Christine Boese
2006

Ah, that's the PoMo Tarot deck! I have that one!

Chris

On 11/19/06, fred.welden at yahoo.com <fred.welden at yahoo.com> wrote:
>
> >From: jackbellis.com <jackbellis at hotmail.com>
> >To: discuss at ixda.org
> >Sent: Saturday, November 18, 2006 9:09:26 AM
> >Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Is social tagging a success?
>
> >Fred,
> >Very helpful insight.
> >Do you rely on, and succeed in finding, or filtering things via tags? Is
> it
> >an option of first resort, or just an occasional thing that occurs when
> >"flipping through the channels"?
>
> The main use I've made of social tagging is in looking for images on
> Flickr for use in oddball personal projects--for example, a sort of
> Tarot-like deck of cards with modern iconic images. So, where the Tarot
> might have "The Hanged Man" mine had things like "The Gun," or "The
> Librarian."
>
> Flickr tagging worked really well for that. Searches turned up images
> that might not actually BE guns or librarians, but they MEANT "gun" or
> "librarian" to someone, in some sense, which made them better for my
> purposes.
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> ____________________________________________________________________________________
> Sponsored Link
>
> Compare mortgage rates for today.
> Get up to 5 free quotes.
> Www2.nextag.com
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
> List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org
>

--
christine boese
www.serendipit-e.com

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