Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Tagging, Labelling, Categorization

One of my criticisms of Gmail in my last post was the labelling system which is basically a version of tagging common to a lot of new web sites and services.

For those of you uninitiated and who can’t be bothered to read Wikipedia, it’s a sort of indexing by readers/users/viewers of content whereby articles, pictures, videos, even people can be associated with any word or phrase that an individual user chooses to – for either their personal use (e.g. an email in gmail) and/or the use of other people on the site (e.g. public photos on flickr). This allows for faster, more flexible ways of finding content giving dimensions of relevancy that a search engine can't compete with e.g. until last week, Leo Sayer would not have been tagged “big brother” but would be now and could have been the second he moved into the Big Brother house.

For an insight into my own crazed mind, I thought I'd review the tags I've created:

  • I tag on del.icio.us mainly about work - it's a bit messy and inconsistent, but I like the fact I might help someone else find an interesting or useful article that I’ve stumbled upon and one of these days I will get around to tidying up the tags. I use other people's tags a lot here, so there's a lot of give and take going on.
  • I tag on last.fm quite selfishly, as by tagging music here I can create virtual radio stations by tag for each of my moods - I very rarely use others' tags, occasionally music genres. On reviewing these, I'm not entirely happy that I can't edit them, as you can all find out that I find "An Old Whore's Diet" a "sexy" song.
  • I’ve even had tag anxiety, worrying that my recent additions to Flickr may have been tagged with an incorrectly identified bridge. You can see here that I love looking at Rome as much as I do Robert.

So why, you’re dying to know, haven’t I started to tag my emails? Actually, to contradict my cynicism yesterday, I think it comes down to Gmail's great, prominent and trustworthy search. Rather like when you leave a coat on indoors before you go back into the cold, I've never felt the benefit. What each of the above tagging systems do is improve or enable existing or new services which is why I've persisted in using them.

The reason I've been thinking about this stuff is because we're currently working on a new site, and I've been considering potential features and thinking about how users would actually benefit from each of them. Would I, for example, want to tag myself, and if so - how? "Essex", "Anxious", "Ego", "Laugh", "Big" is about as good as I've come up with for now without getting into an all-too-revealing self analysis. I suppose the location and mental state might be handy for some, but possibly in order to avoid me rather than make a connection.

In fact, the other place where I find it a bit unrewarding to tag is actually the categories that I can assign to each blog post here. Tagging something “Saddam Hussein” or “Google” seems to rather overblow the importance of this blog. But I've started to do it, I have used it on occasion to find a past post, it's just a little depressing when the real thrust of each post could be much more neatly tagged as “me” “myself” and “I”.


Richard said...

"brown" "geek"

Louise Brown said...

"bastard" "incorrect"