What is a tag? How does tagging work?

Reply Thu 14 Aug, 2008 02:38 pm
Wikipedia has a good explanation of tags and how they work.


A tag is a non-hierarchical keyword or term assigned to a piece of information (such as an internet bookmark, digital image, or computer file). This kind of metadata helps describe an item and allows it to be found again by browsing or searching. Tags are chosen informally and personally by the item's creator or by its viewer, depending on the system. On a website in which many users tag many items, this collection of tags becomes a folksonomy.
What's folksonomy? Folksonomy (also known as collaborative tagging, social classification, social indexing, and social tagging) is the practice and method of collaboratively creating and managing tags to annotate and categorize content. In contrast to traditional subject indexing, metadata is generated not only by experts but also by creators and consumers of the content. Usually, freely chosen keywords are used instead of a controlled vocabulary. Folksonomy is a portmanteau of the words folk and taxonomy, hence a folksonomy is a user generated taxonomy.

Here's an example from Wikipedia:

A web page hosted on a web server or blog server which supports tagging might have the tags "Baseball", "Yankees", "Tickets", "Away Games", and "Discounts". A human reader can probably tell the purpose of the page by quickly scanning the list of tags. Typically, the server displays the tags in a list on that page, with each tag displayed as a web link leading to an index page listing all web pages that use the tag. This allows a reader to locate quickly all pages which have been associated with the term Yankees. If the server supports tag searching, a reader would be able to find all pages that use a particular set of tags, such as "Yankees" and "Tickets".

If the page's author wishes to reclassify the page, they need only change the list of tags. In this case, the author could add the tags "Blue Jays" and "Paypal" to their page. All connections between pages are automatically tracked and updated by the server software; there is no need to relocate the page within a complex hierarchy of categories.

With the new A2K we get the best of both worlds. We have the preset tags from the Old A2K over in the box to the left, and we have our own customized tags we viewers and users have applied to the topics so we can find them using our own tags. For instance, instead of Yankees or baseball, you might tag it with your own labels of New York or bets, or Allstars.

To find topics using your own customized tags, click on the My Tags button at the top of the page.

When you create a new thread to start a new discussion or ask a new question you'll have the option of assigning your own tags to the topic.

Craven de Kere
Reply Thu 14 Aug, 2008 03:11 pm
The key differences are:

No hierarchy. The plus side is that you can grow your coverage of topics in unlimited fashion, the downside is less grouped views. For example someone might like just going to a "computers" forum instead of the various tags and without hierarchy there is no such grouping. With enough use we can make good algorithms to bridge a bit of this gap (stuff like related tags that will get smarter with more use) but there is no simple grouping like a category.

Multiple categorizations. Now you can have topics with multiple tags, which would be like having them in multiple forums.

To use a physical example of the differences, the old forums were boxes. Your topic was in one or another. The new tags are labels, and you can stick more of them on one of your topics.
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Reply Thu 14 Aug, 2008 09:18 pm

December 11, 2005
In 1876, Melvil Dewey devised an elegant method for categorizing the world's books. The Dewey Decimal System divides books into 10 broad subject areas and several hundred sub-areas and then assigns each volume a precise number - for example, 332.6328 for Jim Rodgers's investment guide, "Hot Commodities." But on the Internet, a new approach to categorization is emerging. Thomas Vander Wal, an information architect and Internet developer, has dubbed it folksonomy - a people's taxonomy.

A folksonomy begins with tagging. On the Web site Flickr, for example, users post their photos and label them with descriptive words. You might tag the picture of your cat, "cat," "Sparky" and "living room." Then you'll be able to retrieve that photo when you're searching for the cute shot of Sparky lounging on the couch. If you open your photos and tags to others, as many Flickr devotees do, other people can examine and label your photos. A furniture aficionado might add the tag "Mitchell Gold sofa," which means that he and others looking for images of this particular kind of couch could find your photo. "People aren't really categorizing information," Vander Wal says. "They're throwing words out there for their own use." But the cumulative force of all the individual tags can produce a bottom-up, self-organized system for classifying mountains of digital material.

Grass-roots categorization, by its very nature, is idiosyncratic rather than systematic. That sacrifices taxonomic perfection but lowers the barrier to entry. Nobody needs a degree in library science to participate.

Now folksonomies are moving into new realms. At the Art Museum Community Cataloging Project, officials from the Guggenheim, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and a half-dozen other establishments are taking a folksonomic approach to their online collections by allowing patrons to supplement the specialized lexicon of curators. And this fall, Amazon.com introduced a system that allows readers to classify books. Someone might tag "Hot Commodities" not with a number that stretches to the fourth decimal point but with a phrase like "make money" or "get rich." On the great library shelf in the sky, Melvil Dewey cannot be amused.
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Reply Thu 14 Aug, 2008 09:25 pm
If you really want to get wonkish and dig even deeper, this paper is a very thorough explanation.


Here's a list of subjects covered in it:
The Creation of Metadata: Professionals, Content Creators, Users
Tagging Content in Del.icio.us and Flickr
From Tags to Folksonomy
Spaces, Multiple Words
Browsing vs. Finding
Why Folksonomies Work
Barriers to Entry, Cognitive Costs
Feedback and Asymmetric Communication
Individual and Community Aspects
Unanticipated Uses
Areas For Further Research
Quantitative Tag Analysis
Qualitative User Analysis
Applicability to other systems
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Reply Fri 15 Aug, 2008 08:03 am
Okay, so tags are keywords. I can go by what the creator and others have used as keywords, or I can create my own for each thread. That way, if in my own little world I call it java while everyone else calls it coffee, I can tag it with "java" to get the same search result as everyone else searching "coffee." Is that correct?

Are there automatic terms pulled from a thread and placed in the tag box, say based on number of times it appears? Or does it always have to be done by the thread creator and users?

Reply Fri 15 Aug, 2008 08:21 am
The really cool thing (at least to computer geeks) is that you can find relationships between tags.

Some tag "coffee," some tag "java." At some point, the software can (maybe does now; I don't know the state of development, or if there are even plans for this) learn that coffee, java, cafe, etc. are related.
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Reply Fri 15 Aug, 2008 08:30 am
Oh, My!

Tags will start having relationships and next thing ya know there are little tags running around all over the place.
Reply Fri 15 Aug, 2008 08:35 am
Yes. The pitter-patter of little pixels is a wonderful thing.

Did you know that half of a byte is a nibble?
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