Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Tagging! Part 1


You now have the opportunity to learn about tagging! And you're learning from someone who has spent a lot of time over the years using a complex form of tagging to create cataloging records and a particular subset of those records called subject headings. Eek! Cataloging! Oh no!!!!!!!

Well, not exactly . . . but there are some similarities, so gather up your courage and read on.

Let’s start with a TAG. Just what is a tag?

According to Wikipedia, “a tag is a keyword or term associated with or assigned to a piece of information (e.g., a picture, article, or video clip), thus describing the item and enabling keyword-based classification of information.”

And now for tagging, definition courtesy of another source, Webopedia.

Tagging is where “authors attach keyword descriptions (called tags) to identify images or texts within their site as a category or topic.” When a web page, a blog etc. has the same tag, these pages “can then be linked together allowing users to search for similar or related content. If the tags are made public, online pages that act as a Web-based bookmark service are able to index them. “

Strengths? Tags help you to find the information you seek. Without tags, could you find anything in Google? I hope by now you have noticed that there's a parallel here with -- to use an old-fashioned libary term -- access points (author, title, subject).

Tags help others locate information successfully. No tags, and the treasures you want others to find will remain hidden forever. What’s the point of a blog if no one can find it? For that matter, what’s the point of an item in a library collection without some sort of tagging (or, access point?)

The weakness of tags? Ah, here’s the tricky bit. Language is a slippery slope. If you put pictures of your pet feline on Flickr, do you tag the photo cat? Or Cats? Or Felix cattus? Or Fluffy? Or tiny tiger? Wikipedia gives an excellent example of the semantic problems associated with tagging using a very simple word of 5 letters and 2 syllables: Apple. An apple is -- Gwynth Paltrow’s baby, right? Or is it the company formed by the Beatles? Or is it a computer hardware company? Or is it – a fruit?

The upshot – tagging is important, or the information you give or seek will not be found. But when you do tag your blog or your Flickr photos, choose your tags thoughtfully.

For more about tagging, see the Wikipedia definition:

Exercise 1:

1. Go to Google and type in a topic that interests you. (I chose W. B. Yeats, the Irish poet). See how many hits you retrieve.

2. Do the same keyword search in eQuest and see how many hits you retrieve.

3. Now search for the topic as a subject (or author if it is an author) in eQuest.

Now blog a paragraph about your searches. First, describe your adventures with your topic of interest in Google and eQuest, then offer your views on the following questions.

1. Can you see a parallel between the catalog and tagging in Web. 2.0?

2. Do you think tagging is a reinvention of library cataloging? Or, do you think that tagging is a continuation of tradition of library catalogs, but an expansion of that tradition into new and exciting possibilities?

3. Or, do you see another angle to tagging?

Exercise 2.

1. Review the tags in your blog, in Flickr and in Library Thing. Think about the terms you have used. Having learned a little more about tagging, consider changing your tags to make them more searchable. You may even want to add more tags. For instance, in case you haven’t noticed, Flickr allows up to 75 tags per photo. Please don’t be like the cataloger writing these words who learned that in traditional cataloging 1 to 3 subject headings are enough. Go wild with your tags if you want to.

2. Add a few words to your blog about the joys of tagging.

Next lesson: Folksonomies, tag clouds,, and technorati. Stay tuned!

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