Saturday, December 02, 2006

Tagging vs. cataloging: what it's all about

Explanation of tag vs. catalog and their application ...

"Tags have taken the internet by storm. Where once the question was “what are they,” now all people want to know is whether a given site offers them. But what are the actual benefits of tags? What motivates millions of Flickr, del.icio.us and blog users to add tags to their photos and posts? And what is it about tags and tagging that gets information architects and user experience professionals so excited?

A Tag Is a Tag Is a Tag
To begin with, the concept of tags and tagging is not a new one, no matter what the Web 2.0 kids say. Tags are essentially just metadata, and librarians and database builders have been using metadata (and controlled vocabularies to populate said metadata) for years. The basic concept behind both metadata and tags is essentially the same: one or more descriptive words are assigned to an asset, whether it’s a photo, web page, article, person, book or piece of data. And by distilling the description of an asset down to a few words, it’s easier to find and understand that asset in the future.

... How Tagging Is Different
Tagging differs from traditional cataloging in a number of ways. First, tagging no longer belongs solely to the world of librarians and indexers: now anyone can tag and describe assets. And not only is it possible for any user to apply a tag, but in some systems (such as Flickr), users can even add tags to other peoples’ assets.

Second, tagging does not require users to draw on a controlled list of values, rather they can describe an asset using whatever words they choose. There is no approval process; any word will do. This is a very bottom-up approach, and it allows the body of tags in use to grow and shift as users’ vocabularies grow and shift. This can clearly be seen on Flickr, where unusual tags such as “think of the children” and “the escalating id photo contest” can be found among more common tags such as “birthday” or “vacation.” Thomas Vander Wal named this phenomenon of bottom-up term generation “folksonomy.” Proponents of folksonomies argue that they lead to better retrieval because they rely on common language, which is immediate and accessible, versus pre-determined values, which can sometimes be limited and rigid."    (Continued via adaptive path)    [Usability Resources]

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