Thursday, April 14, 2005

The value of tagging isn't in search

Tim Bray in Still Wondering About Tags writes:

Are tags useful? Are there any questions you want to ask, or jobs you want to do, where tags are part of the solution, and clearly work better than old-fashioned search? I really want to believe that tagging is big, a game-changer, but the longer I go on asking this question and not getting an answer, the more nervous I get.

Yes tags matter. But I don't think they have anything to do with search.

I'm coming to believe that tags matter in two ways:

  • discovery

  • aggregation

And in those two ways. Tags do help me in my work.

Discovery. I discover two things: knowledge and people. Finding a tag -- whether in flickr or or any of the other sites that are starting to implement tagging -- allows me to discover new information. That information can lead me to people. Certainly, this has been true of the nptech tag. I consistently add contributors to my aggregator and I consistently find links to share with my colleagues and that help inform my work.

It's serendipity. But tags help me harness that.

Aggregation. One of the problems, at least with nonprofit staff, in getting them to contribute content to the web widely is about time. If I'm posting to newsgroups, they say. I'm not posting to my own site. And my site is where my brand is. In the world of scarce resources, these folks make the decision to build what they own. Tags can be a way past this problem.

Look at the technorati tag page for Oakland. It's using the tag word "Oakland" to pull together content that's been sprinkled on the web -- on flickr, on and furl and on something like a gazillion weblogs.

That's pretty powerful.

It promises the ability to pull together distributed content and make that content available in a way that makes sense.

For the beleagured nonprofit staff member that can mean that time spent on a listserv, a message board, contributing to another space on the Internet can build their local content.

(in: tim_bray, tagging, tags, value)