March 15, 2006

Me? Reckless?

From Lorelle on my exploration of context-based tagging:

What do you think of that? It made me a little ill, and confused, but then I realized that for this blogger, blogging is a pure emotional release and tagging is just one more way to express emotion.


While there are a few in there that make sense, what about the other ones? The one word tags related to her post content about tagging with emotions. The rest have NOTHING to do with the content. Sure, maybe the content of the overall site, but not the post itself. I believe she thinks of these as tagging easter eggs.


This is a very good point because it puts a human face back onto the process. Unfortunately, it also doesn’t work. Look at her tag she’s nuts. There is only one post, hers. How do you connect with others if there are no other posts in your tag category? Clearly, not a hot tag topic.


Okay. This kind of thing makes me hanker for the blog days of old where I could simply say: you're out of your mind; who died and made you god of tags?

But civility is the new black, and bloggers are the new civil, so I'll try to keep my thoughts on this post within the parameters of accepted online discourse.


Excuse me, but one person's "reckless" use of technology is another's innovation. To put it a different way, no one ever came up with something new by following all of the rules, honey.

Allow me take these three points one by one -- I'll try to explain what's wrong with them:

1) Blogging is not a "pure emotional release" for me. Blogging is not pure, you see. It's a messy, dirty, sweaty activity when done right. Slather and lather. And some funk too.

If you read me, you'll see what you see in every good blogger: TEXTURE.

Textures are important in all human communication. The opposite of textured prose is monotone, lifeless, flat prose. So too with technology. While Web 2.0 is an unfolding of so many beautiful species of life, each blossom unique and tremendous on its own, mashups help us go beyond, become more than, create something other than, achieve texture. Mashups are proof that the world is not black and white, either or, this or that, yours or ours. It's ours AND yours. It's this AND that.

In fact the best thing about online publishing is that it is not either or, but both and. Same with my blog, thanks for asking.

2) "The rest have nothing to do with CONTENT": Good! My content has to do with content, and you might know that the word itself is a bit of a sore subject around these parts. Or, you might not. As for believing that I see tags as easter eggs? I'm not even sure how to answer that. Easter eggs? Hop?

3) As for the "she's nuts" tag, assuming that because I am the FIRST to use the tag that I will be the last is short sighted. Someone will always tag first. If I'm the first tagger for 3440 terms, all the better. Good for me. Remember me when I'm gone. Ha! It doesn't mean that no one will ever write about someone who's one quarter short of a gumball and be glad to find me waiting there.

The biggest misperception of this post regarding my take on tagging is that I'm advocating one way of tagging. I'm not--I want more. I WANT a way to tag contextually. And if that takes a separate search/tag tool, then shut up and build me one. Otherwise, I'll do it with what I've got. Either way works for me. I'm not sorry if it doesn't work for you.

When Technorati first launched, I blogged about wanting a way to find blogs based on their emotional context, not just topical content. I'll look for the post to see if I can find it, but I think I made it in comments. If it was your blog, let me know. I'd like to find it.

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Anonymous said...

I'm glad my post got you thinking and explaining more about tagging. Having worked with tags since their conception, it's a concept that took a while to catch on and to understand. It's important, as you have said, that we challenge our thinking on new technologies and techniques. You have helped me and others think about tagging in a new light.

Unfortunately, all of our babble about tags may come to nothing. Searching Technorati doesn't search only for tags any more but all content. Do a search on Technorati for "brown stone" or "red alphabet" and you will find a splogs, blogs and sites without any tags inside of them, or tags that do not match these terms.

Tags have just become another word for "keywords". Thus tags have little more impact than the rest of our content.

I'm sad to see the loss of validity in tagging. Sure, it helps identify key "words" which help people find content, especially if they are searching for content through a tag cloud or heat map of words rather than typing in a search phrase. And it helps site navigation if the links are for site searches.

We can tag our posts however we want, but as long as tag services are now glorified search engines, isn't some of the "fun" lost? With tags acting like keywords, aren't they now lost in the SEO shuffle? I'd love to hear your comments on this new switch in tags.

Lisa said...

Hm. People get excited about the end results of tagging -- that is, that the herd of taggers can produce something useful to me without my having to do all the work, like, say, all the photos tagged with SXSW at Flickr. How would I have figured out how to access all of those before that? I wouldn't: so as a consumer of tags, I'm happy.

However, a creator of tags tags things because it's in their own interest, for instance, I can log in and see all the things that *I* tagged SXSW, so I can find them easily. The fact that it creates value for other people is nice but not central.

To me, the confluence of interests between the tag creator and the tag consumer means that there is going to be a "long tail" of tags -- that is, tags that are only useful to one to ten people. Within my own blog, I have a category system, but I use tags to add granularity to them. I actually use the Dewey Decimal System as the category system for my blog. So when I write about my kids I file it under 641 Child Rearing. But what if I want to find posts about just my older son? Well, I can search. But I can also tag the post "Rowan." Then I can display all posts on my blog called "Rowan."

Now will the "Rowan" tag be useful to thousands? Not unless he's elected President or starts a boy band. But such tags are useful to me as "categories lite" -- ways to get category-like features in my data without having a sidebar with 400 categories. It's also good for things that are of transient interest. For instance, I don't want to create a SXSW category on my blog because a month from now I won't be posting about it, and it will be a dead category taking up space on my sidebar. But a tag lets me still find the stuff when it's useful to me.

I agree with you about the splog stuff. It's a big issue for me, because I use RSS-based search feeds extensively, and they've been becoming progressively polluted. It's a drag.

Anonymous said...

well, that makes 3 posts tagged [she's nuts] now and probably more by the end of the day. i am going to go back and retroactively tag all my posts [nice and romantic] and [poncho] and [get a sense of humour]and [balzac]. and maybe [no one ever came up with something new by following all of the rules, honey]. i like to keep it down to 5 or 6 categories (names of...) because i also use the dewey decimal system to sort my tags and i have a [short attention span]lot on my mind.

Kevin Marks said...

Go for it Jeneane, use the words that come to mind when you write the post. That is the point, that your brain will find the right words to express your meanings and associations that our computers never could.
Lorelle, at Technorati you can pick between tag search and general word search. The tag search will give you more focused results in general.

And if any of you see spam blogs in the Technorati index, tell me about them. We work hard to keep them out, but it is a perpetual arms race. My email is

Jeneane Sessum said...

I was going to say that--but it sounds better when you do Kevin. Prolly the accent. ;-)