March 02, 2006

The Subtext of Tagging

I finally understand tagging, although I'm not sure I'm doing it right. For a couple of years now (or is it a couple of months--you know, internet time) I've read the taxonomy geeks talking about and using tags to classify what they are writing. And I kept trying to figure out how to do that, and why was it necessary if search engines would pick up my meanderings anyway?

Then I started noticing these "tag clouds" everywhere I looked, and I thought, WOW, that's a really cool way to find out -- visually -- what a site or page is about, at a wide glance, and to read about certain topics I'm interested in (marketing, parenting, tuna fish) and avoid those I'm not interested in (snowboarding, hunting, liver).

But since I've started using tags in Qumana, I find myself unable to ignore the urge to somehow subvert the intent of these tag things. I want to make people laugh, to surprise them, and so I like to tag posts so that they'll show up in a way that makes the "finder's" experience richer not in the usual way, but in the way that makes them go WTF?

Most of the time, I use tags to add context to what I've written. Not to classify it. Not to organize it. Not to plug it in among the topics that others are writing about. Tags have a place beyond taxonomies and classifications and categorization. They are a beautiful, wide-open opportunity to add subtext to your writing. To sew meaning into the fabric of someone else's reading experience.

I like to tag based on emotion, inference, subtleties, in a way that make tags PART of my post, not an afterthought way to plug them into Technorati and what everyone else is talking about. I want you to get to the bottom and look at my tags and laugh, or wonder, or say Ah HA! That's what she's pissed at, or that's what happened, or, I wonder what other people have written about those "rough-edged stones" that get caught in my tires.

Because that's really how we find each other--the each others that we can make meaning with going forward. We find each other in our humanness, not in our ability to mimic machines. We don't need to re-create search engine technology. We need to get real.

We find each other inside subtexts, not categories.


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10 comments:

Arieanna said...

Part of me agrees and part of me doesn't. The writer in me says "yes, that's it - I gain readers out of unexpected alliances" but for blogs whose focus is not necessarily that, I might disagree.

Let me address business bloggers. Although unexected alliances are great, what they really want is to attract current and future customers in the most efficient way to create relationships... so, subverting tags away from direct messages not only subverts that, but it could create some hostility about motives and "misleading" practices.

What do you think on that? It's the first time I've concretely put that together, so I could be way off base ;)

Jeneane Sessum said...

Ahh interesting. I think that you are correct in saying that it depends on the blog's purpose. So if someone is blogging primarily as a method for getting or conducting (or hoping for) business, then subverting tags (or those who do so) could be annoying at the least. But for those who are writers first, business people as a necessary byproduct of their writing, using tags as subtext or commentary may be, well, required.

I still hang on to the way things were here--admittedly. And to some extent I hope that thos one thing is always true: We find eachother here as people FIRST, people who happen to work someplace and do a certain kind of work to make a living, sure. But I don't care if you do PR or if you do Ajax. I care if you have grieved a tremendous loss. I care if you love miniature ponies or craft great poetry. Those kinds of things are ripe for using tags as subtext/context-informers rather than categorization.

Actually TWO kinds of tagging would be awesome. Emotional/Guteral tagging and Classification/categorization tagging. When I wrote tag poetry I LOVED clicking on loaded words to see what others who blog experienced when tagging with those same terms. But that has nothing to do with taxonomies. It has to do with something more visceral.

So maybe it's not an either or. Maybe it's a both and. Maybe along with Technorati we need Guterati. Or Viscerati.

Jon Husband said...

Purpose, purpose, purpose ... as ahelp to context, context, context.

Blinkerati ? Tagerati ?

For 10,000 M&M's and an all-expenses ground-trip FYOA to North Bay, Ontario, which of those two terms is a favourite in Elban cuisine ?

FYOA = Find Your Own Accomodation

Bob Robertson-Boyd said...

Yea! We've progressed from Pop-Up Videos (love 'em) to tags (like 'em). Our appetite for metadata can't be satisfied. I like it. Tags as context!

Jeneane Sessum said...

YES! Pop Up Video!

Phil said...

that's really how we find each other--the each others that we can make meaning with going forward. We find each other in our humanness, not in our ability to mimic machines. ... We find each other inside subtexts, not categories.

Tags: classification · ethnoclassification · tag.cloud · world.open · cloud.knowledge · noise · stuff.right.the

PS I made up the last one.

PPS It's the good kind of noise.

Chris Jara said...

Your tagging would make the most sense to your readers via your own personal tag cloud.

Maybe there will be a method of tagging internally/externally soon.

Stephanie Quilao said...

Jeneane, I'm learning more about tags just like you, and I love your experimentation in emotional context for tag words. We get so caught up in labels that we end up all sounding the same. I think that even within the biz world, it would be wonderful to add the emotional tag words as a way to re-emphasize your brand qualities. Everyone can be "computer, 15" screen, early adopter." But adding, "geek box, V8 powered, caffeine loaded" stirs the imagination and curiousity...Again, I love your idea and am going to try it on my blog.

Frank said...

All this blogging stuff baffles me. I have a blog and the vendor provided categories for me to use. I looked at them anmd found some missing. Like, what about "Anti-intellectual Thuggery?" I thought, and I created that category. What about "Cat pictures, food and travel?" I thought. And I created that category. Along came technorati. Delicious (add your own dots). And Flickr (add your own "e"). They have tags I think. I wonder if my categories found their way into the 'rati? What good would it do? I have a category called "Edible Audio." Even I have no clue what that means.

I'm waiting for Web 3.0 to make sense of any of this. Hopefully someone will give me stock options on insanity and I'll make a fortune.

Jeneane Sessum said...

How hard do you all rock? Very!! Thank you!!! What a cool discussion. I'm sure that literal and more abstract tags both have their places. i wonder tho if they should be delineated - like 2 diff kinds, or if it's all one big ball of wax. then my mind starts to get mushy and I go read boing boing.