All entries for Friday 03 August 2007
August 03, 2007
These are my thoughts on tagging: I have built on what Robert O’Toole has proposed on his blog (bold text below) & put his tips in priority order. It’s a fairly comprehensive guide and I certainly don’t follow all of these tips, but at least having thought about it properly has been a useful exercise. If I had done this years ago then the contents of this blog, my Sitebuilder web pages and my del.icio.us bookmarks would be far more easy to retrieve.
My own top tip is: Consider how the search engine combines your tags, and how you and others will be able to use them to retrieve what you have tagged. Is there a limit on the number of tags you can specify per search? Can you combine tags with AND as well as OR?
Sitebuilder supports both types of search with the keywords, whilst Warwick blogs only supports OR searching.
The del.icio.us search box searches notes as well as tags, and the default search is an AND search if you use no operators. You can also use OR between keywords, and the minus sign for a NOT search on del.icio.us and they even support XOR: (bacon XOR ham) cheese gets you bacon and cheese, or ham and cheese, but not bacon, ham and cheese.
1. Be systematic, especially with punctuation, spaces, spellings.
E.g. Web_2-0 or Web2.0, etc. Remember that you may come across limitations as to how punctuation can be used in different services where you might use your tags. (The full stop and spaces are particular problems in Warwick blogs.) Also, with regard to plurals: do you mean “folksonomy” or “folksonomies”. The key is to be consistent: e.g., I use “search_engine” to bookmark a single search engine, and “search_engines” to bookmark something about search engines.
Note that some services, like del.icio.us will allow you to edit your tags, allowing you to do a global replacement of all “folksonomy” tags with “folksonomies” if you later decide that you want to use plurals. Other services like Warwick Blogs don’t yet offer this facility. It is best to decide on a rule and stick to it from the beginning to save you time, as even on Del.icio.us you don’t want to have to change all your tags over!
Consider how you wish to represent compound tags, e.g. by using an underscore to separate words, or by running the words together and using capital letters: “second_life” or “SecondLife”. This may partly depend on whether the software you are using differentiates capital letters.
2. Maintain a list of your tags. A concept map is a good mechanism for maintaining this list. You could use MindManager to create the list.
Some services provide lists of your tags for you, and you might like to use this to organise the tags and keep a copy elsewhere to refer to when you need it (ie when you tag content). Whilst some services suggest tags for you from your list when you tag content, they don’t always choose the right ones, so having your own copy of the list can be helpful.
A MindManager map of tags would also show hierarchies for you. Some services support hierarchies through bundling of tags that you might find useful, but you should read about how these will be used or treated.
A list or map of tags will also allow you to decide on control terms for synonyms. e.g., you might prefer “information_skills” to “information_literacy” and therefore a list or map will remind you of which is your preferred term. When choosing your preferred terms you might like to look at what tags others are using: try searching by tags to see how they are used.
A similar issue with preferred terms is that of language: will all your tags be in English? Or will you use the native language’s name for places? You may be restricted by the alphabets and characters supported by the tagging software.
3. Think about how you might want to be able to search/aggregate/organise your content, how other people might want to search it and see it organised, and how you want other people to think about your content (especially if you are trying to establish a schematic structure in their minds).
Not all tags are public facing, but if you are adding to a public website or collection, then you should think about other people. Eg “Library” in my own Del.icio.us collection means the library where I work. But I should properly say “University of Warwick” as well if my tags are for others to see.
It should go without saying that you should avoid using socially offensive tags.
4. Cooperate – use the same tags that other people use, develop tagsonomies with other people (formally or informally).
E.g. a formal schema of tags in a printed list that you use as a group, or by using the suggested tags that others have used to tag the same resource.
5. Use a combination of very specific and more general tags (for example: e-learning, elab, quizbuilder) – think about your tags as being arranged in a tree structure (specific at the leaves general at the branches).
That is how library subject classification schemes work, and the structured hierarchy helps to overcome problems with homonyms, e.g. “Reading” when coupled with “UK” is likely to be the town, whilst “Reading” when coupled with “literacy” is likely to be the verb. (A capitalisation rule such as only using capital letters for proper nouns might also help with this particular example.)
6. Combine different tags that identify different aspects of the tagged content (for example, use a tag to identify what kind of content it is (essay, review), what it is about (philosophy, Kant).
Most tags describe the content in subject terms. However, you may want to consider other aspects of the content you are tagging, eg that it is a video clip or a sound file, that it is a web page or a blog entry. These features are the kind of thing that a catalogue or metadata record would describe, and you can use tags to describe other features than just content, if that is something that will be useful to you and your community. Begin your tagging schema by thinking about what you will need to describe.
7. Tagging your work with a unique identifier associated with yourself allows you to aggregate your work from wherever it appears (e.g. robert_o-toole in Sitebuilder gets you this result )