Improving the use of tags

I just came across a nice article on Folksonomies and improving the use of tags in applications. It explains some nice ways to encourage use of tags as well as ways to help users make better decisions when tagging content.

The main points I got from the article are:

  • Auto-suggesst existing tags for smarter grouping
  • Provide corrections for spelling errors
  • Pay attention to the various languages used in the application
  • Suggest synonyms, expansion of acronyms, and the like when users type in their tags.

The article also quoted Clay Shirky from his article “Ontology is Overrated: Categories, Links, and Tags”, which offers another opinion on the attempt to organize tags.

Tagging gets better with scale. With a multiplicity of points of view the question isn’t “Is everyone tagging any given link ‘correctly’”, but rather “Is anyone tagging it the way I do?” As long as at least one other person tags something the way you would, you’ll find it — using a thesaurus to force everyone’s tags into tighter synchrony would actually worsen the noise you’ll get with your signal. If there is no shelf, then even imagining that there is one right way to organise things is an error.

I agree with both practices, mainly because it depends on the type of site or content. You can’t be certain until the use of tags is analyzed for a particular site and how it affects the find-ability or searching of content.

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