Tagging 2.0 talk at SXSW

Yesterday I was on the “Tagging 2.0″ panel at SXSW Interactive. Since I figured my co-panelists Don Turnbull, Tom Vander Wall, Adina Levin and Rashmi Sinha would do a good job of articulating the advantages of tagging I decided to introduce a little drama and took the contrarian position. I called my talk “The Six Dirty Secrets of Tagging,” to wit:

  1. It’s the content, stupid.
    (Tags are a means to an end, not an end themselves.)
  2. Ordinary users don’t understand tags.
    (Present a normal person with a tag box and they’ll ignore it or enter an English sentence.)
  3. It’s the UX, stupid.
    (When tagging systems do work it’s because a great deal of care went into the end-to-end user experience. Flickr is a good reference point here.)
  4. Tags don’t play well with others.
    (Tagging systems are plagued with interoperability problems, like differing standards for delimiters and different social norms.)
  5. Rich applications require rich metadata.
    (Or, where’s my flying car?)
  6. Nobody likes real tags.
    (What they want is tagginess!)

On the last point I discussed some of the features people have been trying to pile on top of tagging, like intra-tag syntax (del.icious “for:username” tags and geotagging), consensus tagging, hierarchical tagging and faceted tagging. I actually like faceted tagging. See for example mefeedia.com, a video site with separate facets or “buckets” for place, topic, language, event and people.

That’s the short version. For more you can see my slides with notes, read Christian Crumlish’s summary of the whole panel or listen to the podcast.

5 thoughts on “Tagging 2.0 talk at SXSW

  1. I’m sorry I missed this talk! I don’t guess there’s a podcast available? Or is that honor reserved for keynoters and Bruce Sterling? Thanks for posting the slides anyway!

  2. Hi Prentiss, thank you for your summary and for the slides. I’m deeply interested about the evolution of tags. I would like to discuss further with you about your concerns on hierarchical taggin..

    On this topic you wrote: “Of all the attempts to overload tags, this one disturbs me the most.”

    IMHO faceted and hierarchical tags can fit very well together. I’ve talked about this both with Peter Van Dijck (mefeedia) and David Weinberger.

    You can read more on my blog http://www.infospaces.it.


  3. Josh Williams at Blinksale has an interesting take on my remark that tags wouldn’t be suitable for financial applications. Blinksale now lets its users tag invoices. Sounds to me like it’s not actually a bad idea. The distinction lies in whether an application requires precise (meta)data or can accept a certain amount of noise in return for ease of use. I go a bit further into this in my comment on his post.

  4. good summary on the challenges and little mean itches about the tagging craze. could be extended with the cloudliness issues, right?

  5. The podcast is now available, so I’ve added a link to it above.

    Kosmar, tag clouds are certainly a big, complicated issue in themselves and would have been a good thing to cover on our panel. I personally find the classic del.icio.us and Flickr tag clouds (alphabetized tags, with font sizes representative of frequency) to be meaningful and useful. Your mind cloud maps are a fascinating experiment although, as with many 2-d visualizations of N-dimensional networks, I sometimes wonder about how useful they are without a transparent meaning behind the placement of nodes on the X and Y axes.

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