IA Summit Liveblog: Tagging Five Emerging Trends

Posted on: April 12, 2008

Tagging: Five Emerging Trends by Gene Smith

Gene recently came out with a book on tagging called Tagging: People-Powered Metadata for the Social Web (Voices That Matter)

[Side note: I found out from Gene that he mentioned my WWW07 article somewhere in his book, sweet!]

Trends force us to challenge and change our conceptual model. The traditional model is user-resource-tags. The model was developed by analyzing the first tagging systems like delicious.

Because delicious and Flickr were so well designed, we thought they represented all tagging systems. However, there has been a lot of innovation from other systems.

Five Trends
– More Structure
– Automanual Folksonomies
– Leveraging Communities
– Rethinking Pace Layers
– Sparking Innovating

The trends are not stand-alone, they blend together. They also show that tagging is going off in a new direction.

More Structure

In first wave, people liked the lack of structure in tags. Tags allowed differences to flourish such as people who like “cinema” versus “movies” (quotes from Shirky). Although tagging systems met people’s needs, there was still a desire for structure.

Examples: – came up with sticky and non-sticky tags. Sticky tags are associated with a specific merchant, while one-time tags are associated with the transaction. This is innovative because wasabe broke up the “resource” part of the tagging triad into parts.

zigtag – introduced semantic tags. Provides definitions for each tag. They mined Wikipedia for definitions, in order to make the tags more meaningful.

Leveraging Communities

LibraryThing allows you to combine two tags and essentially makes them a synonym. The combinations are generated by the users of the system. This eliminates a lot of noise, and creates a user-generated controlled vocabulary.

A negotiation needs to happen within the community about which tags should be combined or broken apart. Interestingly, “humor” and “humour” are not combined, although overlap exists.

Automanual Folksonomies

A combination of automatic and bottom-up structures. – an ebay fo hand-made items. If you are the designer of etsy, how do you create product categories when you don’t know what people will sell? So Etsy’s solution was to use tags, but define top-level categories which people had to pick.

LibraryThing – tagmash is a search feature where you can combine/subtract tags in your search. Tim Spalding used tagmash to emulate LC subject headings. This allows LibraryThing to see which books fall into specific headings. It also creates a cheap and easy maintenance system.

Rethinking Pace Layers

Pace layers is a concept developed by Steward Brand. He talked about it in “How Buildings Learn”. Peter Morville adopted this for IA.

Some layers such as taxonomies are durable and less flexible than tagging, which is adaptable. However, tags are not only flexible, adaptable, but also durable (quoted Golder and Huberman’s work on the stability of tags over time). – created a system that leverages a product taxonomy, faceted navigation, and user-generated tags. You can use these tags to filter out products (in concert with a product taxonomy). They also turned product reviews into filtering through fragmenting text into tags, creating a faceted classification, and allowing filtering (Fragment, Facet, Tag).

Sparking Innovation

Geotagging in Flickr started with one guy tagging his photos with longitude and latitude. Then flickr build the functionality into the system, so it became automatic.

Final Thoughts

Tags are an essential component of products. This is especially evident when developers innovate with tagging, and make the product better.

Technorati Tags:


3 Responses to "IA Summit Liveblog: Tagging Five Emerging Trends"

Thanks for liveblogging this session. I wanted to go to two sessions this morning, but could only go to one.

No problem, I hope other people blogged some of the sessions that I missed out on. I did hear that they are making podcasts of all the sessions, which would be great!

The first 5 people referencing this article to signup at I’ll fast track you a beta invite.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Alla Zollers

I design products and services that just. make. sense.

When products make sense, customers are happy.

If customer are happy, they sign-up, stay on site, engage, share, and buy your product or service.

Happy customers allow companies to profit in both senses of the word.

I provide the following services:

• Heuristic Evaluations
• Discovery Research
• Strategy and Vision Development
• Information Architecture
• User Experience Design
• Usability Testing

You can find me on:

Twitter Updates

Error: Please make sure the Twitter account is public.


%d bloggers like this: