With us now living in the midst of the so-called Web 2.0, social networking and tagging, tagging, tagging, I’ve come to question, or rather ponder, some of the things that goes with this. These are:
- Can we trust people to add valid tags to their content?
- Has tagging become an obligation?
Tagging of content
Naturally, I’m all for tags and I understand that, by using tags, cross-referencing and finding content genuinely benefits from it; we need a good way to add metadata to a lot of information. The fear I have, though, is that it will become the equivalent of what the
meta tags with an endless number of keywords were in the beginning of search engines. People would add Pamela Anderson as well as names of various body parts just so they would match as many possible search scenarios possible, no matter what the content of their actual site were.
And now it seems like people tend to over-tag their content, be it pictures, social bookmarks, blog posts etc, with 15 to 20 tags for every item, with the mindset of “better safe than sorry”. You ask them about it, and they say they did it “just in case”. Just the other day I was talking to a well-known blogger and he told me:
I always add 5 tags to everything I publish.
In this case, him I trust that the tags are valid and should be there, but what about other people who aren’t as deadly serious? Who just want to be found, no matter the price?
Forcing people to tag?
Another thing that might kill off, or at the very least discourage, tagging on the web is people lecturing each others what tags should be added to their stuff. The other day I was browsing through my friend Chris Mills’ pictures on Flickr, when I came across the Hot topics panel – the final chapter one. There’s a comment on it from Tantek and it looks like this:
First, let me say that, as far as I know, Tantek is a nice and polite guy, so this is not meant as something personal against him. I believe (read: hope) he had the best of intentions with his comment, and it’s just mentioned here as an example of a more and more occurring phenomenon. However, reading that comment, the implication of it got me annoyed as hell! For social services, like Flickr, del.icio.us and their likes, I’m of the strong belief that it is up to each and everyone to choose the tags they seem fit, if they want to have any tags at all.
If you want to be nice to someone and help them add the correct meta information, don’t do it publicly. Send them an e-mail and humbly explain why they should use tags and which tags are suiting in the current scenario. Most people aren’t interested in tags one bit, they just want to share their things online with other people. I don’t think we should force them to tag their content, it’s their loss if they don’t want to. Tagging should be an option, not an obligation.
What do you think? Can tagging be used moderately and in proper ways, or will it run overboard? And is tagging an obligation, or is it optional?