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Tagging In The Enterprise

Ross Mayfield
Expert Author
Published: 2005-03-23

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One of the most popular sessions at PC Forum was the Roundtable on User-generated Metadata.

Tagging SessionModerated by David Weinberger and Esther Dyson, it engaged the former audience in a conversation. Good thing too, as many of the experts were in the room. You can see from my raw notes that it covered the topic widely.

But the gem was from two comments by JP Rangaswami, CIO of Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein. Not just because he is one of my favorite customers, but its a rare insight into tagging in the enterprise:

Using Socialtext in my bank... Two dimensions that work: people tag things for themselves and whatever I am doing, can I do it in a way that makes collaboration easier. All it is doing is making things easier. The thing that got me on tagging was when I went to Ross and he said it was the simplest thing that could work. I will do things with tags to try to help people remember. And I don't want to be committed into a structure.

Going to use tags to solve a problem in my organization. People label things differently in different cultures in the same organization. Today English might be the language, but there are perhaps 300 dialects and the labels are different. Tagging lets structure cross-reference, where patterns emerge. Important for me in a commercial context. To let people in different contexts collaborate, keeping it simple and gaining a high adoption rate. Not pushing or pulling, its a community, which is why I like social software.


I helped provide an intro to tagging alongside Caterina Fake from Flickr and Dave Sifry from Technorati -- making points on relative cost, potential scale and social incentives that drive adoption. But after JP's comments, I knew to shut up and let the customer do the talking.

The other enterprise social software highlight from the show was John Seely Brown and John Hagel finally talking about their forthcoming book:

The notion of productive friction has major implications for IT across multi-tiered process networks. Hagel said the combination of service-oriented architecture (loosely coupled), virtualization and social software (a shared collaborative workspaces like Wikis) is key to developing a work culture that can support productive friction and facilitate conflict resolution, allowing the stakeholders to browse the context to figure out how to "unstuck" an exception (problem).

See Dan Farber's post and the session page on the wiki.

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About the Author:
Ross Mayfield is CEO and co-founder of Socialtext, an emerging provider of Enterprise Social Software that dramatically increases group productivity and develops a group memory.

He also writes Ross Mayfield's Weblog which focuses on markets, technology and musings.

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