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Weinberger Philosophizes On Tagging

David A. Utter
Staff Writer
Published: 2006-05-16

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His book on tagging, "Everything Is Miscellaneous," won't be available until next year, but David Weinberger's thoughts on tags, those little scraps of metadata, were heard at a session of today's Syndicate Conference.

The book is due at the publisher in just a couple of months. But David Weinberger did find the time to come to Syndicate to discuss his progress as well as Building a Grassroots Taxonomy of the Web. Tags fill the role of building blocks for that taxonomy.

Fans of Dr. Weinberger will be glad to know work on "Everything Is Miscellaneous" continues to move forward. In discussing the book, he noted how all of the information in the world is going online, and in the process will be the need for inventing new ways of classifying and organizing these ideas and data.

His book will examine the new ways of organizing this information and how that impacts the existing world of information.

But as to tagging today, Weinberger explained the reason why they have become a hot issue now. He called the social component of tagging the key distinction. In services like Flickr, people tag photos, and other people subscribe to tags.

"In effect, it allows other people to do my research for me," he noted. Tagging is a really good way to add enough metadata to photos for other people to find them. Using folders and discs eventually breaks down.

"It does mean that our thinking about the ownership of content will have to change. It's being changed for us," he said. If one person sees a site and thinks it's about one thing and another person sees a website and takes a completely different take on that site, it will reflect in how they tag it. "If you go to Flickr and look for a picture of London, it doesn't matter that some of the photos were tagged as something else."

The intersection of tagging systems and social networks, in other words taking what we know about the tagging system, cross referenced with a social network's ability to provide context, will do a great deal to disambiguate the tagging taxonomy.

Weinberger also commented on the straightforward issue of whether one item can have too many tags. "As it turns out, what you get when you have way too many tags is very good information clustering," he said.

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About the Author:
David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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