Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Pew Internet & Tagging

It was with some interest I read a recent Pew Internet Online Activities and Pursuits report (1/31/07) focused on Tagging.

“Just as the internet allows users to create and share their own media, it is also enabling them to organize digital material their own way, rather than relying on pre-existing formats of classifying information. A December 2006 survey has found that 28% of internet users have tagged or categorized content online such as photos, news stories or blog posts. On a typical day online, 7% of internet users say they tag or categorize online content.” (Pew Internet, 1/31/07)

The report itself is not lengthy; a total number of 1623 were interviewed and basic information regarding how tagging works and traffic data from popular tagging sites Flickr (photos) and (social book marking) is presented. It concludes with an interview with author, researcher, and blogger David Weinberger with reference to his research and forthcoming book Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder. But their profile conclusions regarding “Who the taggers are” were interesting: “Taggers look like classic early adopters of technology. They are more likely to be under age 40, and have higher levels of education and income.”

Since moving Library Cloud to the “new” Blogger, we have been taking advantage of the internal tag, or label, system for our posts in addition to the existing Technorati labels. As mentioned when we began using the labels, they would not replace Technorati tags since each had its own specific use, labels internal post links and tags external post links. Though our blog template has not been switched to the custom design template, the labels are helping us to organize by topic. Over the last few weeks, I have learned using these labels is not something to be done lightly.

In my zest to be concise with labels on each and every IRC blog post, I noticed a disturbing trend; there were too many labels with only one post attached. My categories were too broad. For example, with juvenile book posts I was using three different labels to identify picture books and two for non-fiction. I had taken catalog subject headings from books and used them to label posts; this is great for catalogs, but not so much for blogs. I pared back, chose three different categories for juvenile books (picture books, juvenile literature, and juvenile fiction) and viola; the labels not only made more sense but were also user friendly. At least in my own estimation they are more user friendly, which brings to light an interesting concept mentioned in the interview with Weinberger, “tagging lets us organize the vastness of the web” and taggers are “using the categories that matter to us as individuals.”

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