After reviewing the traditional tagging suspects (technorati, del.icio.us, flickr, spurl and furl) we talked about the whys and the hows of those emerging tagging services and the differences between folksonomies and taxonomies. A good example of the folksonomies would be eBay. A good example of taxonomies could probably be found in the technical documentation department of Boeing.
Why are emerging tagging services increasingly popular (somebody quoted that del.icio.us counts 45,000 users to date)? Is it because Google does not do what we need it to do? Is it because of the “shortcomings” of DMOZ (the open directory project underlying Google)? Will tagging conventions emerge over time (one non-profit organization mentioned that they use an arcane tag for all its members to use when they tag something that might be of interest to the rest of the organization)? How can you assess the “authoritativeness” of one tag vs. another? All great questions that made for an enlightening evening conversation.
We also discussed the need for simple clustering of tags so that it becomes easier to find “related” tags. Some of that is already being implemented by the various players – del.icio.us recently started an experimental post to delicious that recommends a tag when you post something. Technorati shows you related tags – including tags coming from furl and delicious. Spurl even has a search engine based on its tagging system – zniff.
Interesting was to hear how people use tags. Some use it to share information with others (when someone tags something which they want a group of people to see – which they do by “subscribing” to that particular tag). Others use it to “store” information for later reuse (using delicious for links or furl for “perishable” content as furl saves a snapshot of the page for you instead of the link). Some use it to tell others what they are writing about (bloggers tagging their posts with technorati tags), while others use it to discover new information (by subscribing to popular tags). A real interesting scenario was that of tag-poetry. Children blog poems and are asked to tag them with tags – then they follow the links of poems that are tagged similarly.
As I have said before, I think that tagging has a tremendous potential in the enterprise – even for those companies do not have agreed upon taxonomies. Think of using tagging to share content that sparks ideas about new products with employees, customers and prospect (you ask them to tag whatever makes them think of your product or service with a special tag), or using tagging to proactively do competitive analysis. Or should we call it competitive discovery? Nah… how about competitive tagalysis?