Roger Hudson took us through a brief history of classification and taxonomy(Linnaeus I think, Dewey, etc etc), making mention of an interesting Indian historical figure who had introduced the idea of classifying by “facets”. This idea was not widely taken up but is now highly relevant to the ways that tags are used. He also presented some *very* preliminary research with punters about tags – what they were and how they were being and could be used. The messages for me from his talk were (with apologies in advance to Roger as I am just outlining my impressions which could be wrong!):
1. Little understanding of the concept of tagging
2. Little understanding of why some words were larger in a tag cloud that others
3. A wide variety in the ways that people could potentially tag something. For example a picture of a redback spider was tagged as a spider (obviously); redback (also obviously); however other tags were Slim Dusty and dunny (think about it…) which i thought were pretty cool
4. The potential that as tag clouds make the “popular” tags the biggest, there could be “expert” tags that are lost (as in the above example where only 3 or so people used the word “arachnology” as a tag which is something that other experts may seach on)
When it comes to collections we are noticing some different trends emerging – mainly because tags on our site are combined with controlled vocabularies and are thus enhanced in this way, the end result for users is better/broader.
The stats we are accumulating are now showing a clear preference for tag as entry point, but interestingly enough, NOT necessarily tagged content as end point. Thus a user might click on the big tag MODEL TRAIN but then not view an actual OBJECT tagged as model train, but one of the results from a free text search for the term.
(I’ll be presenting some statistical evidence on these trends in future presentations and perhpas in a future post)
Unlike a lot of other sites that use tags we are not JUST using tags as a folksonomic classification system, we are also using them as search entry points. The use of tags as search entry points means that we are increasing the likelihood of users widening rather than narrowing their search.
Lynda has posted links to two excellent introductory pieces on folksonomies as well.