How to do tagging?

While I was working on the analysis of our social messaging provider study, I had to think about tagging. It sounds as it’s easy to implement tagging at an Enterprise 2.0 system, but it isn’t, if you really start thinking about it.

Tagging is generally a good solution to classify content. It’s some kind of semantic information which is added to describe the content. A more structured way to find content, but it doesn’t help if it’s not done properly. So it makes sense to spend some time with this issue before it will be implemented. It will work for the user, but only if the result brings useful information.

Who should tag?
The easiest way is just to provide a function which allows the user to tag their articles, but will they do it for all articles. I think they won’t. The will forget it a lot of times and probably they will use the wrong terms, at least not these which are used by other people looking for a topic. Should we force the authors adding tags to their article before they publish it? It’s probably better than a lot articles with no tags.

Using the wisdom of the crowd is another solution. All users should be able to tag content from other. You will get more tags for every article and the tags will consider any way of thinking. It can help to display the results as well. The most relevant term will be used mostly.

More than one term for a topic
One of my favorite examples talking about search and tagging are the terms wedding and marriage. It works in German as well with the terms Hochzeit and Heirat. An article containing or tagged with the term marriage will not be found by users searching with wedding.

It’s not such a big problem, if there is no other article with the term wedding. The users will continue searching with other related terms. It’s a problem when some of the articles are tagged with marriage and some with wedding. The user will see only a part of the content using one of the terms. The other part is so to speak hidden, but there are some solutions to solve this problem.

Predefined Tags
The administrator or other involved people can define a set of tags which must be used by all. The advantage is that the company does have influence on the used terms and there won’t be several versions for one topic. The search by tag will be much easier. But it’s difficult to predefine tags for every purpose. So probably the users won’t find the right tag for their content every time.

This problem can be solved if the users can add tags, if they don’t find tags which fit to their articles. The new tags can be added to the list afterwards and will be available for all than. So the list can grow and the need for new tags will decrease.

Tag result list
Freedom of choice does fit more to the enterprise 2.0 basic idea. That would mean free tagging for the users. But with free tagging the marriage/wedding problem still exists, but It can be solve with adding related tags to the search. The result list presents articles using the term wedding and articles using the term marriage and any other related terms. So the search by tags will solve the problem, but you need something like a thesaurus to fix it.

Auto complete
Using an auto complete function will help getting better tags as well, because most users will use the same terms and misspellings won’t appear so much.

Using your own tags
It could be a useful tool to see all content which was tagged by a user itself. So you can mark articles which are interesting for you and find it very easily. It’s probably a function which brings benefit for the user and motivation to tag content. It’s a benefit for the community as well, because more users will tag.

Too many tags
Big companies and motivated user will probably produce a huge amount of tags. So it’s probably useful to cluster the tags by major topics on these places where the user can navigate by tag.

Tagging of people
An interesting variation would be the tagging of people. It would be useful information for the person itself and for the visitors of the profile as well. The person would see how other people describe them and other would see the skills of the person. On problem could be that not all users like their tags.

Does tagging really make sense?
Tags are useful information and it’s more flexible than categories for example. Using just search is another solution. It probably makes sense, if the search is really good, but it’s done from a machine and can use the content only. Tagging can add semantic information which is difficult for a machine, but tags can be used to optimize the search.

I think tagging is really useful. I would prefer free form tagging with a function which shows content with related tags as well. It can also be done with a tag cloud which shows the used tag and related tags around. For me it’s better to find an optimal way to search by tags, because it’s one of the most important things that the users find the right content. The result will be better than using a tight corset with predefined tags.

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Joachim Lindner

Joachim Lindner

Joachim Lindner

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