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Tags don’t cut it – an awesome article on Information Architecture

December 5, 2012

From the blog:

If we re-imagine tags as rich connections that relate content to the
persons, organizations, locations, events and themes they talk about,
hopefully magic will happen. | Tags don’t cut it

Tagging is a success story. Ten years ago, who would’ve thought that any regular Joe could and would be associating metadata with content. Out of their own free will, at that! Collections that would’ve just stayed a random pile of content in the past, like the bookmarks on Delicious or the photos on Flickr, are now being organized by the magic of folksonomies — a showcase for the sheer power of the many.

Tags dovetail nicely with our almost random way of browsing the internet, for instance by being the engine behind great topical pages for blogs that provide a gateway to any and all similar content written in the past. It’s metadata for the masses.

And so the human species does what we’ve always done when we see something that we like and that seems to work: we copy it. We’ve now got labels in GMail and in our customer relationship management software, tags in iPhoto, hashtags in twitter and there is tagging going on just about anywhere else where we want some order in what would otherwise be a big blob of undifferentiated content. And the world is better for it.

But because we’ve copied, thinking that if it’s good enough for Flickr, it ought to work for us too, we’ve forgotten what makes tags great, how they can add value and why they work when they work. We’ve forgotten that tags are just one way of bringing order to chaos.

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