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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Tags, Search Effectiveness, Personal Benefits

A couple of interesting recent posts and my experience in my Collaborative Learning Class has me thinking about the usefulness of Tags both personally and in workgroups.

From Bill Ives - Where Tagging Works and Where Tagging Doesn’t Work – Search Engine Lowdown
I guess I tend to agree with Danny Sulliivan about the tagging and search but that is not the original intention of tagging. If I want to search on a key word, I will still go to Google as the most efficient way. If I have the time to go exploring through multiple links and see the interrelations between key words, I might go to However, if I want to set up a way to store and share links on a particular topic, I will use which I have done already in co-authoring an article.
Interesting, Bill points to a search on Google for "Web 2.0" and he 75,900,000 hits with the famous OÂ’Reilly article at the top of the list - which is a pretty dang good result and makes sense given Google's in-bound link based algorithm. If you do a similar search on, you first realize (as Bill found) that tags cannot have spaces, so you actually need to look for "web2.0" - you can see what you get at:

I definitely don't think the results are nearly as good as what you get in Google. But look on the right side to find "related tags" that are how you can find things that are related.

I completely agree with Bill's assessment, is more useful if you are trying to find related terms to search against, but the quality level of results doesn't seem to be there.

A closely related great series of articles can be found at What are the Personal Benefits of Tagging? -
One thing that the most useful of these reasons all have in common is that
they allow the user to express tags using personal vocabulary.

I personally have found that because I've switched to Yahoo MyWeb that has full-text search across my bookmarked pages, I've come to use tags mostly to represent two things:

  • Actions - I tag items with "blogthis" if I plan to come back an write it up in a blog.
  • Sharing - I tag items that I plan to share with a specific tag so that others in my group can find it.

So for me, it's not quite the folksonomy effect that most people talk about, but based on these articles, I'm starting to think that's what other people are finding as well.


Tony Karrer said...

Vanderwal - I'm using MyWeb because it provides full-text search and allows me to limit my sharing so that all my business colleagues don't see my Las Vegas links and my wife isn't subjected to all my Web 2.0 links. Thus, it seems to work better for me which is what I hear you saying

However, because is all public, it does offer some value in terms of providing the ability to "pivot" on particular tags. I still use it for that occasionally.

Tony Karrer said...

Steve - I actually agree with a lot of what you've been saying in your series, especially personal value vs. group value.

However, for me personally, I'm still using tags + search primarily for refindability. I refined stuff I want to blog about because I've tagged it with "blogthis." I search across prior pages to find stuff I know I've seen before.

The exception to refindability (for me) have been when sharing with colleagues/family (via known tags and having them as contacts in particular groups).

I'd be curious to get your take on which parts you are finding yourself most using.