January 16, 2006

Search Tech Opportunities- Improvement #5: Improved Tagging

Posted in innovate this!, Innovation at 3:29 pm by scottmaxwell

Following up my post on the opening of the search tech chain, the fifth opportunity that I see is with improved tagging. (While tagging may not be thought of in a traditional search sense, the reason for tags is to find things, so I include it here.)

The basic issue is that, while I love the tagging sites, I suck at tagging. When I find a site that I like, I would like to remember it, so I tag it and put it on Delicious or Wink, right? Well, it doesn’t work very well for me for several reasons. First, I have a hard time thinking about the tags that I should have. Second, I have a hard time remembering my tags. Third, the thought pattern that I have at the time of tagging is usually different than the thought pattern that I have at the time of retrieval. Fourth, the semantic meaning of one person’s tags can be very different than another person’s tags. Finally, those tag clouds definitely were not build with me in mind (they are attractive in an artistic way, but hard to use).

The net net of it is that a given resource ends up being tagged more generally rather than specifically, gets tagged based on a thought at the time of tagging, and gets tagged in a subset of all possible tags. This causes all sorts of retrieval problems.

Some thoughts on improvements to tagging:

  • Bare minimum, when I find a resource that I want to tag, let me know what others have tagged it and let me tick off the tags that I want to use for it.
  • Allow users to put together tag trees (already starting to happen. Wordrpess, for example, allows me to nest categories to two levels) that allow the tagger and the reader to better understand how a given tag fits into the world (as a side note, everyone knows that single taxonomy trees suck, but facited tree taxonomies are in my view the ultimate approach which is effectively this point. In my view, there can be lots of different overlapping trees that change over time, which allows for the “messy” world to be described better.)
  • Allow users to create tag trees that can be used by other users.
  • Use machine learning to propose possible trees and tags at the time of tagging of a resource AND to propose trees and tags to the user at the time of search/retrieval.
  • I am not sure the answer to the tag clouds, especially if others like them. perhaps a more organized way of representing how tags or trees relate would be helpful?

Again, there is an enormous amount of innovation potential here…



  1. Thanks for the great thoughts…you really hit the nail on tagging. As founder of Seekum, I have been personally involved in comming up with more ways tagging can be usefull. We implented similar tags in our search, and added other peoples tags to the core search results before, but this thinking has really gotten me exited.

  2. scottmaxwell said,

    Michael, thanks for the note. I just took a look at your site and blog. Looks like you are experimenting with some great ideas. Great use of incorporating tags…I really like that! I also like the blog so that we can all see how you are thinking and how you are progressing. I don’t care for the design, but I assume this is not what you are focused on at the moment. btw, you should put a sign-in/sign-up on the first page.

    Great stuff! thanks for sending it along.


  3. Thanks for the thoughts. Your right I haven’t really been focusing on the UI yet. I will however be putting a sign up/in link on the home page. If you have any questions or thoughts feel free to contact me. I will be more then happy to discuss.

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