Tagging: design decicions

“Before you start designing your interface or planning social navigation features, you’ll want to think about the relationships and rules between users, resources, abnd tags in your taging system. In other words, you’ll want to think about the architecture of your tagging system. In this context, architecture simply means the abstract design decisions involved in creating a tagging system.”

Define rules and relationships between users, resources, and tags:


  • Who are they (personas)
  • How are they associated with the site? (Membership)
  • Turnover: What happens with joiners and leavers?
  • Activity? How enthusiastic are they?
  • Community: How do they engage with other users? (Followers, e.g. del.icio.us – Contacts, e.g. facebook – Groups, e.g. Ma.gnolia)
    Resources (system or user-contributed resources)

  • What is being taged? Original or pointer? “Systems that use pointers [like del.icio.us] are collaborative – many people can tag the same resource with their own unique tags. Systems that use originals are not collaborative at the resource level. althoughh you can still aggregate tags acroiss users.”
  • Privacy: Everyuthing is public – Configurable bur public by default – Configurable but private by default – Everything is private
  • Restrictions (e.g. file type, object, genre/category, origin)
  • Dynamism (number of resources and the rate at which they change impacts on tagging behavious)

  • Permissions: Who can tag what? “Most taggings systems with user-contributed resources have a simple and straightforward way of determining permissions. The people who contribute resources get to tag them and can add, edit, or remove the tags later if they want [e.g. wordpress blog]. In some cases, these permissionscan be extended to other users in the system. In Flickr, for example, you can give your contacts and friends permission to tag your photos (they can also delete the tags the add).” p.50
  • Truth: Where are the tags? (actual file or reference in database)
  • Control: Should you censor tags? Social policing might be a feasible and effective way to ‘control’ tags.
  • Patterns: Understanding the Power Law (the distribution characterized by a few elements occurring with a high frequency and most with a low frequency.” (e.g. Pareto’s law that 80% of wealth is held by 20% of people or Zipf’s law …)

Gene Smith, Tagging: People-Powered Metadata For The Social Web, p. 39-53


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