Thursday, February 01, 2007

"28% of Net users tag" ?

David Weinberger, a fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society (and one of my favorite RSS feeds) points on Joho the Blog to a new Pew Internet & American Life Project report, by Lee Rainie, and summarizes it with the title "28% of Net users tag".

Back when we started Yedda, the choice to go with free form tagging was a non-trivial one. Tagging was not yet mainstream, and the concept often met objections from early testers.

Still, we chose to go with free form tagging because we strongly believed that this is the only approach that can support the dynamic, ever-evolving nature of human interests & knowledge.

However, we quickly noticed that the word "tag" often resulted in a "huh?" blank stare, so one compromise that we did make is renaming it from "Tags" to "Topics" – surprisingly enough (or not), this choice had an immediate positive impact on people's acceptance of this approach.

"28% of Net users tag" sounds great. It sounds very mainstream, and it makes me feel good about our choice. But further reading reveals that the actual question that was asked is:
Please tell me if you ever use the internet to categorize or tag online content like a photo, news story, or a blog post
Well, categorization is very different from tagging. In fact, the word is often used to describe a process that, while having the same objective, is quite the opposite of free form tagging. (Well, in Wikipedia-speak, the term categorization applies to both activities. But you get my drift. I assume that the people who answered this question did not consult with Wikipedia first).

So, while the fact that %28 of Net users actually make the effort to add that meta-data to their content and to other people content (be it in the form of categories or of free-form tags) is great, I don't think it can be summarized with "28% of Net users tag".

It'd be interesting to see a similar report focusing on free form tagging. Pew?

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