📑 What Happened to Tagging?

Bookmarked What Happened to Tagging?

Whether you used tags to categorize your own blog posts on the fly, pull relevant stories into your newsreader, or build self-populating websites, the combination of tags and RSS had the effect of decentralizing and democratizing the organization of information, as well as the development of community and relationships. In contrast with established, coordinated taxonomies for categorizing information (like the Dewey decimal system, in widespread use by libraries), tagging systems were “folksonomies:” chaotic, self-organizing categorization schemes that grew from the bottom up. Anyone could join in the conversation around nptech, fairuse, or webstandards by writing a blog post, bookmarking a web page on del.icio.us, or adding a photo to Flickr—all you had to do was apply the relevant tag.

Alexander Samuel reflects on tagging and its origins as a backbone to the social web. Along with RSS, tags allowed users to connect and collate content using such tools as feed readers. This all changed with the advent of social media and the algorithmically curated news feed. Samuel wonders if we have missed a trick in making everything so seamless.

Yes, it required a little more effort. But when I look around the web today, and at the many problems that have emerged from our submission to the almighty algorithm, I wonder if the effort was a feature, not a bug. By requiring us to invest ourselves in the job of finding content and building community, tag-driven conversations made us digital creators, not just digital consumers. It’s a social web we could have again—and one for which we could be truly thankful.

It is interesting to reflect upon this as I was not really active on the early social web. That always felt like someone else’s thing. Also, I wonder where the IndieWeb and interoperability sit within all of this discussion.

Also posted on IndieNews

10 responses on “📑 What Happened to Tagging?”

        1. I totally forgot about refbacks! (And am slightly embarrassed that you linked back to my own post. facepalm.)

          I think that was the one use case for them that I actually found useful. Otherwise, most of the others were incredibly hammy and more pain than value, so I ultimately stopped using it. Do you still find you get too many duplicates or has there been movement on the de-duplication front?

  1. I remember the rise of tagging “folksonomies” and the rush to add them to blogging software at the time (2005ish, per the original article). Because of how they were implemented there was always a tension between organising content through categories vs tags, which meant some blogs didn’t use them, while others went “all in.”For myself, I’ve found myself drifting away from using either. I used to categorise posts into a particular theme, and then tag with more fine-grained keywords. Back when your “content” and “niche” “mattered”. Now I almost never bother explicitly setting either; I blog for myself, so I don’t feel I necessarily need to define everything into a taxonomy that helps other people make sense of things. Maybe I should put more effort into this, for the day my memory starts failing me?

  2. I very much enjoyed reading What Happened to Tagging, by Alexandra Samuel, so thanks to Aaron Davis for the link .
    I do think, however, that she is being entirely too negative about the state of play today. Aaron singled out one wistful quote, about the web we could have. I noted that the author could start having that web today, were she so inclined. And I singled out a different quote:

    I’ve so completely abandoned tags and RSS that when I got my annual subscription reminder from Feedly, the RSS reader I adopted once Google Reader closed, I literally couldn’t remember when I’d last looked at my RSS subscriptions.

    Seems to me that there is absolutely nothing standing in the way of the author recovering the experience she used to have except herself. That there is nowhere on her JSTOR post that would allow me to suggest this is further circumstantial evidence that she doesn’t really want what she says she does.
    Rather than enumerating the eulogies for RSS and being surprised that she’s paying for a service she isn’t using, why not start using it? Why not learn about the nifty tools that will give you RSS feeds of your Twitter lists. Alexandra has her own site, where she appears to at least link to her writings (though not yet this piece). It’s a start, even if it isn’t a full PESOS. It looks like a WordPress site.
    All that is missing is the desire and a few IndieWeb plugins.
    Also sent to IndieNews.

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  3. Read What Happened to Tagging? by Alexandra Samuel (JSTOR Daily)

    Fourteen years ago, a dozen geeks gathered around our dining table for Tagsgiving dinner. No, that’s not a typo. In 2005, my husband and I celebrated Thanksgiving as “Tagsgiving,” in honor of the web technology that had given birth to our online community development shop. I invited our guests…

    It almost sounds like Dr. Samuel could be looking for the IndieWeb community, but just hasn’t run across it yet. Since she’s writing about tags, I can’t help but mischievously snitch tagging it to her, though I’ll do so only in hopes that it might make the internet all the better for it.

    Tagging systems were “folksonomies:” chaotic, self-organizing categorization schemes that grew from the bottom up.

    There’s something that just feels so wrong in this article about old school tagging and the blogosphere that has a pullquote meant to encourage one to Tweet the quote. #irony
    –December 04, 2019 at 11:03AM

    I literally couldn’t remember when I’d last looked at my RSS subscriptions.
    On the surface, that might seem like a win: Instead of painstakingly curating my own incoming news, I can effortlessly find an endless supply of interesting, worthwhile content that the algorithm finds for me. The problem, of course, is that the algorithm isn’t neutral: It’s the embodiment of Facebook and Twitter’s technology, data analysis, and most crucial, business model. By relying on the algorithm, instead of on tags and RSS, I’m letting an army of web developers, business strategists, data scientists, and advertisers determine what gets my attention. I’m leaving myself vulnerable to misinformation, and manipulation, and giving up my power of self-determination.

    –December 04, 2019 at 11:34AM

    You might connect with someone who regularly used the same tags that you did, but that was because they shared your interests, not because they had X thousand followers.

    An important and sadly underutilized means of discovery. –December 04, 2019 at 11:35AM
    I find it interesting that Alexandra’s Twitter display name is AlexandraSamuel.com while the top of her own website has the apparent title @AlexandraSamuel. I don’t think I’ve seen a crossing up of those two sorts of identities before though it has become more common for people to use their own website name as their Twitter name. Greg McVerry is another example of this.
    Thanks to Jeremy Cherfas[1] and Aaron Davis[2] for the links to this piece. I suspect that Dr. Samuel will appreciate that we’re talking about this piece using our own websites and tagging them with our own crazy taxonomies. I’m feeling nostalgic now for the old Technorati…

    Syndicated copies to:

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  4. Replied to What Happened to Tagging? by Aaron Davis Aaron Davis
    Alexander Samuel reflects on tagging and its origins as a backbone to the social web. Along with RSS, tags allowed users to connect and collate content using such tools as feed readers. This all changed with the advent of social media and the algorithmically curated news feed. Samuel wonders if we h…
    Hi Arron, thanks for this link (and many others). I remember when I first got involved in educational blogging it was fairly simple to pull together tags from any blog (via technorati ), twitter and flickr and display them on one page. I made a few for different educational events in Scotland. A marvellous opportunity now lost, hopefully to return. Like this:Like Loading…

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