The Trouble with Tagging

Tagging content is a very useful tool so that you can keep information organized and easily find it later. I use a form of tagging in my email – Google calls these tags “labels.” I love it! That being said, I never really got into using – I think because I never truly understood what it should be used for. I use my own bookmarks bar to keep track of things that are important to me, I star items in Google Reader that I want to find later… so I couldn’t really wrap my head around the idea of using yet another external site to do this things for me.

After this week’s reading, I see that it could be a very powerful tool – even if it does still have a few weaknesses. The trouble with tagging is that you have to be consistent with your tags for them to work effectively. At my work, our database is capable of tagging records with keywords. It was decided on that we would use keywords to group sets of data together – for example, all agreements within fiscal year 2011 would get a corresponding keyword. While this idea worked in principle, it did not work in practice. I recently had to go in and clean up all of these keyword records because we had such variations in vocabulary as “FY2011”, “FY11”, “FY11 – Licenses”, “FY2011 – Licenses”, and so on and so forth. It was a mess! There was no central SOP in place for using keywords, so whenever people needed to group records, they did it on their own without consulting what may have already been in place. These keywords went back as far as 2006, and 5 years later it was impossible to tell which, if any, of the tags were correctly used.

This is, of course, a risk you take when you relinquish control. In a setting like my office, this control is not something that should have been given up because it effected the data in our database. In a library setting, when you’re using tags for shared content that doesn’t effect daily operations of the library, giving up that control is less risky, especially when considered in the context of the information that is gained.


Posted on October 11, 2011, in LIBR 246 Web 2.0 and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I liked how you used your office as a concrete example of tagging and how it can be dangerous to not have a controlled vocabulary. I’m wondering what methods could be used in order to avoid this mistagging issue, whether a master list of tags should be made and updated or if the tags should be limited. In a library setting, it would be much more difficult to control unless there was already a set of “recommended” tag phrases.

    I also have not used delicious but I also have a feeling I should get to know it in the future!

  2. It is really a great and useful piece of information.

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