Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Giving Tags a Meaning

Tagging is a fantastic way for users to say what their data is. It gives a meaning to something that is meaningless and allows for ease of browsing or searching.

However, there are several problems with the way most tagging systems works at the moment:

  • Multiple tags will emerge that have exactly the same meaning. Such as, from Flickr, B&W and Black and White or NYC and New York City. This in itself is not a problem but when a user searches for B&W only half of the black and white photos will be returned.

  • Tags have no context. For example if you wanted to say that you took a photo of London from an airplane you might have the tags London Airplane. But the same tags could also be used for the picture of a 747 sat on the runway at Heathrow.

To help combat these problems, I propose a system whereby tags can be related to other tags on a couple of different levels: Strong and Weak links.

  • A Strong link would be used to signify that two tags are equivalent. They mean exactly the same thing but have just been expressed in a different way: B&W === Black and White. NYC === New York City

  • A Weak link would say that two tags mean very similar things or are related in some other way: Hello == Hi, Beautiful == Gorgeous, or even England == Country, Billy == name.

When a user searches for a term he could also have the option to include anything that has a Strong link to that term.

When linking tags, why stop at a single language? Why not Hello === Bonjour or Ale == cerveza?

I know that the weak links will provide tags with a greater meaning, but I'm still unsure how a particular tag can be given an exact context (such as in the London Airplane example above) and would be happy to hear any ideas.

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