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Tagging With Emotions Not Common Sense

But since I’ve started using tags in Qumana, I find myself unable to ignore the urge to somehow subvert the intent of these tag things. I want to make people laugh, to surprise them, and so I like to tag posts so that they’ll show up in a way that makes the “finder’s” experience richer not in the usual way, but in the way that makes them go WTF?

Most of the time, I use tags to add context to what I’ve written. Not to classify it. Not to organize it. Not to plug it in among the topics that others are writing about. Tags have a place beyond taxonomies and classifications and categorization. They are a beautiful, wide-open opportunity to add subtext to your writing. To sew meaning into the fabric of someone else’s reading experience.

I like to tag based on emotion, inference, subtleties, in a way that make tags PART of my post, not an afterthought way to plug them into Technorati and what everyone else is talking about.

Subtext of Tagging by Allied

What do you think of that? It made me a little ill, and confused, but then I realized that for this blogger, blogging is a pure emotional release and tagging is just one more way to express emotion.

A lot of the comments on her post did not agree with her. Tagging by the seat-of-your-pants-emotions dilutes the tagging process.

While it’s nice and romantic to think that people will stumble upon your tag called “rough-edged stones”, what are the odds? And if they do, won’t they be irritated to find that they are not discovering new methods of rock polishing or gemology but some self-involved babble?

These are the tags on that particular post:

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

While there are a few in there that make sense, what about the other ones? The one word tags related to her post content about tagging with emotions. The rest have NOTHING to do with the content. Sure, maybe the content of the overall site, but not the post itself. I believe she thinks of these as tagging easter eggs.

How do you tag your posts? Have you looked over the various tag services’ most popular tag lists, like the one at Technorati, and learn what are the key tags for the subjects you write about? Do you think about the content and dig out keywords that people will use to search for your post and use those as tags? Or do you just list the first words or phrases that come into your head?

This blogger makes an interesting point, though, in spite of her reckless use of tags.

Because that’s really how we find each other–the each others that we can make meaning with going forward. We find each other in our humanness, not in our ability to mimic machines. We don’t need to re-create search engine technology. We need to get real.

This is a very good point because it puts a human face back onto the process. Unfortunately, it also doesn’t work. Look at her tag she’s nuts. There is only one post, hers. How do you connect with others if there are no other posts in your tag category? Clearly, not a hot tag topic.

The odds of people entering that search term is small, but if someone is searching for “nuts” then her post will appear. And hopefully people seriously searching for information about walnuts, pecans, almonds, and peanuts will forgive the crap that appears in the Technorati search for “nuts”. More dilution of the tag, but this time, its because of synonyms not poor usage.

Again, this is how I think of tags. They are the index page for your blog. They provide navigational links to help people find related topics based upon one or two keywords. Bottom line:

Tags help people find information.

If your tag doesn’t lead to the information they are seeking, you have just wasted their time. It is nice to think that for a second you might have broadened their browsing experience, gave them a change to giggle and grin in the dimly lit room from which they enter the Internet world. The truth is that they have taken one glance, realized you don’t have what they want, and click, they are gone. You didn’t get much of a chance to expand their browsing experience. Few people do time-wasting browsing, randomly poking around. Yes, some do, but most people are out on the hunt.

What do you think about this?

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network

Member of the 9Rules Blogging Network

9 Comments

  1. Posted March 14, 2006 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Interesting post. I like it.
    I think the question comes down to who your audience is and how you intend for them to find you. Sure, tagging emotionally may add something to the post but if you are writing the post with your audience in mind you don’t need to be cute with the tags. It seems you tag for one reason and that is so the various engines, Technorati, can find and index the post. What other reason is there to tag? I think if you are going to bother with tagging at all then it needs to be done very deliberately and not whimsically. With that said I do think you can have some fun with tagging but it needs to apply to the post and not lead someone, as you indicated, on a fruitless journey.

    Thanks again for putting this post together. It has made me take a closer look at how I tag.

  2. Posted March 14, 2006 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    I don’t know about the emotion part but I wondered about my tagging techniques myself. I use Technorati because its the only service I know how to use and ecto has it built in.

    I find that I don’t have a set method in how I tag. I just pick out key words and tag them. Like you mentioned in one of your previous posts, tags are like an index to your site while categories are the table of contents (at least I think thats what you said).

    Either way because of you I’m revamping my categories and making them more useful. BTW, I love your site.

  3. Posted March 14, 2006 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    Well ain’t that something, I found this post looking for pecans. Oh.. I’m sorry, you were talking about tags :)

  4. Posted March 14, 2006 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    One of my blogs (Michigan in Pictures) has an internal tag system that is mainly used for indexing as I drive most of the traffic to the site. As such, I focus more on tags as navigation.

    For my personal blog, I rely on folk stumbling upon the site and try to use a “normalized” set of tags. For this purpose, it would be helpful to find a list that ranked tags by frequency of usage.

  5. Posted March 14, 2006 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    Interesting. Frequently used tags verses number of posts per tag. I never thought about it that way. Hmmm. That would involve tying in the plugin to your blog stats. Pretty complicated stuff.

  6. Posted March 14, 2006 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    If people are searching technorati for serious, reliable, factual information about walnuts, they’re the ones who are nuts. I don’t quite see why somebody writing a personal blog should adjust her practices to accommodate these hypothetical (and probably fictional) googlephobes.

    People who try to dictate what I can and can’t do in my personal journal get pretty short shrift, I’m afraid.

  7. Dan
    Posted March 15, 2006 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    I found this post, as well as your others on tagging, very helpful to me as I’m launching my blog. My question, which fits with what farlane describes, is whether I focus on tagging to create an index that is useful and consistent with the content of my site, or do I worry about trying to figure out technorati tags that are appropriate for my content? What do I lose by not using the tags that best match with technorati tags?

  8. Posted March 15, 2006 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    1. “Matching” with the millions of “tags” found by Technorati doesn’t matter. When you publish a post with WordPress, a ping goes out to Technorati (and others) through Ping-o-matic. Technorati comes crawling your site looking for tags. When it finds one, it adds it to its database.

    2. Matching tags with Technorati isn’t important. Matching tags with what people are searching for, like keywords, is more important that what tags are in Technorati. When choosing tags, think about people will search for the content in your post.

    3. Providing links to Technorati in your tags invites users to leave your site to find help elsewhere. Links to Technorati helps Technorati. Just remember that.

    4. Tags, categories, site maps, most recent posts, and most popular posts, all of these are navigational aids. You can use them however you want. Personally, I like the idea of using categories as an outline table of contents and tags as like an index reference. From there, it’s up to you.

    Search engines find all the words, whether or not they are tags, in your content when they crawl your site. Tag services used to find only tags, but now they are also crawling for keyword content, so tags are losing their importance by the actions of Technorati. Use them however you wish, now. They are all just content.

    I’ll have more on this topic that will help you understand how keywords and tags are, and aren’t, different. That might help clear things up. Good luck with your new blog and let me know what you come up with for your tagging and category plans.

  9. Dan
    Posted March 15, 2006 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    I found your idea of categories as TOC and tags as index immensely helpful as I started tagging last week, and I also weeded my categories from 16 to 8–and I think I need to narrow them down a tad more. So far, my strategy for tagging has been to look through the post and think about how I would describe the “big ideas” in one or two words. Then I also think about names of people or other keywords that I want to use that regularly show up in my other posts so that the “related posts” generated by UTW are useful. That’s works so far–and I’m hoping to refine the process more as I write more (I’ve got 61 posts so far).


11 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] In other words, trust and self policing. The tag services and social bookmarking services are relying upon you, the user, to add tags that “make sense”, relate to the content, help the visitor, and don’t abuse the system. They also work hard to promote the myth that in order to be effective, the tags must link back to their services. Eventually, like everything else, there may be rules, but right now, it’s a free-for-all when it comes to tags. [...]

  2. [...] Tagging With Emotions Not Common Sense [...]

  3. [...] Tagging With Emotions Not Common Sense [...]

  4. [...] seen many bloggers tag without common sense, using strange combinations or words or concepts or just mindlessly coming up with some [...]

  5. [...] Tagging With Emotions Not Common Sense [...]

  6. [...] use a serendipitous method of using any combination of words that someone might just stumble upon and discover their blog while digging through tags. The odds [...]

  7. [...] well, if the user enforces a discipline on themselves. Ultimately, a gigantic cloud of tags is as useless as an enormous list of categories, but either one applied consistently and selectively results in a [...]

  8. [...] Allied, March 2006) From Lorelle on my exploration of context-based tagging: What do you think of that? It made me a little ill, and [...]

  9. […] Tagging With Emotions Not Common Sense […]

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  11. […] to people talking about being ripped off by some business, scams, poker, casinos, mortgages, and topics that had nothing to do with my article. Not even closely related to the issues of copyright infringement and intellectual property. The […]

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