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Thing #13 – Tagging and Folksonomies

November 14, 2010
a sharpie marker with tags

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Tagging and Folksonomies – Two Defining Attributes of Web 2.0

Did you see the definition of Web 2.0? If not, go read it now.

Who will organize all this information on the web? We will – using TAGS!  Tagging is not like library subject headings, which follow a strict set of guidelines.  Tagging is an open and informal method of categorizing that allows users to associate keywords with online content (web pages, pictures & posts).  Tagging is done by you to make retrieval of web content easy for you.

Tagging– it’s personal, freeform, shared, open to others and is as simple as typing a word into a text box.

What do people tag? photos, webpages, books, videos, blog posts, recipes, merchandise, lists, pets, friends, and so on and on and on. . .

How do people tag?  Using words that make sense to you. You are an expert in your own vocabulary (tags!)

For example, a photo of your dog may be tagged as dog, beagle, rover and even cute if that means something to you. (Also, tags cannot have spaces, e.g. chocolate chip cookie is actually three tags, whereas chocolate_chip_cookie (or chocolatechipcookie) is one tag).
By collecting these tags, a complex and growing website can provide users with a useful look at information based on grouping resources around the words users use to describe it.  With thousands of users doing the same thing, useful information emerges from the masses.  This collaborative organizing of content by everyday users is called a folksonomy. A folksonomy evolves over time, as more users add more tags to more content.


Because the internet is made of everyday people.  It would not be very useful to us if only certain people were in charge of organizing things on the web.  We each have our own way of naming things and putting them into categories.  Tagging increases our ability to interact with the web, making us creators and not just watchers!


The social power of Flickr comes from tagging. Flickr’s public photo tags are visible to the whole community, so the entire collection becomes organized and categorized, searchable and browsable.

So, let’s search for photos using tags on Flickr.

Clicking Tags to Search:

  1. Look at this photo in the St. Charles Parish Library Flickr page.  Find the tag called “bottle cap craft” and click it.  You will see all photos in the SCPL photo stream with that tag. Remember what I just said about tags not being allowed to have spaces? Read on…
  2. Click on “See all public content tagged with bottlecapcraft.”  Tags can’t have spaces, so Flickr just ignores the spaces and creates the tag bottlecapcraft.   We see the library’s images plus images from a user called RETTOCAMME.  Click one of RETTOCAMME’s images and take a look at the tags that person used for their images. Click a few if you like, just to see where they take you.

Searching with Tags Using the Search Box:

  1. Next try searching Flickr using more than one tag at a time.  First, select “Everyone’s Uploads” from the drop down menu at the search box.
  2. When you add tags to an image, you cannot use spaces between the words—we’re clear on that, right?  If you use spaces Flickr will ignore them.  BUT, when you type tags into the search box, you can use spaces.  Simply enter tag words into the search box, and then select tags only, then click Search.  For example, I will type red car into the search box to find all photos tagged with the separate tags car and red.
    Type at least two or three words into the search box and see what you get!
  3. You can also search for multiple tags or phrases in photo captions using quotation marks around the words. Simply enclose your search terms with quotation marks, and then select full text, then click Search.  For example, I will type “red car” to find all photos with “red car” in the caption, PLUS all photos tagged with redcar.

The concept of tagging is not unique to Flickr. Many Web 2.0 services incorporate tagging to add user-defined value and organization. Bloggers often tag their posts, and clicking on their tags may take you to a listing of all of their own posts tagged as such, or possibly a listing of ALL KNOWN blog entries tagged as such, e.g. through a service such as Technorati, which currently tracks over 90 million blogs. In the next Thing, we will learn more about Social Bookmarking and use a service called Delicious to search for, store and organize Internet bookmarks/favorites using tags.


Write a blog post about your observations when searching using tags.  Did you find the types of photos you expected to find using the tags you chose?  Did searching with multiple tags give you satisfactory results?

Name this blog post Thing #13.


If you created a Flickr account, sign in and add some tags to the photos you uploaded during Thing #10.  Add three or more tags per picture, and then do a search of Everyone’s Uploads using those same words. What did you find? Were those photos similar or completely different to yours?

Or, if you do not have a Flickr account, add some tags to the Library of Congress Flickr account.



From → Week 6 - Tags

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