modified from cc licensed flickr image by espresso marco with tag cloud image from mediwiki

I believe in tags.

I love tags.

After looking past at an excessive number of hash tags on twitter (and excessive ones in my flickr stream… and in my delicious account), I did start to wonder about the human capacity for remember tags at the time to tag.

I have pushed out a long serious of tags for resources related to the NMC Horizon Projecthz07, hz08, hzau08, hz09, hzk09 plus sub category tags for each year… I resyndicate this on web sites. I ask people at NMC to share resources via the cooltechnmc tag which is pushed to our web site and various sidebars within. I tag Second Life resources in a dedicated delicious account which are pushed to another site .

I have been plotting the ideas Jon Udell describes as using delicious.com as a database, on a simple level where I tag my presentations by a common tag and a year so I can publish automatically as my best of show of presentations. I started tagging collections of images I harvest for presentations. Bryan Alexander and I have been both tagging and pushing others to collect Web 2.0 Storytelling resources, which again, with magic RSS gets auto published to our wikispaces site.

Well, I could go on, but the horse is not moving any more.

I tag alot.

But sometimes all the tags don’t reach the front of my cortex. I wonder what is the human capacity to keep, remember, and reuse a set of tags? Is it a Dunbar Number? Some other Psychological Named Entity?

So how many tags can you juggle? What if they are lit on fire?

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. To my mind tags are like any other sorting or cataloguing tool: useful in their place.

    I have a places, for example Library Thing, a SL wardrobe programme, where I use tags extensively. My blog posts however have categories, not tags – even when the blogging tool encourages the use of tags and doesn’t really allow categories there aren’t tags. The difference? Well I have a drop-down list of categories, and a moderately time consuming (at least 30 seconds) process to add a new category. Do I add new categories? Sure, but I stop to think about it. Adding new tags is a random process – I just write a stream of consciousness list of words and who knows whether, a month or a year later, they’ll be the words I want to find them by?

    Now, OK, if I tag everything related to a conference with a tag for that conference, I can go back and find it easily, and in principle I can search for other people who were at the conference and remembered to use their tags. And spelt them right. And so on… but there are quick and efficient tools to find the content anyway, tagged or not. I bet you miss more by only looking for the tags than you gain by looking for them, except in terms of automatically generated content. And actually, most times, I don’t care about the automatically generated content. I want that particular post by that particular author with that particular point of view, idea or whatever.

    Perhaps that’s just me of course, but tagging is, to my mind, an overused tool: it has its place, but it’s not a panacea and like antibiotics overuse actually dilutes its impact and utility rather than enhancing it.

  2. There’s also the neat thing that I’ve been noticing on Twitter, and in UMWBlogs: the quip-tag, where the tag is as much a witty description as it is an organizational tag. Like Jeremy Boggs #wildsaturdaynight tag a while ago, that me an Jeff McClurken immediately picked up. I think that’s a signal of tagging off the cuff, which also means less digging around in the brain for tags.

    Also interesting maybe: a list of all tags used once and only once in UMWBlogs

    Patrick Murray-John’s latest blog post…Why university bookstores should get out of the bookselling business

  3. I tag in a sort of fire-and-forget way. I carefully affix or create tags in several places, but then consign them to Web 2.0’s terrific outboard memory. Later on, down the stream of time, I pick them out when trying to do something else in that platform: retrieve a bit of content, usually.

    Tags for visualization seems to be taking off. I’m seeing more clouds (and not just the economy, nyah!). Maybe it was Amazon adding them which made ’em work for the academy.

    Bryan Alexander’s latest blog post…Visualizing “need”

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