The presentation I will be giving this week will try to shed some light on tags in general, and how they may play a part in academic life. Some of the questions to be addressed include...
What are tags?
What are the advantages to tags?
Where is tagging appropriate to be used?
Where do tags fail?
Whats all this about Tag "Clouds"?
Is there a pressing issue you have on your mind about tags?
Do you have an example of tags benefiting (or not) your online endeavors? how?
Please follow this thread for upcoming details, discussions and resources that will all be included in the final presentation.
Here in SCoPE we've started a trend of tagging according to seminar ID. For example, this seminar is scope688. (Here a "trend" means we've done it more than once! ) Therese has been busy keeping resources posted to this discussion up-to-date: http://del.icio.us/tag/scope668
It's interesting to think about standardized tagging. I noticed that Classroom 2.0 Ning community has set for forum posts. It's a nice way to organize information if people keep it up -- it does take a bit of effort!
For use in courses I really like the idea of tagging. Marlene Scardamalia and Carl Bereiter, when they were at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, developed CSILE, a hypertext learning environment where students selected from a list of tags (they were called something else-- this was in the 80s) for their contributions to a database. These were predetermined scaffolds for knowledge building. For example the scientific inquiry set would include "I need to know" and "new information".
The tagging we're talking about here is working at it from the other direction, and obviously much more flexible to include all kinds of resources. If students negotiate the tags it seems the way they approach a project would be more thoughtful and there may be a bigger commitment over all. I can't wait to see examples!
I'm a bit like Cynthia. I like seeing how other people tag things. When I read someone's tags, I'll sometimes revisit a photo or a site and see it in a whole new way. I see it through the lens of the tag. It's a simple but sometimes very powerful way to learn.
Tagging also seems to be the ONLY way I can stay on top of information. If you scan my inboxes, for instance, my Gmail inbox is clean. (I can tags to archive.) My Outlook inbox has over 1600 messages. (I use folders to archive.)
Tagging seems to work best for me when it's simple (i.e. "we all use scope688") or when I own it completely (i.e. I decide what to tag & how to tag it). I realize that these two are at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of control and agency. :-)
I wonder what other people's experiences are. And what have you observed with learners? What's working for them in their own lives?
That is an excellent point. I am fascinated by the terms people choose to tag things, and particularly note the differences that occur depending on the TYPE of resource being tagged. Music for instance, has of course the tendency for genres to be used as tags, (rock, dance etc) but as a means of organizing music listening in sites such as in last.fm, tags can become a playlist title such as "music for a rainy day", where the tag becomes a descriptive phrase rather than a simple keyword.
To me, these resonate much more strongly to the human mind than the machinic nature of tags like "scope668", where the goal is simply to group similar items for later or collective reference. A secondary meaning is implied in the tag above that somehow gives it more depth.
To restate your own question, I wonder if there are any examples of tags emerging from a classroom situation that were unexpected or innovative?
It's almost more interesting to read the tags themselves than the sites or messages that were tagged. Do they use just a single tag or do the use multiple tags that are cross-referenced in some way - do they build "clouds" of tags around a subject? All of these give insight into the person. A very cool thing.
I am having so much fun with tagging. I find myself "trailing" the gurus in my field of interest and this has become a learning experience all in its own. For instance, I add the gurus or collegues that i know are as passionate about education/technology as me, to my network ,and they do the same for me. We then post good bookmarks to one another or I create a rss feed to their tags which keeps me up to date effortlessly.
I find that instead of Googling something, I first go and check what my gurus have tagged "for me" and it is ALWAYS more relevant than anything that Google can dish up for me! And it comes with their own personilised descriptions...
A primary school teacher at a workshop yesterday told me about in instance where her kiddies googled "hitler" and then stumbled on a porn hitler site. So I suggsted that she set a hitler tag with which means that she has already filtered the sites her kids can look at...
I will (for sure) be tagging the KEY resources for my presentation with scope688, but having collected over 100 of them on the topic of tagging I will have to try and be selective.
I am posting an outline of my presentation as well, with a list of links which will also be a good way to get at some of the references and websites I am including.
I suppose when I am done I can copy this into the SCoPE wiki as well. (can there be too many ways to find something?)
I will be digging through my collection to find the most relevant links to educators, particularly if there are examples of courses that use tagging in a very specific way. I wonder if I should start a new thread for others to add their own contributions too? hmmm
Admittedly, I loaded the title of this talk to draw some attention and raise a few eyebrows, but believe me it was with tongue planted firmly in cheek. In the case of librarians, it is all too easy to go after the controlled vocabulary vs. folksonomy discussion, as has already been done by many before me, namely the ongoing Shirky and Weiberger work that Jim references below. Personally I dont feel it is as simple as that anymore.
In my experience (and some of my closest friends are librarians! ;) ) most "architects of information" DO see the benefits to tagging, particularly when the needs of the user are considered. I mean, librarians cant organize everything for everybody these days based purely on the amount of information that is out there. Our own library at SFU has recently launched a searchable database of its e-journal collection, and has built in a tagging interface to allow users to associate a personal set of keywords with the journals they are interested in.
E-journals at SFU - (sorry, you need an SFU ID to take that for a test run)
This addresses one of the fundamental principles of tagging, that of organizing information and will be a key aspect in my presentation.
For educators however, I will suggest another angle, that tagging offers a means for your students to take part in the classification process themselves, and that through the tagging of online resources, they can begin to create their own mental model around a particular domain or topic.
Not actually being an academic educator (or instructor of any kind at the moment) I better stop there, but am curious if you or others think that the simple act of labeling/categorizing/tagging contributes to the learning process in this or anyway? Or if that is even a relevant question.
Check out this short YouTube video by Michael Wesch (creator of the Computer is Us/ing Us), an anthropology lecturer from the States:
It's a great look at how the internet and especially web 2.0 features are affecting the ways we categorise information.
Also relevant to this topic (quoted from the more info notes of the video) is:
Clay Shirky's work, especially: http://www.shirky.com/writings/ontolo...
Also check out David Weinberger's Everything is Miscellaneous:
All fascinating stuff...
That youtube video is quickly becoming a classic, thanks for including it here!
Just goes to show how much we are all having to become librarians or 'mini classifiers' of our own information. It highlights (to me) the importance of tagging and for educators to be familiar with techniques and conventions that are emerging on the web.
Thanks to all for the responses!
On the other hand, there are already sites like CiteULike if you want to encourage students to be tagging in a more academic environment.
While tagging is so prevalent, I have to say I'm somewhat ambivalent towards it. I've never really used del.icio.us -though I do have an account, as I prefer iKeepbookmarks. It's easier (for me) to assign things to a folder, than it is to remember what particular tags I've used in the past. Given how long it took me to change the tags I'd given to about 20 slideshows on Slideshare so that they all said "Web2.0", rather than Web 2, or Web 2.0 - and to SL rather than anything else, I get rather daunted about how I'd cope with managing the something like 2,000 bookmarks I have.... That said, the fact that tagging can allow something to sit in multiple categories is useful, so I'm now trying with a new blog that I have to use both WordPress categories for the main "filing", and to add tags to refine it.
I fully agree with the points that have been made about how it can be really interesting to see how two different people have tagged the same thing, and that descriptive things trigger the imagination, while functional tags are good for categorising.
Perhaps part of it is just me. I'm a bit obsessively tidy, and find it very annoying when someone puts something away in the kitchen in the wrong place! I can, however, fully accept, that just because *I* think that the best place for whatever is where I've chosen to put it, that others mayn't think the same, and that they're just as entitled to put theirs whatever wherever. Thus, I can find that tagging can get frustrating ...
(There is then, of course, the argument that people who use the same tags in the same way as me may have a similar mindset, and thus I may find their resources useful, and the counter argument that I may be excluding a heap of useful resources...)
It looks like Tagging is a hot topic for educators! There are currently around 140 social bookmarking sites on the web with various interpretations. Here is a little pot pourri of resources to complement Jason's elluminate session today:
A way to socially network and socialise using tagging:
Hear about the new tools for bookmarking from Rachel Bridgewater, and begin to understand how approaching this task with these new tools can become a means for social networking with your user.
Peerworks is an open source project that is building content classification tools to help online browsing, collaboration, and social discovery. Q: What is Peerworks?
Peerworks is a project focused on building content classification tools to improve online browsing, collaboration, and social discovery. We plan to make our technology open source, and to work with existing websites and content management systems that want to implement this technology. We also plan to work with researchers on enhancing the technology and for better understanding of how people use it.
Q: What is the goal of Peerworks?
We want to help communities organize themselves, and help individuals learn what they want to know. Ideally, a site using Peerworks technology would be able to show each user all the items — and only the items — that are useful or interesting to them. To do this, our technology lets users indicate their interests through individualized tagging. Once users have indicated their individual interests, we can find those users who share interests.
Based on these shared interests, users could form broader relationships and more community structure with each other. This kind of structure can remain fluid and can change as users’ interests and judgments evolve.
Q: What is tagging, and why are we using it?
Tagging simply means labeling items of content with personally meaningful words or phrases. Any user can tag any item of content with any number of tags. Tagging is a very flexible way of organizing content because, unlike traditional hierarchical organization, categories can overlap; an item of content can belong to as many categories as a tagger likes.
There are two approaches to tagging — consensus and individualized. Consensus tagging requires that all users of a site use the same tags, and use them consistently. This is very difficult to enforce, and creates a lot of tension between people who have different interests or tagging styles. We have chosen to use individualized tagging. This is not a new idea — some major sites use it already, and others are considering it — but we take it to a new level by learning each user’s tagging preferences.
Q: What is individualized tagging, and how do we support it?
Individualized tagging lets each user decide on the meaning of the tags they use, rather than having to track a consensus meaning. In our approach, individuals express their interests by inventing tags, or choosing ones that already exist, and tagging a few items with each tag.
Using these examples, our software builds a definition of what that tag means to that individual — we call that definition a “classifier.” Then our software can look at all the other items on the site, and decide fairly accurately how the user would tag those items — it “classifies” all the items. The user can correct (train) the software at any time, making its definition more accurate.
Once our software has tagged all the content, the user can view it filtered and sorted by tags, to show the items they are interested in, organized in ways that work well for them.
Q: How can individualized tagging help the whole community?
First, let’s mention a point that may not be obvious. Since each individual is tagging for their own benefit, they have an incentive to tag items with as much detail as needed to filter and organize the content the way they want. Since the software will feed back its understanding of what they mean, they have a continuing incentive to train the software to understand their meaning correctly. This implies that the software tends to build up an increasingly accurate set of definitions for each user’s interests and preferences. It turns out that it is fairly easy to compare two tag definitions and see how similar they are. Based on this, we can find users with similar interests and preferences.
This is different from existing systems that judge similarity based on tag names alone. For example, if a financier and a limnologist both use the tag name "bank," an existing system might think they are talking about the same thing. However our software will build very different definitions for the two users: the financier's definition will be about institutions that control money, and the limnologist's definition will be about earth that channels water. So by comparing definitions, we can identify users who share interests. More generally we can look at the full range of definitions across an entire site, and track the shifting range of topics that interest users of that site. We can cluster topics together based on shared interest, automatically generate discussion groups based on overlapping topics, etc.
We explicitly accept (and celebrate!) that the users of individualized tags will be a diverse population, each with different interests and ways of classifying the world. Our goal is to accommodate the real diversity of the user population, while also giving people ways to adopt each others’ perspectives, and to collaborate when they want to.
Q: Can this approach help people who don’t do their own tagging?
"Consensus" tag spaces can be created by clustering similar definitions. A site can provide views that are organized according to the consensus tags to help everyone see the big picture. These views can also provide a friendly way for new members of an online community to get up to speed on the existing topics. And people who don't do their own tagging can simply view items using the consensus tags.
The consensus tag space will automatically evolve over time as personal tagging decisions shift. This helps to avoid a straitjacket of fixed topics that have to be changed manually. Emerging issues and changes in community views, etc. will automatically show up in the consensus tag space.
Q: How can individualized tagging improve online communities?
There are lots of ways, we have only thought of a few:
People can easily find others "near" them who have similar interests in a given topic, and begin exchanging messages or form a discussion group.
People can benefit from the tagging decisions of those with similar tags, essentially collaborating on refining the tag definition.
If people get interested in a given topic or way of thinking, they can find the people who are most involved with that and see how they've organized their knowledge.
People can “stand in the shoes” of others by adopting their views and tags.
Individualized tagging uses the knowledge and judgment of thousands to drive the creation of a "social landscape," which becomes a map of the interests of the community as a whole. Right now, people have to make these judgments anyway for their own purposes, but they can't easily feed them back into the community and contribute to the commonwealth. Learning individual preferences through tagging lets everyone benefit from these individual choices.
Commentator David Weinberger says a growing trend allows us all to have a say on how to organize the Internet. 'Just as the internet allows users to create and share their own media, it is also enabling them to organize digital material their own way, rather than relying on pre-existing formats of classifying information.' A December 2006 survey has found that 28% of internet users have tagged or categorized content online such as photos, news stories or blog posts. On a typical day online, 7% of internet users say they tag or categorize online content. The report amd subsequent podcast link features an interview with David Weinberger, a prominent blogger and fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society.
Thanks Jason for that illuminating and well paced session this afternoon.
I learned things I didn't know about tagging and folksonomies.
No tuition fees, pre-requisites, room bookings or dreary bus trips required.
Your choice of ale gladly provided at my expense.
and everybody for the interest and participation in yesterdays session. It was a blast! Im looking forward to integrating all the contributions and comments into the wiki page, and following the rest of the seminars in the social media discussions.
I did an informal, highly-unscientific survey of an undergraduate business course I am teaching, and of the 35 respondents (out of 40), none of them use del.icio.us or any other tagging / bookmarking application. I found this very interesting, especially as they use Google for every search and are all, for the most part, active on Facebook.
Thought the group here might find this interesting.
I tend to use tags for Technorati purposes on my blog, but otherwise tag little since I cannot find standards that most people play by. For example, I tend to use proper nouns in tags with capital letters and spaces, but others do not. Without standards, I find it more work than it is worth to try to account for all possibilities of tagging.
I do like tagging, and hope that we can move this conversation and aspects of social media in education along. I know I would tag more if I found other people find it useful. However, I have never received any tagging feedback, and do not really have a need to tag my own items for myself.
Watching and learning is the story of my life!!!
I know what you mean about different standards. I have trouble juggling processes like that, and would rather use the least common denometer (I think that is the right phrase) for this so I only have to learn one way. I struggle with proper names (how do I have a first and a last name--with or without spaces or under scores or with or without capital letters?), and this alone drives me crazy with them.
For tagging to work, I think the tags should be straight-forward and direct. For example, I would (and will) never remember using "scope668" for our work here. I would then struggle for something else to use, such as "scope social media in education," which is long. I then would be right back into the initial dilemma (of "scope_social_media_in_education" or "scopesocialmediaineducation"). Ultimately, these things make sense to me, but if they are not a bit broader or open to the use of others, then they are not doing me much good.
From Re: TAGS, a librarians worst nightmare. (or are they?) by jeffkeefer on Monday 03 December 2007 10:13:00:
I know I would tag more if I found other people find it useful. However, I have never received any tagging feedback, and do not really have a need to tag my own items for myself.
My approach is that if others find my tags useful, so much the better. However, if I tag things, I do them the way that *I* find useful; and for myself. One of the reasons that I never really got into del.icio.us is that I was too worried I'd forget tags I'd created in the past. I prefer iKeepbookmarks, as I can shove things in folders. However, it's becoming clear to me, that sometimes I'd want things in two different places. I use WordPress, and can achieve that with it; as the categories let me. However, I can also see the use of tags to further delineate things.
The consistency that Jeffrey mentions is a difficulty though - even when it's only me that I really care about!
As to the spaces / underscores/ OneGiantWord ... if I do the latter, I always use CapitalLetters to delineate some boundaries, but I think_I_prefer_underscores.
As to the odd tags like "Scope668" or whatever it was, I guess as well as fitting in with what I'm assuming is some scope code, it's also something that someone is pretty unlikely to think of at random!
I've also just been reading several case studies of students and their use of online environments. (Not web 2, but discussion boards). One point that several made was that they liked reading others work, but didn't feel that that needed / wanted to contribute to the discussion. While part of me was wondering why they felt that; and whether or not they felt some guilt at not contributing (and, how they'd feel if no-one contributed; would they feel they'd lost out. If so, whose responsibility would it be to get those that liked writing to do something...)
On reading this discussion, I am now thinking two things.
1: By tending to use tags primarily for my own use, and not for the use of others; am I not contributing to the tagoloply or whatever in the same way as those students aren't contributing.
2: Given that I do feel I give a lot to discussions like this - does it "let me off", and, if that's the case, what might those non discussion board students be doing to contribute to the class - perhaps not online, so it's not showing up in the case studies that I was reading...
Incidentally, when I asked my class of 17 or so final year computing undergraduates - in the UK - one of them thought he might have heard of del.icio.us; the rest certainly hadn't; though, as with Jeffrey's students, they're all facebookaholics.
Emma, I like all your comments, and it makes me muse on how much more reflection and consideration we can have with these issues.
Do I smell more of of a discussion on this topic in the future, or perhaps a research project of some sort?
It is early days yet for tagging and the semantic web.
Shocking admission. I had a delicious account for a year-ish before I started using it. Didn't feel comfortable putting all my bookmarks in public view. Plus I wasn't sure about which social bookmarking site I should use. I learned del.icio.us has the most users and has the most valuable information for my purposes. I imported my bookmarks as unshared bookmarks and will share and tag them - someday!
Emma I haven't seen too many students using del.icio.us here either. Wandering around the lab I see web browsers email and facebook. I appreciate your comments about your experiences with tagging and social bookmarking - thanks for sharing them.
Tags may not necessarily be a librarians worst nightmare but librarians may be tagging's salvation.
As information professionals, Librarians have long known what many of us are only now discovering - the need for standards.
Let's face it, up until a few years ago (before the ascendency of the Web and more specifically, Web 2.0) most of us didn't need to know about tagging or cataloging. We simply didn't have access to enough personal information such as textbooks, journals, personal references etc., to make tagging or cataloging worthwhile.
The "Read/Write" web has changed all that. Now we are awash with info and tagging is one way to deal with it all.
As long as the tags are not shared - no problem. If the tags I have chosen make sense to me and allow me easy access and retrieval for the information I've found, then I'm good. The wheels fall off the wagon when I share my tags with others via del.icio.us, furl or ... What makes perfect sense to me, might make no sense at all to someone else.
Laugh though you may, I suggest that all taggers need a tutorial on the Dewey Decimal System, Sears Subject Headings, the Library of Congress cataloging system or some other structured subject language or controlled language, otherwise they/we risk creating the tagger's, "Tower of Babble".
My $0.02 worth.