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Posted by aaron at 04:00PM, Monday, November 01st, 2004

Tagging is Cool

I've finally started playing with, after my friend Ed suggested I try the browser Flock for bookmark management. I'm much more excited about social bookmarking than I anticipated, and I think is the first compelling application of tagging I've seen.

Here's an example of what makes it cool. I can bookmark a site I like on (I'm just going to refer to it as delicious, because those periods are a damn pain to type.) I give the bookmark a few descriptive tags to help me find it -- which in itself is a godsend, because my Safari bookmarks file is starting to be large enough that it's difficult to find what I'm looking for, and bookmarks don't neatly fit into a single folder (for example, should I put under "Mac," or "news," or "sites to read every day?") Then I can access it from any browser. What's much more interesting is I can see whether other people bookmark it, and what they've tagged it with.

One of the sites I bookmarked yesterday is -- this is a local Boston organization that does biodiesel stuff, like greasecar conversions. I can see on delicious that one other person has bookmarked this through the site:

If I click on that "one other person" link, I can see that other person's username, and that the one tag he or she has used for the site is "WVO":

What's WVO, I wonder? So, I click that, and see all the other sites the user has tagged "WVO," and realize, it's "Waste Vegetable Oil":

I think that's pretty damn cool. This is extraordinarily powerful for seeing how people associate information, for understanding tagging, and taxonomies, and all that jazz. More importantly, it's great for finding new stuff. If people bookmark a site I like, I can see what else they've bookmarked with that tag, and find new resources. It's a great way to research things online. It's a great way to find information. It's also, frankly, much more exciting than anything I've seen Google doing lately. This is similar to collaborative filtering in being one of those ideas that really takes full advantage of the web.

I finally understand the buzz about tagging.

Incidentally, I think everyone should check out Flock. It gives a decent GUI for integrating the tagging right onto the desktop, and also incorporates blogging and flickr (naturally). It's still pre-beta software, but worth a look.
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