Marnie Webb and Charlene Li exposed the seamy underbelly of tagging at BlogHer 2006. Tags both increase discoverability and enable readers to find others with shared interests. When you tag your own blog posts, you add yourself to an existing community or to an ongoing dialogue.
As defined by Marnie and Charlene, tagging is 'a keyword or a label given to an item to help classify and organize it with other items - but usually assigned casually, instead of as part of a formal taxonomy.' Tag clouds highlight which tags are the most popular, typically by increasing the font size according to how popular a tag is within the set of posts being described. When tags are linked together, it can form metadata that provides a broader set of information about an item. iTunes podcasts, for example, have metadata that includes the author, duration, presence of explicit content, etc.
Tagging can work in three ways:
- I add tags within my own content (Technorati tags)
- I add tags to someone else's content (del.icio.us tags)
- I add tags to either my content or someone else's content (Flickr tags)
Technorati tags are the market standard for bloggers that want to tag their own posts. Del.icio.us is a bookmarking service that gets the URL and the description, but it doesn't actually include the content. Instead, you get to see what other people have tagged. Marnie likes del.icio.us for this aspect - she can see what other people have tagged with nptech, for example. This binds a blog within a loosely knit community of bloggers, especially if they can agree on a specific tag. You can also set up RSS feeds that expose ongoing conversations in the blogosphere - for example, a feed that lists all blog posts using the tag "BlogHer06."
Furl and Plum, on the other hand, saves an entire copy of the Web page - so, you can still get access to the content even if it gets moved or hidden behind a firewall. This is why Charlene prefers Furl. (Anyone who's followed a broken link to the New York Times knows how frustrating this can be.) And if you need power-user access to content for reference purposes, you can even download the entire archive.
Microformats (which I've covered here before) were introduced as way to support structured blogging. This enables blog posts to be searched and drawn into databases - for example, a restaurant review can be sucked into a database, with all of the pertinent elements (restaurant name, date of review, name of reviewer, restaurant address, etc.) This is how sites like Edgeio and Eventful work in developing listings. (Disclosure note: Omidyar Network is an investor in Eventful.) You can create your own microformatted text at hReview Creator, though Charlene suggested that Movable Type and WordPress users take advantage of the friendly widgets at structuredblogging.org instead.
The lesson? There are more nuances to tags than most bloggers are aware of, and bloggers that want to drive readership or become more engaged in an interest community should educate themselves. Fortunately, Charlene and Marnie have shared more information on this session at their wiki page - help yourself.