A great post by the community engine on the usefulness of tags for the benefit of users and search engines alike.
From the blog post:
“Most people put content on the web to be found. For search engines, the set of tagged links provide an indication of what the author intended by the post. Further, the aggregate of tags provided by many different people for a given link give an indication of that link’s subject area. All of this information increases the value to searchers and therefore search engines because the additional information makes the intent of the content more apparent.”
Technorati can search free-text in blogs, and can also search in tags (blog categories, and social bookmark tags - this searches user defined vocabularly or, in a way, subject terms. Let’s not forget “tags” can describe items in different ways; as a subject term, category, to-do…generally it is hoped to describe the aboutness of an item.
Imagine how far social bookmark manager’s could stretch, if del.icio.us bookmarked everypage on the web or many bookmark managers covered the web together and then could be searched on a 3rd party interface (combining all the native interfaces), kind of like what Technorati tag search is doing at the moment…it would be like one giant flat-file subject term index of the web.
Problems are spamming this index and the fore knowledge that you are searching user-defined tags (ie. the whole world is indexing the aboutness of a webpage, not library or information professionals…it won’t have the authority control of the subject field in an OPAC…is this a bad thing?).
But I guess this is as close as we will get to organising the web as we organise libraries.
Within the domain of a library OPAC, users could define bib records with tags. Once every bib record has been tagged at least once then you could introduce a new field to search alongside the subject field.
Search screen could read:
Title [search box]
Author [search box]
Keyword [search box] …searches all fields
Subject [search box]
Tag [search box] …this is a community defined subject field
In this instance you aren’t replacing anything you are just adding some more value and dynamics to the OPAC. If people don’t like it just don’t use the tag field. Only suggestion, is the tag field switched on or off during a keyword search?
Coming back to search engines…indexing the web can be via user defined tags, author’s indexing their own pages (own tags or Dublin Core), or human indexes (ODP, Yahoo directory, LII, etc..) or even automated methods that some taxonomies use to calcualte an assumption of the aboutness of an item.
But is meta-information about the subject or aboutness important to search engine results when compared to ranking algorithm.
In this article the author suggests that Google doesn’t seem to be fussed with subject tags as their PageRank method (aspects of a citation popularity index) is a more optimum service for a lay person searching the net.
Here is an exerpt:
“Probability dictates that PageRank will successfully capture the subjective sense of Web-page importance. If a large number of Web users in the role of authors create content that points at certain Web pages, then it is highly probable that those same Web pages presented as query results will satisfy a large number of Web users in the role of searchers. In other words, Google satisfies the average Web searcher so well because it has aggregated the valuations of the average Web author. In this way, Google transforms Web authors into lay indexers of Web content where the linkages they set is a plebiscite for the most ‘important’ Web pages.”
The end…and I didn’t even mention the word folksonomy once.