Saturday, February 2, 2008

Use of collaborative tagging in understanding social behavior

In this article I will talk about

1. Advantages of delicious tags

2. Social aspects of tagging

3. Problems of tagging systems

Collaborative tagging is the practice of allowing anyone to attach keywords/tags to the content.

Tagging is different from the normal categorization that we see in libraries. It does not follow any hierarchical rules like in dewey decimal system. User can simple say an article is on “C” rather than using saying computers/programming/C

Tags are generally given as per the users understanding of the topic. An article may be on web programming, but a user feels that for him to refer to the same topic its more relevant to give the tag as web2.0, then he will categorize as web2.0

We will be looking on the tagging patterns of the users on the Delicious site ( Just a small overview of the delicious site:

1. The site allows the user to bookmark the URLs and categorize them using tags

2. When you are trying to tag a URL, delicious will suggest what all tags other people have given to this URL

3.Delicious gives the information about the number of the users who have tagged this URL. The higher number suggests popularity of the URL

4.One main advantage of deleicious is networking and social aspect. You can visit the deleicious page of a use and see his bookmarks. You can get the RSS feeds of other users tags. This way you can find out the various relevant URLs on a particular topic. This is very useful. Consider the scenario, you want to learn something about web2.0. You did Google for it got some results. Now Google results just list down the URLs having the keywords web 2.0. It does not tell anything about what is the standard of the information given on the page or how other people think about it. May be you are a beginner on the topic of web2.0 and you are looking for a guide for beginners or some pointers how to start on the topic. In this scenario its good if you can find out what others recommend to refer as a beginner. This is the same as before buying any book you would like to see the reviews on Amazon about the book.

5. Delicious also gives a list of the various tags that were provided by the other people to the particular URL. This gives an indication of the different understanding of the people for the particular URL. Also the various categories that describe the URL gives the indication some of the key features that you can expect from the URL. For e.g. an article on flex may be tagged as programming, Flex2, web2.0, RIA. This shows the various categories that are appropriate for the particular URL. It indicates that Flex2 has something to do with programming, web related programming( web2.0), is used in current development (RIA, Web 2.0)
Delicious allows the users to check the tags of other users this is the collaborative part of delicious.

This article is not about the delicious so I will be very brief about discussing about delicious. One can refer to the site for more details.

Lets see some of the social aspects of the tagging

1. As already discussed, the way a user tags the URL shows his understanding of the topic. An article on flex, can be tagged as “programming” by one user say A and “RIA”, “web2.0” by another user say B. This indicates that there is a high possibility that A has got not much understanding of flex or RIA. While B has an understanding of the latest web technologies.

Now the social aspect is that if a person C wants to find out the articles or references on the topic of RIA, he can get to the delicious site of B and there is a high possibility that he will get lot of relevant bookmarks on the various web2.0 related topics like RIA, flex. C can add RSS feed of B and can get updated to the various posts done by B.

2. Delicious also provides a timestamp on when the tag was done.

Also one can do two kinds of queries

1. For a URL find out who all have tagged that url and what all tags they have given

2. For a given tag find out the various URLs that have been tagged.

Timestamp and the information about who all have tagged a particular URL can give lot of insights about the user. The following are some of the information

1. If the timestamp is not much old, it means the user is currently interested in the particular topic

2. If the tags the user has given are very specific it means the user has a good understanding of the topic and he can be of help if you are also interested in the same topic.

3. On the other hand if the timestamp is old that means the user is not currently tagging the articles on this topic may be he is not currently interested in that area. Or if the tags are very generic probably the user’s understanding on this area is not very good, so you may not want to be guided by this users bookmarks on that topic.

By delicious poplar tags, the areas that are currently hot can be known. For e.g. the most popular tags as on 3rd feb 2008 are













This shows that the field of interest/trends of the majority of users is web (blog,web2.0,web design). So there is a good chance that you can easily get valid URL references on the topics related to web

Some of the problems with Tag.

Since there are no rules to give tags, lot of inconsistency exists in the way people tag

1. Some people may say socialnetworking others may say social_networking. Now if you search as deleicious/tag/socialnetworking you will not get the urls under social_networking even though both tags are relevant for the topic “social networking”

2. Other major problem is synonyms. Some people say television others will call TV. The topics are exactly same but the search results will miss out the URLs.

3.Spellings-: some people may use british English and tag “colour” while people using ameriacan English tag as “color” for an article on colors.

4. Plurals: This is again a problem. Some people may tag “blog” others may tag “blogs”. They are referring to same but because of the plural the search results will be different.

I have covered what I understood from tagging, comments are welcome on this topic.


1. Delicious site:
2. The structure of collaborative tagging systems, scott Golder, Bernardo Huberman
3. mashups, Brett O'Connor, Wrox publications
4. Patterns and Inconsistencies in Collaborative Tagging Systems: An Examination of Tagging practices, Margaret Kipp, D.Grant Campbell

1 comment:

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