Tags are a simple, yet powerful, social software innovation. Today millions of people are freely and openly assigning metadata to content and conversations. Unlike rigid taxonomy schemes that people dislike, the ease of tagging for personal organization with social incentives leads to a rich and discoverable folksonomy. Intelligence is provided by real people from the bottom-up to aid social discovery. And with the right tag search and navigation, folksonomy outperforms more structured approches to classification, as Clay Shirky points out:
This is something the ‘well-designed metadata’ crowd has never understood — just because it’s better to have well-designed metadata along one axis does not mean that it is better along all axes, and the axis of cost, in particular, will trump any other advantage as it grows larger. And the cost of tagging large systems rigorously is crippling, so fantasies of using controlled metadata in environments like Flickr are really fantasies of users suddenly deciding to become disciples of information architecture.
Technorati now supports Tag Search across leading Social software sites. Users can now search across user-generated tags and categories like tsunami across major weblog platforms like Blogger or Typepad, CMSes like Drupal, photosharing in Flickr, social bookmarking in del.icio.us and Socialtext wikis. By bridging islands of text, images and social networks through the words they use, the world live web just got a little smaller.
To try it, go to Technorati.com and add "tag:" to any keyword search, such as tsunami, cooperation or Office Buildings. What you will discover is people using the same words to describe and organize their blog posts, wiki pages, photos and links. My personal favorite of the moment is the poetry tag. I know a number of people who would use that tag as a great way to publish and also find other poets and their work, and the photos are very soothing and thought-provoking.
In other search engines, the only people using words to purposely be found are advertisers and search engine optimizers. With tags, people are adding value to the web in the same way they create links, accreting structure for their own, their friends and the web itself. This may change as tagging grows alongside the popularity of blogging and social software. In the early 1990s metakeywords became saturated. But metakeywords were only meant for search engines, had no transparency and no community. It was back when the web was a collection of pages, instead of a living place. Besides technical methods to curb tag spam like clustering, the implicit social network represented in Technorati's link-based authority and other techniques based on the intelligence provided by people offers alternatives.
Steve Rubel of the PR firm CooperKatz & Co. on his blog strongly suggests tracking tags:
The moral of the story is, if you're a marketer don't just monitor blogs. Pictures are worth a thousand words. Tap into the power of the Flickrgeist! You know your savvy customers will.
Ross Mayfield started an experiment of tagging pictures of parking lots with indicatr as a smartmob leading indicator of public company performance. Journalists could use tag search to source citizens media of all types.
Notifying Technorati that your blog has been updated has been greatly simplified, making easy for anyone that pings Technorati to have their tags indexed. Simply add a rel="tag" statement within the HTML link to the Technorati can do the rest. We have more information on how to use tags, including using standard keyword and category information in most major weblog services and tools, as well.
A number of people have already created easy ways to tag your posts, too. For example, there's a good bookmarklet that allows you to easily create Technorati Tags when you're creating/editing your posts.
This is still beta software. It has bugs. There are kinks to be worked out, and missing features, too. For example, we still miss some tags here and there, especially for certain weblogs, due to some post detection issues. We're working on that. In addition, we will be providing RSS feeds so you can subscribe to your favorite tags. We're also working on ways that anyone can participate and be included in the system, keep your eyes on this space in the near future.
Some neat updates: Plazes has started tagging their posts, so you can now see location information about a tag, see berlin, for example. Here's 2 different people who are using the Technorati Tags page as an instant group blog: One for China, and one for bloggers in Ireland. Others are using the tags to create something they call "meblogging": a way to bring together all of the things they write on multiple blogs and services, like Sean Bonner and Jeff Jarvis. Lawblogger J. Matthew Buchanan suggests using tags to organize research on prior art around software patents. Blog toolmakers are making it easy to add tags too: Along with the aforementioned bookmarkets, you can get plugins for Movable Type and Wordpress (also here and here), and Adriaan Tijsseling is already promising Ecto support.