It’s funny how a simple concept ends up just exploding in a short amount of time and becomes the new craze. One example of this is “tagging.” Tagging was something I’ve wanted for years but never really thought of it as being something that everyone would be getting all excited over. However, now that a number of services are offering tagging support, I’m starting to see why.
For the uninformed, the concept of tagging is that you apply a word or two to a webpage, a photo, product, or whatever for later searching and for grouping. Instead of using some existing organizational structure, you create your own on the fly. The item you’re tagging can have multiple tags in it. Think of it like a magic filing cabinet, where you have photos, documents, and CDs. Some of the photos may be tagged “vacation,” some may be tagged “bbq,” all may be tagged “photo” and the “bbq” tagged items may also be tagged “work.” The documents may also be tagged “work” and the CDs may be tagged “games” and “recreation.” Now imagine that you want everything from your magic filing cabinet that has to do with work. You pull open the “work” drawer and all work-related photos, CDs and documents appear. You then decide to open the “vacation” drawer and everything vacation-related appears. Open “bbq” and you just get the BBQ photos. Those items may exist in multiple magical drawers at once. Okay, that’s a silly example, but hopefully it makes sense to some.
So I’ve been looking into what services support tagging. The two big ones I’ve heard about for ages but never really gave a shot have been del.icio.us, a bookmark site, and Flickr, a photo management site. I’ve been converting all my bookmarks to del.icio.us, and it’s really quite cool. I’ve all but stopped using bookmarks in my browser simply due to the lack of organization (do I put this in “algorithms” or “game design?”). However, now I have two buttons on my toolbar, one that takes me to my bookmarks, and another that posts the current page to my bookmarks. It’s very clean and very useful, and I just love it.
I’ve opted not to use Flickr, just because I’d rather host my own gallery, but the tag features in it are arguably even more useful for photos than for bookmarks. Rather than having to duplicate an image of my sister in a Vacations category, Birthdays, and People, I would be able to just tag that photo with those three things. This is a feature that I really hope Gallery gets in time.
Amazon recently announced that they are going to support tagging for items listed in their store. I’m curious as to how I’ll be making use of this, as it does seem a bit less useful for a site like this, but I’m sure I’m wrong 🙂 Either way, it’s very cool to see a big site like this start to experiment with tagging.
The big one that I only found out about today was Google. You can actually tag search results that you have clicked on and store them in Google-hosted bookmarks. To enable this, you’ll need a Google/GMail account. Log in on Google.com and then click “My Account.” From there, click “Personalized Search” on the left. You may have to log in again after this. Anyhow, it will then be added. From now on, your search results will have an extra item next to “Cached” and “Similar pages” called “Remove result.” Using this, you can prevent the particular page from ever showing up again.
Useful, but let’s get on to the main feature. Click the new “Search History” link at the top of the page. You’ll be taken to a page that contains a list of everything you’ve searched for since enabling this feature and the sites you’ve actually clicked on. If you star a result, it’ll appear in your bookmarks on the left. Click “Edit bookmark” and you’ll be able to set the tags for the link. Very handy. I just wish it integrated better into the Google search results. It’s a pain to have to first search for something in order to add it. But it’s new, and I haven’t seen any real buzz about it yet, so I’m sure it’ll mature in time.
Those are all very neat, but now we’ve ran into this problem of too many sites with tags. What I’m hoping to see (and maybe I’ll write it) is a site where you can log in, set up links to your Google, Flickr, del.icio.us, Amazon, etc. accounts, and aggregate all the tags. Click “vacation” and everything you’ve tagged “vacation” in each site you’ve set up will appear. This will of course require an API of some kind from each site. I know del.icio.us provides this, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Google provide one, but I don’t know about the other two.
Now I should convert everything I’ve ever done to AJAX, because it’s just the new cool thing to do. 😉 (I kid, I kid)