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Why tagging matters

July 6, 2009

Physical things need physical space. In order to sell, cereal needs to be on the shelf. The kids cereal needs to be on the kid high shelf. (Take a look, the “good for you” cereal is usually on the bottom or the top, the dancing bears are about 4 feet from the ground).

Information doesn’t need physical space (unless you count server space, and part of me wonders where the server farm is that holds picture PB123456).

Why does this matter?

In this book called Everything is Miscellaneous, the author talks about the web offering the ability to order things that we want to share online in just about any conceivable manner.

Think about any department store. It’s order is dictated by physics. Men’s clothes are over there, babies clothes over here. The kitchen stuff is there. There’s a science in the order of things, and a science in getting people through the store easily and in a manner that makes them buy more. (Grocery stores put staples in the back to get us back there, and all the way, we pass displays meant to pull us in).

But online, things aren’t constrained by physics.

Information doesn’t want order it wants tags. At an online department store, Men’s Jeans can be tagged with ‘camping, mens, jeans, casual friday’s, clothing, men’s fit, tight fitting, loose fitting, single man, club, comfort, work, fashion, father’s day gift, birthday present for my brother, etc.

In fact, there’s no limitation on how to tag content online. The only limitation is imagination. But since a tag is just a search term, the more things you tag jeans with, the better chance people will find them. Thus, an online department store would benefit from just auditing their search code and adding that tag to things they think fit the search.

That’s why infomration is miscellaneous — we don’t even have all the possible answers.

I have a lot of content online. Images on Flickr and Facebook, posts here and on another blog at blogger. I have Tweets, bits and bytes of information all over the web.

This isn’t a bad thing. I have all this data because I can. And I  share it at Flickr, Tabblo, YouTube, on a blog, in e-mail, in Facebook, on LiveVideo because I can. And I tag it so that it can be found.

Information is no different from a product. For it to be found, it needs to be tagged.

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