13 Reasons to Use Tags

Beth Kanter has aggregated a number of interesting discussions regarding the value of blogging and tagging in the non-profit world. I’d like to throw in my 2 cents by making two lists that summarize, as I know them, the primary reasons you’d want to use two different kinds of tagging.

Putting Tags in Your Blog Posts (“Technorati Tags”)

1. So I can find your post when I’m doing research on the subject you are writing about. Every blog post you make is an artifact available for our collective intelligence to utilize – adding some quality metadata to it is a social responsibility.

2. Be it through Technorati or TagCentral, when I do a tag search for any term, I like to find blog posts, images, bookmarked items and upcoming events that are all tagged with the same term.

3. So I can get some idea what sort of perspective you write from when I scan your blog, I look at titles and tags. Your particular “folksonomy” can give me some idea whether you’re a programmer, an activist, a PR person etc.

4. I like subscribing to tag search feeds on a variety of topics, be it a noun that I have an ongoing interest in (you know, a person, place or thing) or a group concept like the attention streams Nptech or WebJustice2.0.

5. It’s not that hard to do anymore. Whether you are using a Word Press plug-in, any number of Firefox related tagging tools or one of these two bookmarklets I’ve posted – the energy investment required to add tags to your own posts is really relatively low. It’s lower than what’s required to add images to your posts, or several other elements that are not uncommon. In order to get the most out of this medium, it’s a good idea to invest some amount more energy than the minimum required to post text alone to your blog.

Update: Call this #14, but Jonny Baker points out the following. Though some blogging platforms support categories, which apparently are indexed as tags by Technorati at least – you probably don’t want as many categories on your blog as you do specific subject headings/tags for tag search engines to discover you through. Good point!

Top reasons to tag items online with del.icio.us or another social bookmarking tool.

1. “What article/web site was it that I was looking at last week/month/year about that topic?” Your browser bookmarks, organized alphabetically by title or maybe folder if you’re really into it, are not going to answer this question nearly as effectively as an online database organized with multiple tags, title, URL and notes fields.

2. Organize your bookmarks for yourself and send a URL to someone else with one click by including the “for:” tag.

3. Offer other people a chance to discover your suggested resources on a topic not just from the past, but in the future as well.

4. Information overload is real, and RSS can make it worse or better depending on how you organize your feeds. One way or the other, there is now so much information available that failure to organize what you find useful in an appropriate way will lead to countless lost opportunities.

5. Do you like to have a list of links on the sidebar of your blog? The RSS feed for items given any particular tag or combination of tags can be displayed automatically using tools like FeedDigest. This is just one of many ways that tagging and RSS work well together. Furthermore, it’s just one of the many ways that a tagged item is a more manipulable item.

6. Contribute to everyone’s shared knowledge on a given topic. This is so important. See items 1, 2 and 4 in the first list above.

7. Someday soon there will be a tagging system that will:

  • integrate with del.icio.us and offer tag selection in a similar manner
  • allow varying levels of privacy and permission
  • save a cached copy of every page you tag
  • perform a full text search of all fields, the full text of the URL and its cache
  • include other features not yet imagined.

You’ll be in a better position to use this next system if you learn to use the best system available today, del.icio.us. My Corante Web Hub buddy Otis Gospodnetic may have already created this in Simpy.

At least it wasn’t another top 10 list! Any questions? Feel free to ask in comments, there’s a bunch of people here who can help answer them. For more information on the subject, here’s all the posts I’ve made here on tagging.

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