web analytics

IA Summit 2008: Gene Smith’s “Tagging: Five emerging trends”

Gene Smith of nForm is the tagging guru. Having recently published Tagging: People Powered Metadata for the Social Web, he is a veritable encyclopedia of all things metadata.

In his talk at IA Summit, Gene identified five emerging trends in the use of tagging online:

  • More structure
  • Automanual folksonomies
  • Leveraging communities
  • Rethinking pace layers
  • Sparking innovation

Note: The battery on my laptop died midway through the presentation, but I’ll share what I captured here.

More structure

  • Wesabe – personal financial management site. Upload data and tag it to discover where you spend money
  • Their innovation is “sticky tags” — tags that apply to every transaction from the same place in the future, versus “non-sticky tags” that are for one-time use
  • Bubble up tags to higher-level categories, creates a natural structure
  • “Semantic tags” — apply your meaning to the tag, e.g. IA could mean a lot of things
  • Zigtag – mined Wikipedia, got benefit of user-submitted info to define tags

Leveraging communities

  • Turn to communities to improve tag collections
  • Library Thing: take any two tags and combine them to have same meaning (synonyms), one of them becomes the preferred tag
  • Humor and Humour not combined because they hold sociosomatic designations that are important


  • “Automanual”: mixed approach to tagging folksonomies
  • Etsy.com is the best example of automanual folksonomies. How do you structure a tagging system when you don’t know what people are going to sell on your site? Imposes some structure but allows it to remain open
  • Library Thing: Tagmash combine tags or filter by tags. Mash allows you to “evergreen” that category
  • “A small amount of semantics on top of manual structure can work wonders” — Peter Van Dijck
  • Buzzillions.com leverages product taxonomy and user generated tags. They also have “faceted navigation”

Then my laptop died…

Check out the slides here:

Related Posts:

Together we can put humanity back into business

Sign up for my FREE ongoing guidance on how to strengthen your UX practice and design your career. You’ll also receive notifications on my latest blog posts, upcoming speaking engagements, new offerings, recent client projects, and more.

Leave a Reply