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:

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