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Ask Slashdot: Tags and Tagging, What Is the Best Way Forward? 142

Posted by timothy
from the spray-and-pray dept.
siliconbits writes "The debate about tagging has been going for nearly a decade. Slashdot has covered it a number of times. But it seems that nobody has yet to come up with a foolproof solution to tagging. Even luminaries like Engadget, The Verge, Gizmodo and Slashdot all have different tagging schemes. Commontag, a venture launched in 2009 to tackle tagging, has proved to be all but a failure despite the backing of heavyweights like Freebase, Yahoo and Zemanta. Even Google gave up and purchased Freebase in July 2010. Somehow I remain convinced that a unified, semantically-based solution, using a mix of folksonomy and taxonomy, is the Graal of tagging. I'd like to hear from fellow Slashdotters as to how they tackle the issue of creating and maintaining a tagging solution, regardless of the platform and the technologies being used in the backend." A good time to note: there may be no pretty way to get at them, but finding stories with a particular tag on Slashdot is simple, at least one at a time: Just fill in a tag you'd like to explore after "slashdot.org/tag/", as in "slashdot.org/tag/bizarro."
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Ask Slashdot: Tags and Tagging, What Is the Best Way Forward?

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  • fuck tags (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:35PM (#44425871)

    that is all

    • Well usually before tagging, I will arrange all the items on long folding leg tables. I try my best to group them with like categories of items. I pick a day when the weather will cooperate and post some ads online and in local newspapers. Once I am ready to tag, I simply write down the requested price on a self-adhesive tag with a pen, Sharpie or similar instrument. Larger items require larger tags. Once the tagging is done, I sit back and prepare for profit!
    • by cayenne8 (626475)
      What exactly is "tagging"?

      *sigh*

      I guess I'll have to click the links and read and see if a definition of tagging is in the linked article...but I couldn't surmise from the synopsis what tagging referred to.

      • Really??? Tagging is a mystery to you? Tags are an extremely common kind of metadata. This is a tech website that uses tags.

        • Re:fuck tags (Score:4, Informative)

          by camperdave (969942) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @01:47PM (#44426821) Journal
          Ahem! [xkcd.com]
        • Re:fuck tags (Score:4, Interesting)

          by cayenne8 (626475) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @02:01PM (#44426997) Homepage Journal

          Really??? Tagging is a mystery to you? Tags are an extremely common kind of metadata. This is a tech website that uses tags.

          I've seen the tag thing here on slashdot, but I'd not seen it anywhere else on other sites I use..so, I figured it wasn't something so limited as that, to my perception.

          And frankly, I've never really see the use for the 'tags' they have here on /., I can't find what they are really used for even here.

          I'd heard about people tagging or identifying people in pictures on FB, but it didn't seem to be about that....and I'm not on FB, so not sure if it is used there.

          So, I was just asking, the synopsis of the article seemed to assume everyone knows what they meant by 'tags'....as if they were so ubiquitous as to be common knowledge by everyone.

          • They are fairly common. It's a way of attaching information about some form of post, identifying a category for the post, a list of related terms, etc. It makes it easier for someone else to find that information when they do a search for it later.
            Tagging someone on Facebook is an example. It makes it possible to add that picture to a list of "Pictures that Bob is in". One of the tags on this article is "tagging". That means that I can search Slashdot for "tagging", and this article will be one of the resul
        • by pjt33 (739471)

          The term is heavily overloaded. It could just as well be about RFID tags on inventory or GPS + radio tags to enforce parole conditions on convicts.

      • Re:fuck tags (Score:5, Insightful)

        by plover (150551) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @01:15PM (#44426355) Homepage Journal

        It's nothing more than associating an identifier or keyword with something. The asker is bemoaning the lack of standards in those identifiers, how to apply them, how to search on them.

        The question really misses the point, though. If you index the entire contents, then anyone searching will find it based on what they know, not what you think of in advance. Google seems to do pretty well at locating pages, despite many fine pages lacking meta tags (and despite many poor spam articles trying to abuse meta tags.) If the keywords aren't present in the article, it's probably not a very useful article anyway, as it obviously is lacking a common description.

        • Re:fuck tags (Score:5, Interesting)

          by mcmonkey (96054) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @01:54PM (#44426881) Homepage

          The question really misses the point, though. If you index the entire contents, then anyone searching will find it based on what they know, not what you think of in advance. Google seems to do pretty well at locating pages, despite many fine pages lacking meta tags (and despite many poor spam articles trying to abuse meta tags.) If the keywords aren't present in the article, it's probably not a very useful article anyway, as it obviously is lacking a common description.

          Nail, head. Having people provide tags or keywords is asking people to adapt to the way computers work. While not perfect, Google shows us we can have computers adapt to the way people work.

        • by Darinbob (1142669)

          Why would someone form a business, and others invest in that business, when it's merely about keywords. If it's so simple then why is the article so obtuse and full of flowery language? It definitely sounds like some sort of hipster insider club.

          I sometimes think tagging is about figuring out who someone is in a picture and then making it searchable without that person's permission, in which case this article should be marked with the "privacy" and "your rights online" keywords.

          Then maybe I think they're

        • Google seems to do pretty well at locating pages, despite many fine pages lacking meta tags (and despite many poor spam articles trying to abuse meta tags.)

          I believe the SEO types have been saying for years that meta keyword tags are useless because they were too easy to game, so Google and other search engines basically ignore them now.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Simply put, tags are a way of reducing the complexity of a piece of information so that people of similar mindset can identify it as data supporting their personal opinions. Note that tagging is not exclusive, so multiple tags can be assigned to the same information, summarizing it in diametrically opposite ways.

      • by icebike (68054)

        What exactly is "tagging"?

        *sigh*

        I guess I'll have to click the links and read and see if a definition of tagging is in the linked article...but I couldn't surmise from the synopsis what tagging referred to.

        Tagging is a name for Gang Inspired Graffiti spray painted on walls and trains etc. Its used to mark territory, and generally piss property owners off. A similar function is often used for computer data, for roughly the same purposes.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        Slashdot editors are now 13 year old kids and don't feel that they have to explain their social website slang to anyone else.

    • by cod3r_ (2031620)
      #fuck #tags #, #that #is #all #.
  • Made up problem (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mugnyte (203225) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:38PM (#44425897) Journal

    Tagging isn't anything. It's a construct within a semantic web design; a common-language-everywhere issue. Essentially, you want everyone to agree to a tagging vocabulary, or morph things into it using automation. Why not just ask everyone to speak Esperanto?

    My questions for OP...
    why use words of any language?
    why isn't everything online (include video, images, sound) simply act like a tag with "search the web with this input"?
    isn't the best database of tags the web itself? in that case, isn't our best query a search engine?

    • Re:Made up problem (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MightyYar (622222) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:40PM (#44425929)

      The problem that some have here with the term "cloud" I have with "tag". I'm not sure how it differs from a "keyword".

      • They're identical concepts, except tag is easier to spell and say. Oh, and sometimes tags have a hash (#) in them.
        • by Darinbob (1142669)

          How do you make money from tags? The article seem to strongly imply that major and minor businesses are seriously concerned about tags, so there must be some money involved here.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        Well, depending on how strictly you define keyword I'd say it mostly answers "what?", as in what is the topic of the document. Tagging I just consider way more free form answering what, who, where, when, metatags and whatnot in a highly unstructured fashion, with keywords acting more like entries in an index while tags are more like hyperlinks linking the oddest pages together. They're both a form of applying labels, but I feel they're not entirely for the same purpose.

    • by tepples (727027)

      why isn't everything online (include video, images, sound) simply act like a tag with "search the web with this input"?

      You'd have to use fuzzy matching in order to use pictures or audio as a tag. Fuzzy matching problems whose solutions aren't already patented [wikipedia.org] or trade secrets are unsolved.

    • by Trepidity (597)

      I especially don't see how it makes sense to have a common tagging system across completely different use-cases. Why would Slashdot stories and Flickr photos use the same approach to tags? For those of us who research AI, it might be nice: if humans would just cleanly place everything they do into one consistent global semantic structure, it'd sure solve some of our difficult problems, by defining them as someone else's responsibility to sort out. But that doesn't seem like a great justification, or a reali

    • Why not just ask everyone to speak Esperanto?

      Because it's Latin with the grammar tooked out.

      • Tooked out? Is that some sort of hobbit speak for making something more adventurous?
        • by H0p313ss (811249)

          Tooked out? Is that some sort of hobbit speak for making something more adventurous?

          Yo, we was like all "There and Back Again" all the way to Rivendell and then she was all Tooked out.

          It could happen....

          • by H0p313ss (811249)

            Tooked out? Is that some sort of hobbit speak for making something more adventurous?

            Yo, we was like all "There and Back Again" all the way to Rivendell and then she was all Tooked out.

            It could happen....

            HOBBITS IN THE HOUSE!

            I'll stop now.

        • by Darinbob (1142669)

          Chill out and hae another Took on your pipe.

    • Yeah, I agree with mugnyte: there is no problem here. Move along.

      Can you (siliconbits, or anyone) define the problem space better? What's wrong with the way they work now? Twitter Hashtags annoy some but work great for twitter. Everyone you listed has a different solution in place for tagging so... what's the issue? Why does there have to be only one solution?

      Do you want a common HTML/RSS/W3C/whatever standard to define tags? Do you want centralized curated lists of tags that people must choose from?

      • by Desler (1608317)

        The "problem" is that someone is likely needing help to hype some useless new tagging system so they can be bought out by Google.

    • Because search engines still have trouble identifying who is in a picture. If, however, that picture is tagged with "Bob" and "Sarah" then the search engine can easily find that "Bob" is in the picture. Thus if you search for "Bob" then the search engine can find all pictures tagged with "Bob".

      Right now this has to be done by hand. Humans are not good at these things, because we are often to lazy to tag and such. That's why companies like Google and Facebook are busy to auto-generate the tags based on th
      • by azadrozny (576352)

        I have found that tags (even auto-generated) really don't work well for image search. Sure you could apply the tag for a "car" every time you detect one, but what if you are only interested in red cars, or race cars, or trucks? Tags begin to fail quickly when you move beyond broad categories of objects. My understanding is that Google image search uses the text in the associated web page to figure out what is in the image. Other work in this area uses a group of similar images to build a model that is us

  • by MrEricSir (398214) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:38PM (#44425899) Homepage

    * Put CCTV cameras up near common targets
    * Restrict sales of spraypaint to adults
    * Beat patrols

    See? Tagging isn't so hard to solve.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Shame, too. That sort of tagging is frequently more creative and more aesthetically pleasing than the dumping ground of mashed-together words, catchphrases, and failed attempts at forced memes that the article's talking about.

      Whoops, hold on, I feel like I'm about to vomit... #tag #slashdot #salsadot #tagging #joke #notserious #hashtag #hashhash #hurl!!!!

    • by hondo77 (324058)
      You forgot snipers.
  • surely if "tagging" things on the internet was popular they would of figured out something...

    wait...

    Hyperlinks [wikipedia.org]
  • Tagging? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Are we talking about labeling, tagging in the version control sense, egocentric graffiti? Can't figure it out from the summary.

  • by TheNastyInThePasty (2382648) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:47PM (#44426015)
    My tag "firetheeditors", to catalogue the poor editing jobs and dupes of Slashdot, has yet to catch on...
  • by Nutria (679911) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:49PM (#44426045)

    I do not think "luminaries" means what you think it means.

    Also, WTF is Graal?

  • by sootman (158191) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:52PM (#44426089) Homepage Journal

    ... or some other language where every word has one and only one meaning.

    "Somehow I remain convinced that a unified, semantically-based solution, using a mix of folksonomy and taxonomy, is the Graal of tagging."

    So basically you want everyone to agree on what to call everything. HA! Will never happen. Words mean different things in different contexts. A word that's overly-general in one context will be overly-specific in another. Also, fun fact: not everyone on the planet speaks the same language. Hell, even time changes words. 10 seconds ago, I learned that "Graal" was a word: "Holy Grail, or "Graal" in older forms" [wikipedia.org] If you want a good tagging solution, start by not trying to be so cute and showing off how smart you are and use words that are used today -- call it "the grail" like everyone else in this century. People like you are what breaks tagging systems. :-)

    We'll probably solve the problem of how to identify people [kalzumeus.com] before we come up with a unified way to name things.

    • 10 seconds ago, I learned that "Graal" was a word

      I knew it but I didn't know why.

      Probably something to do with this [beeradvocate.com]

      Enjoyed the names article, by the way.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      There's a lot of things that'll never be properly described by tagging, a few examples I can think of:

      1. "cats", what if I want just real cats? Usually you end up with something like "cats -cartoon -cgi -anime -drawing" etc.
      2. Things that usually have one meaning but in a few contexts don't, like cats the musical and cats the animals. In the domain nature photography just tagging it "cats" is as natural as doing the same in the domain of musicals, but globally it's a mess.
      3. Does "nude" imply "topless" or d

    • by Chuckstar (799005)

      Isn't the whole point of tags, also, that there isn't a unified solution? I thought the whole point was that a unified set of descriptors would be too limiting.

    • by i.r.id10t (595143)

      Probably wanted to avoid "Holy Grail" since it would make the thread devolve into a Monty Python quote fest... not that there is anything wrong with that.

    • So basically you want everyone to agree on what to call everything. HA! Will never happen.

      So very true. For those that remember, the Great Usenet Namespace Wars is the canonical example. Every newsgroup had a hierarchical name that was supposed to exactly describe what discussions would take place within that group. This worked pretty well for the tech-oriented groups, but when it came to the soc.* hierarchy there were huge fights between the news admins and users over what to call them.

      These wars were eventually what drove people like me away. Since then the web happened and it looks like p

  • by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:54PM (#44426109) Homepage

    Somehow I remain convinced that a unified, semantically-based solution, using a mix of folksonomy and taxonomy, is the Graal of tagging

    Tags are random stuff about what people are thinking of at any given time.

    So if I tag something as #anyhoo #whatever and #squork -- that's what I felt like tagging it as, and in the process I might want to make tags which aren't there or make up new ones.

    If tags are meant to be a measure of the zeitgeist and what people are thinking, they're not going to do is according to some taxonomy.

    Besides, some bastard will just want to come along and monetize tags and be the canonical source -- #screwem #taxonomyneednotapply

    Having a "unified, semantically-based solution, using a mix of folksonomy and taxonomy" is someone trying to impose structure on something which is inherently not structured, and people will never conform to it.

    I can see why in corporate contexts you'd want a taxonomy, but for the rest of the world this sounds like a solution in search of a problem. The world isn't something for librarians and archivists to tell us how we should categorize things.

  • by iggymanz (596061) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @12:57PM (#44426143)

    Every article on slashdot gets the default tag "story".

    Fucking useless.

  • ...you have too much time on your hands. Get a dog, a girlfriend, or anything else with demands on your attention and your worries about tagging will happily drift away.

  • In what I like to call "the real world" -ie, the place where no one has heard of commontag, Freebase, or Zemanta, and maybe not even gizmodo - the #tag is the closest you're ever going to get. People use it on twitter and instagram, and advertisers have embraced it. Do any of these giant companies want their users going to other sites? Hell no. Facebook brought back the walled garden, and open systems are going to suffer.

    Now that we've realized it's unlikely to happen, would you even want it if it did?

  • hierarchy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bzipitidoo (647217) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @01:28PM (#44426547) Journal

    One thing file system directory trees have shown me is that hierarchy is lousy for categorizing. Convenient for file systems, bad for people. The example I like to use is 2 applications organized into binary and data files. Should the files be put in these directories: /app1/bin, /app1/data, /app2/bin, /app2/data ? Or in these directories: /bin/app1, /bin/app2, /data/app1, /data/app2 ? Or should we use some kind of directory linking, so we can sort of have it both ways? This leads to a question about OOP. If hierarchical organizations are bad for files, maybe they're also bad for classes?

    Whatever else tags do, they dispense with hierarchy. A file system that truly did away with the hierarchical directory structure and used tags would be interesting. The problem in the above example would vanish, with the files in question merely being tagged as app1 or app2, and as bin or data. Ask for a directory listing of all files tagged as bin, and get all the files tagged as app1 and bin, and app2 and bin. Strips the ordering out of the problem, leaving categorization, which is still a tough problem.

    I ran into this tagging problem when thinking about an app to sort images. The idea was to compare 2 images, and come up with a percentage value of how similar they were to each other, with 100% being identical, and 0% being totally different. But, on what criteria should images be compared? I saw that it was much too simplistic to boil down a comparison of such intricate data to just one number.

    • by oneiros27 (46144) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @02:00PM (#44426983) Homepage

      You're assuming that each item only has one natural parent -- which may be true in most taxonomies, but more complex systems (thesaurii*, ontologies), allow for more complex parent-type relationships.

      What you're dealing with is even simpler -- facets. You have a bunch of items with two attributes (application, type of file), and each attribute has a limited set of mutually exclusive options. Some file systems can store extended attributes, but they're not always that efficient (as it's not something in high demand). BFS was the only file system that I know of that really pushed it as a main feature.

      * Roget's Thesaurus is a synonym ring, not a thesaurus.

    • This is exactly the problem that lead me to develop a whole new data management system. It turns files into objects called 'Didgets' (short for Data Widgets) and lets you tag them any way you want. Unlike extended attributes on files, these tags let you find your data fast and easy without something like Spotlight or Windows Search indexing all your metadata into its own database (taking a few hours to do each time). I can import my whole boot volume (about 500,000 files) and can then find anything in a sec
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I would say the biggest problem is when someone tagged claims that they were not actually tagged because the person who is 'it' "didn't get me". Although this can sometimes be an honest mistake, especially in cold climates where heavy clothing may prevent the tagged person from detecting the tag, more frequently it is just some asshole who doesn't want to admit they were tagged.

  • Commontag, a venture launched in 2009 to tackle tagging, has proved to be all but a failure ...

    Apparently, your best bet is with this company.

  • http://slashdot.org/tag/gps [slashdot.org]

    Now if only timothy would train the other monkeys.

  • There will be no tagging system that matters. After AI can determine meaning, you won't need a tagging system.

  • #tagging No really, people will self organize on tags all on there own. The simples, and best way to "tag" the internet is to agree on a standard format ala twitter ("the #") and just let it run from there. Parse out the results.
  • A classic book on the ontology of categories by George Lakoff. The tagging problem, in a nutshell, is that different cultures (and different individuals) create different category systems. The Tower of Babel on the semantic level.

  • One interesting cross-domain tagging system, which I use extensively, is Fluidinfo [fluidinfo.com]. It allows users to attach tags, which can have typed values, to arbitrary objects identified by any unicode string (or by a UUID). There's a query language that lets you find things based on your own tags and, subject to permissions, other people's tags. It was discussed previously on /. [slashdot.org], but now has more interesting public data in it, such as most of the books from the British Library's catalogue, e.g. Animal Farm [appspot.com] and that

  • When I was using Flickr, I had one killer app for tags and now I don't use Flickr so I don't use tags. Tags on Flickr were a nice lazy way to organize photos and show people "all the pictures related to #blah" without going through the hassle of creating a set.

    I see the tags on Slashdot articles and I'm like... "that's nice"; but I don't use them for anything. If they're useful to you for some reason, fantastic. Come up with your own taxonomy and have a ball. Quit trying to come up with the Ultimate Liv

  • The real problem of tags is that there's usually fuck all useful semantics associated with them. There's only a benefit to using tags in the first place if many people use the same tagging system and consistently assign the same meaning to the tag as each other. Having just a tag is a bit like just having a scent marker on the information: not much use for saying more than "big primate was here, urinating on this data". There have been clear phases when slashdot tags were exactly on this level. (Does anyone

  • by symbolset (646467) * on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @04:35PM (#44428803) Journal
    Make slashdot.org/tag the index page for the list of tags. http://slashdot.org/tag/$tag [slashdot.org] isn't cutting it. Put more than five seconds of effort into its format. Put a link to it in the left column menu, or next to the toe tag icon. Sorted. Optionals: On the tag search page put a top 10 list of "related" tags - tags which most commonly occur in conjunction with this tag in a story. This provides a "conceptual web of themes" or meme map. Allow searching for tag1+tag2-tag3... and so on. Normalize the tag database: in the index list of tags will be some misspellings, synonyms and such - hunt those down with search and replace to get rid of redundant and obvious error tags to get the length of the tag list down to something comprehensible. I would suggest some more, but that's a lot of work already.
    • by Luyseyal (3154)

      Not to mention how slow it is. Holy crap did that take a long time to return a fairly short list for "yesnomaybe" and "yes". They're cached now so it'll load faster but you'd think the tag indexing would be designed to be more... prompt.

      -l

      • by symbolset (646467) *
        This indicates that the feature is searched, not indexed. On a site that should be engineered for volume that is a disaster.
    • Allow users to specify tags for a story and display the most commonly entered tags. It then becomes a form of commenting, in a way. "upvote" could be just another tag.
  • I am not a computational linguist, but I do think one could help.

  • This concerns more file "tagging", but a while ago I grew frustrated with the lack of real solutions for file organization (the oft-discussed but surprisingly absent-in-implementation semantic file system), so I decided to start writing my own. It can best be described as a multidimensional hierarchical abstract file system that is implemented on top of regular POSIX file systems using hard links and a handful of scripts and FUSE. It's still not feature-complete as I want it, but the basic tagging framewo

  • I'm hoping for more tags, so that I don't have to read TFA or TFS. I'll just look at the tags and comments and be done.
  • by WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) on Wednesday July 31, 2013 @10:47AM (#44435975)

    Please tell me. To eliminate diversity of thought? To make it easier for advertisers and others to colonize our lives? What's the GOAL here?

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