23 Things, Thing 8

So thing 8 is all about tagging and how beneficial (or non-beneficial) it can be!

The first task was to read Clay Shirky’s Ontology is Overrated which is interesting and makes some good points. I personally agree completely with Shirky’s view that the periodic table of the elements is “Best. Classification. Evar.” It is fabulously concise and neat and exactly what you want an organised record to look like!

I also agree with his point about certain cataloguing categories being out-dated. I had a discussion with a fellow Cambridge librarian about this problem just a few days ago and we concluded that while the Library of Congress system is very good, it can often fail when you have a new subject area that just doesn’t fit into any existing category. Plus, some problems do occur when specialist subjects come up and one cataloguer would feel it necessary to place a book in one category, when another would choose differently. One example that springs to mind, after another librarian chat, is the complex world of mathematics. The librarian in question found that a lot of the existing mathematics books had been put into sub-categories that were not accurate. Of course the issue that arises here is that this librarian specialises in maths, while many other don’t, so how do we get around such a dilemma?

This is possibly where tagging comes in. In Cam23’s post on this topic, the possibility for incorporating the process of tagging into OPAC. While this would not replace the more traditional access points, it would aim to complement them somewhat. I think this is an excellent idea. Not only does it allow for library users to feel like they have some kind of input but students studying specific things can tag core texts and other things of interest using language that would be appropriate to them and their classmates. A whole system of code words for each module or class could evolve and future students would learn what these code words are and how they apply to them.

However, as with a lot of things, tags can go a bit wrong from time to time. For example, how would errors such as spelling mistakes be corrected? What if someone tagged something with a subject tag that was completely inappropriate or misinformed? If the use of tags is supposed to be a free and organic, then what would happen if someone were to come in and correct these mistakes? Would they even be mistakes in need of correction if one person misunderstood the original tagger’s intention or subject material?

I feel that tags can sometimes cause more problems than they sometimes solve. Tagging a personal blog keeps it small and controlled, without much room for error. But, when you go and find a massive YouTube “hit” or something else that has gone viral, if you look at the tags you’ll sometimes find that they range from “kitchen sink” to “person” when the video in question is a pop spoof video or something similar. Its this overuse of tags that abuses the search systems and therefore the user experience. Plus its just cheating. Tag appropriately and thoroughly to get a good readership of your blog or view of your podcast or vlog (video blog) but don’t be silly with it!

I find Thing 8 has raised a lot more questions than it has necessarily answered which is good! Lots to think about.

To summarise, tagging is great for organising stuff. Keeping your blog neat and tidy. There are apps that allow for you to have a word bubble of sorts that takes from your tags so readers can click on anything that looks interesting and can browse that tagged subject area. However, when looking at tagging in the context of the reader tagging OPAC and the like, it could get a lot more complex than is neccessary and could result in a lot of distracting white noise to what should be a simple search for a book.

Who knows, it could really work though! I’m going to try and tag a few of my entries.

To finish, it was Zombie Day yesterday at ScienceBlogs (I follow a few) and I found this funny library/zombie relationship video. Enjoy!


4 thoughts on “23 Things, Thing 8

  1. Pingback: And another thing, or, Attack of the riled cataloguer « Thing blogging

  2. Very interesting. I agree with your conclusions about tagging and especially about Thing 8 asking more questions than it answers. I started writing a comment, but it took on a life of its own so I turned it into a blog post over on Thing blogging.

    Nice zombies too 🙂


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