June 25, 2008 by Ryan Joy
I got into a discussion with coworkers last week that reminded me that everyone does not use websites in the same way, even power users and creators of technology. What surprised me most was that their use of the same feature was almost the exact opposite of mine. Our own assumptions informed our bias for or against certain use cases.
In an informal poll, I found that about 50% of respondents view tags as primarily serving to aggregate similarly tagged content from many users. (Ok… there were really only 6 people involved in this discussion, but it was 3-3.) I.e. they go to Flickr, view all public tags, and browse photos of ‘Europe’ from different users. Or, they read an interesting blog post tagged ‘webdesign’ and want to view what other people have written about the same subject.
I almost never want to view all items tagged similarly by a community. In most cases, I am very much interested in content in the context of that user. I want to see their pictures because I know them or I enjoyed their others. I want to read their writing because I already trust them. The exception to this rule would probably be event context items. I.e. if someone tags something ‘BarCampAustin2008’, I’m likely to want to see the aggregated content from anyone who was at that event. Another exception, of course, would be sites that are themselves aggregators like Technorati.
I’m not saying that either usage is incorrect, but I think it has the potential to affect everything from the UI to the way tag relationships are stored in the database. It boils down to an 80/20 rule and I think the 80 is user-centric.
How do you view tagging? How do you use it when consuming content?