Findability with tags: Facets, clusters, and pivot browsing

For a while I have been thinking of different ways of supporting finding information with tags that go beyond tag-clouds. There are three trends that are worth pointing out.

1) 7_06_facets.jpg
Faceted Browsing Metaphor
The first is faceted browse interfaces. A good example of such an interface is You can start browsing by picking any of the facets (price, region, type). For example, you might start by looking at wines from a particular region. Next, you decide to view by price. If you don’t like that option, you can change the facet, and start looking by type. You are in control every step of the way. In many ways, this could be the holy grail for tagging systems.

The metaphor that comes to mind for faceted browse is that of driving a car. You are in control, you decide when to turn right, or when to turn left, when to stop.

There are several different ways of going from tags to facets. RawSugar, Siderean (, and are different ways of going from tags to facets.

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Tagging comes of age at the World Wide Web conference

I have been looking over the program for the workshop on tagging at the World Wide Web conference, and I am amazed at the diversity and quality of the papers that will be presented there.

This is one of the reasons I enjoy working on tagging – the topic seems to attract the interest of practitioners, builder of systems and researchers. I am honored and more than a little overwhelmed to be the keynote speaker for the workshop, especially as I look at the list of papers to be presented there. There is some excellent work being presented there.

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BayCHI Social Search panel – Podcast is online!

Last week we had a great BayCHI panel on Social and Personalized Search. Participants were from Netflix, Live365,, Pandora and digg. I moderated it. The podcast for that panel is now online. In inviting this particular group of panelists, I was hoping to highlight the changing trends in Social and Personalized Search. The companies were founded between 1997 – 2005 and their different approaches tells its own story. More about that inside.

For a more detailed desciption of the panel, go to Rick Boardman’s blog.

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My slides for Tagging 2.0 panel at SXSW

Just wrapped up with the Tagging panel at SXSW. I talked about “Tagging: From Personal to Social”. I was the last speaker, and there were only 10 minutes left for my presentation. I spoke really fast but managed to get through most of the presentation. You can find the Powerpoint file for my presentation here. Not sure how much sense it makes without the talk, but several people asked me for it, so here it is. Thanks to everyone who came up and gave feedback. And feel free to followup here if you did not get a chance to ask questions.

The tag-cloud replaces the basic menu – Is this a good idea?

tagcloud menu I knew someone or the other was going to do this – its too obvious an idea. “Lets try replacing all site navigation with a tag cloud!”. I just came across this on the FlockSucks website – its by a company called 83 degrees – you can tell from their name that they go in for all things hip and Web2.0.

I have my own opinion on the topic, but am going to wait till you express yours. What do you think? is this a good idea? Is this the future?

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A social analysis of tagging

(or how tagging transforms the solitary browsing experience into a social one)

In a previous essay, I wrote about the cognitive aspect of tagging – describing how people tag, and why they find it easy. There is another, equally important aspect of tagging that I did not touch upon – the “why” of tagging. Why do people tag? For many, tagging is for sharing their own information and watching others. Even if you tag mostly to remember your own stuff, it is difficult to remain untouched by the presence of others. This article will explore how tagging lets us connect with others.(1)

social analysis of tagging

From solitary to social

Web browsing can be a solitary experience. Computers are individualistic devices. Many afternoons, I sit at my desk in our office, browsing the web, listening to music. I come across an article I want to remember. I tag it. That moment, I go from wandering the web alone to joining a group of others. This transition is important. In a moment, I am transported to a crowd of people with whom I have at least one thing in common. And best of all, I can enjoy their presence, but I don’t need to converse. After being on many mailing lists for many years, let me say, conversation is often overrated. Often, I like to be in the company of others, without needing to follow threads and participate. It is the same reason that I like working in a cafe – enjoying the presence of others without the burden of active interaction. Similarly, tags provide a companionable social hum that I enjoy.
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