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Forget LC subject headings: Taggers are the catalogers of the Internet

Tagging is the process of applying labels, or keywords, to online content. The practice of tagging is exploding on the Internet as web users look for a way to personalize online searching. Most searching on the web is done via keywords and tagging allows individual users to classify online content in ways that make sense them.

Numerous websites utilize tagging including, Del.icio.us: http://del.icio.us (a web-based bookmarking site), Flickr: http://flickr.com (a photo sharing site), Technorati: http://technorati.com (a blog search engine) and the ubiquitous YouTube http://www.youtube.com.

As an example, a user can post a picture of a dog on Flickr and apply keywords to that picture (e.g. “dog”; “puppy”; “Spot”; “pal”; “buddy”, etc.) Anyone who searches Flickr for the tag (keyword) “puppy” will retrieve other uses’ photos that also have the tag “puppy.” Tagging is considered to be a part of a new wave of Internet activity known as “social networking.” On a bookmarking site, like Del.icio.us, “User A” can find websites, podcasts or other content that may have already been discovered by “User B. This allows “User A” to increase her knowledge of other sites that she may find interesting.

Once considered a fad, tagging is now so popular that an estimated 28% of all Internet users have tagged online content. While the process of tagging is unlikely to make catalogers obsolete, it is having a profound effect on the way that people search databases. Librarians might want to pay special attention to the just-published Pew Internet and American Life project’s survey on tagging. The report, subtitled:
“Forget Dewey and His Decimals, Internet Users are Revolutionizing the Way We Classify Information – and Make Sense of It,”
http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Tagging.pdf emphasizes the popularity of tagging and the demographics of taggers. Those who believe that tagging is solely practiced by teenagers might be surprised to learn that 31% of American adults aged 30 – 49 have tagged online content. In addition, the largest proportion of adult taggers have a college degree.

Tag you’re it!

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