Essence of tagging

The concept of tagging is embraced by some people and shunned by others. There is also a group of people that sit between both camps, happy with tagging as long as there is some degree of control.

I have spoken to librarians who dread the thought of users being involved in the tagging process as they will lose some degree of control. “We are happy as long as we do the tagging. We can’t have users applying tags. They have no idea how to categorise information.”

Unfortunately, I think this is missing the essence of tagging – that users apply tags based on their own needs, languages and perspectives.

A very mild example of this can be seen here:

“While I appreciate the photogenicity of London, pictures of Big Ben or Heathrow airport don’t really deserve the tag “atmedia”.”


For some people, the atmedia tag should only be applied to photos of the conference itself. For others the tag could be applied to photos of people at the conference, related events, related travel or even related food.

This is exactly what makes tagging so unique and alive. Tagging is not formed by rigid definitions, hierarchies or controlled vocabularies. It is formed by people with unique perspectives.

UPDATE: It seems that some would like to take the concept of controlling tagging even further:

“There was this bell tower close to the conference centre that’s quite charming in a 19th century Gothic sort of way, and I can imagine people wanting to share this remarkable discovery online, but a photo of it doesn’t count as an @media impression. Please remove the “atmedia” tag.”


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