Review: Tagging, People-Powered Metadata for the Social Web

Two years ago, I wrote a two-part series on tagging. A tag is like a keyword. Tags help you sort things by groups to which you assign meaning to. You can assign multiple tags to a single item so it becomes meaningful in different groups. Ever since I stumbled upon the idea of tagging, I've been fascinated. Then I found out about Gene Smith's Tagging: People-Powered Metadata for the Social Web. A book that I hoped would shed some more light on the tagging phenomenon.

As I patiently waited for the book to arrive, I imagined that it would expand upon various tag methodologies and how one could get more out of using a tagging system or site. There is a bit of that in the book, but it is not Smith's main goal. Instead, Tagging takes the reader on a survey of various tagging methodologies and how various online sites use tagging systems to achieve their goals. He studies these techniques in a way that would help software coders create their own tag systems.

Smith writes his material from a coder's perspective. The book's structure is very linear, as each chapter builds upon the knowledge presented in the last. Chapters 1-5 do go into details on what tagging is, why tagging is important, how folksonomies work, and what tag interfaces look like. Chapters 6 and 7 dive down into the nitty-gritty of how tag system are put together with code. These two chapters give guidelines, business analysis, and technical details (GUI, navigational, and code snippets) to help programmers design and develop their own tagging system for an Intranet or home-brew web application. Finally, Smith includes three case study appendixes. Here he analyzes and compares various social bookmarking sites, media sharing sites, and personal information management systems.

I wish I could recommend Tagging for everyone, but I can't. I think this book offers software developers the biggest benefit. It was an enjoyable but hard read for me. Since I’m not a coder, much of the tech and code discussions didn't make sense to my non-codery brain. I'll be giving this one to kender to read, and maybe he and his company can get more out of it than I did. Tagging is published by New Riders and the book retails for $39.99.

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