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Participatory Tagging

forest
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Let's use this site better. This is partly a tech issue but more importantly our ability to harness the growing information on this site. I am calling for the abillity to create tags both by authors and all members on information that gets posted.

Why?

Tags allow us to categorize, without fundamentally changing the actual structure (you may be familiar or not). And that gives us ways to search for, navigate, or group content based on what we find to be important about that information. Currently, if someone adds a blog post there are ten categories to place it in. That is useful in an initial manner but allows for very minimal participation. Those are categories decided for us. As authors we need the flexibility to add tags, which offer us new categories not yet conceived of until the need, which don't have to be directly related to that initial ten, but can be used in many ways. And as readers/members we should be able to do the same as we find there isn't a category for something we think is useful. Then those tags will connect similar material and we can more quickly navigate this site.

Who cares?

There is already a lot of information on this site. If multiple forum topics or posts deal with the same thing, shouldn't we be connecting them? Sure, I can make note of the URL's for me, but doesn't it make sense that if I've already observed that connection that I can do something that will be uselful for someone else? And won't it be helpful for me to find related information based on other's experience? And isn't it better to do that now before there is so much more content? With so many relevant but also specific or separate posts and conversations, can we do better to keep them connected to benefit from that?

I have also added this in the Site issues forum.

Participatory Tagging

Hope to hear some feedback. please share... positive, negative, confused, or whatever. Some things are hard to communicate to the whole, and what i see as important may be relevant or not. I see this as incredibly useful but I'd rather know why not if anything. Thanks.

Discussion 13 Comments

  • 27th Apr 2012

    i agree - it would allow topics and issues that cut across the meta categories (resources, projects, blogs, even members, etc) to be reconcilled as desired. such topics/issues may not nest neatly into the existing subjects provided, as you've mentioned (or they may apply to several).

    would it be difficult to make the tagging available at this point in the sites construction? i presume not - but something that needs asking.

    some advice re tagging might be needed for those not familiar, though perhaps some would be happy to benefit from the connectivity established by others ... in any case, a short spiel about why tagging is used and a guide to effective tagging would be advisable. i've seen some pretty pointless tagging by people who clearly didnt understand the structural logic behind such a process.

    cheers alex.

  • 27th Apr 2012

    Yes, a very good suggestion.

    As IOPS grows, with more participation and engagement from the members, and with the resulting increase in content, I'm already finding it a little difficult trying to relocate discussions I was interested in.

    I agree that an intro and guide to tagging for those not familiar would be an excellent resource, and save so much unnecessary clutter and misunderstanding later.

    Owing to my IT ignorance, I cannot offer any practical tech support, but you have all my moral support!

  • Tom Lord 28th Apr 2012

    YES! I'm just writing a list of things I'd do to make the site more usable and this was a biggie. Tagging is going to be essential. Most of this site is set up like a blog, with each "thing" taking up a chunk of space on the page, in order of posting, and this works where you might assume a couple of posts a day at most. However we're hoping presumably for millions of projects, resources, etc. We need a better way of indexing them than flicking through them randomly :-) Compare Riseup's (pretty basic) list of activist mailing lists to our projects page: https://lists.riseup.net/www/

  • Gary Techentien 29th Apr 2012

    Great idea. I have no idea, technically, how tagging would actually function. For it to be effective I would think that it would need to be embedded in the design of the website itself, which I would think would be kind of a big deal. But the idea itself seems essential to a really effective mode of communication, particularly as our membership grows into the millions and billions.

    In my own case, my initial interest is in developing participatory methods of organising the public teaching profession. It seems that the topic would fit as a subheading into the "Politics" category, but it would certainly be relevant to "Economy" as well.

  • Alex Lewis 29th Apr 2012

    Thanks for the current input everybody. Glad to see this idea gaining some traction, but I'm sure it's an inevitable discussion. It does seem that sooner is better as content is growing and I share your experience Zane. Like i mentioned.. if I'm already drawing those relationships and doing that work for me, I could be adding a simple tag for the benefit of others. And others will have done this as well for my benefit, and all. So it becomes easier to track such things.

    So, two main things I see here. The tech side and general purpose.

    As tech goes, there are some currents discussions in the forum category "The Site" about some changes to other things (comment display catching my eye, related to viewing content), so of course these things take time. And as site construction goes, I'm guessing IOPS is using some sort of "Content Management System" or "CMS", a type of software used for site building. I have a little experience using Drupal, such software, in which tags are a core function to managing content (whether displayed or not) it calls Taxonomy. So adding user functionality is not 'too' complex. Deciding how to implement is the bigger question. (and some more simple CMS like Wordpress also allows adding user tags, not as flexible though).

    So without getting all tech heavy… yes, as Alison says, a little guidance is necessary. Simple tags that truly relate to the content. If people are adding 50 tags for every little thing they think relates, it becomes fairly useless as a method to hone content down.

    Perhaps, a little more explanation here for the benefit of those not really familiar with tags and why they are useful. In one simple form, you would see tags at the bottom of a blog, say, that offer general categories that apply to that post. In some cases those can only be created by the author, in others you may as a logged in member have the option to add a tag. That tag is clickable which now gives you a page displaying only content that shares that tag, just like our current categories.

    That would generally default to show most recent content that shares that tag, but you may also have options to change that. Perhaps to display by User or degree of activity, or perhaps be able to select multiple tags to hone that content down further. There are other possible uses, but that's a pretty good start and I don't want to drone on too much, haha.

    But yes Tom, tags could be used to generate that type of list you are pointing at. And, yes Gary, I think as content grows those categories will become over exploited if we don't have the ability to create our own.

    So hope to see some more feedback toward making this an eventual reality, with respect of course to the hard work of the site developer.

  • Jason Chrysostomou 30th Apr 2012

    It wouldn't be a big job to switch from using categories to tags, considering the way that categories works currently is not be too dissimilar in the sense that you can assign a blog to multiple categories - although be it fixed ones. We would need to add the option for users to add their own tags.

    What thoughts does anyone have on how best to present the tags? There are different ways e.g. tag clouds, tag index, etc. see here for some examples:
    http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2007/11/07/tag-clouds-gallery-examples-and-good-practices/

    Need to think about the language support also. Having fixed categories is obviously easier in terms of only having to translate the words once. Growing list of tags will mean requiring more regular language translation updates..

  • Alex Delp 5th May 2012

    Good idea!

  • Alex Lewis 7th May 2012

    above link re-posted

    http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2007/11/07/tag-clouds-gallery-examples-and-good-practices/

  • 8th May 2012

    I think this idea has merit and would be extremely helpful going forward. I am in Zane's camp in that I cannot offer much in the way of technical support, but it does have my unequivocal moral support as well as an appreciation as a user of this site.

  • 11th May 2012

    Can I also suggest a way that we can tag specific members' comments?

    Sometimes we may be engaged in conversations on several blogs, and do not want to have to repeat something we may have said elsewhere.

    Also, we may be engaging in discussions with a particular member over several blogs, and would like to read what they say in different contexts.

    This would help us to build up a better idea of who each member is, and what they think about things in general, thereby building and fleshing out their digital character, or persona, in our minds.

    Maybe this can be tagged to member's profiles, with an option to 'see posts/comments/replies by this member'.

    It would really help us gain a greater sense of the full digital personhood of the individual members, thereby leading to greater credibility, trust, and openess in participation. Which is what we all want!

    The early model for this is, of course the old-skool WELL:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_WELL

    If you don't know about the WELL, then consider yourself uneducated! That's a joke, by the way! :)

    All the best to everyone!

  • 16th Jun 2012

    Do it.

  • Isabel Douglass 15th Oct 2012

    yay for tagging capabilities!

    • Alex Lewis 16th Oct 2012

      hope to get that done :)