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The Need For A Tagging Standard

Hemos posted more than 7 years ago | from the tagging-joy dept.

The Internet 200

John Carmichael writes "Tags are everywhere now. Not just blogs, but famous news sites, corporate press bulletins, forums, and even Slashdot. That's why it's such a shame that they're rendered almost entirely useless by the lack of a tagging standard with which tags from various sites and tag aggregators like Technorati and can compare and relate tags to one another. Depending on where you go and who you ask, tags are implemented differently, and even defined in their own unique way. Even more importantly, tags were meant to be universal and compatible: a medium of sharing and conveying info across the blogosphere — the very embodiment of a semantic web. Unfortunately, they're not. Far from it, tags create more discord and confusion than they do minimize it. I have to say, it would be nice to just learn one way of tagging content and using it everywhere.""

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HEIL HITLER (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17612964)

Heil....HeilHitlerHe.. #In Memory of Adolf Hitler# ..Heil....HeilHitlerHe
Heil....ilHitlerHeil.... We will always remember ....Heil....ilHitlerHeil
Heil....Heil............. and cherish you. Your .....Heil....Heil........
Heil....Heil............. acts of selflessness ......Heil....Heil........
Heil....Heil........... will be passed down from ....Heil....Heil........
HeilHitlerHeilHitler... generation to generation. ...HeilHitlerHeilHitler
HeilHitlerHeilHitler... The lies that dishonor your .HeilHitlerHeilHitler
........Heil....Heil..... name will be vanquished. ..........Heil....Heil
........Heil....Heil.... You were a true patriot ............Heil....Heil
........Heil....Heil.... and a lover of all men, ............Heil....Heil
HeilHitlerHe....Heil... all races, all religions. ...HeilHitlerHe....Heil
ilHitlerHeil....Heil.. #In Memory of Adolf Hitler# ..ilHitlerHeil....Heil

The first standard tag (-1, Troll)

Clueless Nick (883532) | more than 7 years ago | (#17612976)


Don't agree (4, Insightful)

pubjames (468013) | more than 7 years ago | (#17612984)

Isn't the power of tags that you can tag stuff however you want? To me a standard for tagging would be a negative thing.

I don't thing the problem is a standard for tagging, the problem is having a standard for sharing tags between applications. But that's another problem and it doesn't need to be solved to implement tagging itself.

Re:Don't agree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17613046)

I want a standard dogs tags! My dog deserves them!

Re:Don't agree (2, Funny)

dsginter (104154) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613178)

Some ideas for tag standards:

<cow boyneal>

Re:Don't agree (2, Funny)

pipatron (966506) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613228)


Re:Don't agree (5, Funny)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614352)

You forgot to close them all

</cow boyneal>

Re:Don't agree (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17613236)

Er, guys?

Tags are keywords.

There's a keyword line up in the header that isn't being used for much these days.

If you want to tag your document in a machine-readable way, put the tags in the keyword field. Problem solved.

Re:Don't agree (5, Insightful)

lousehr (584682) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613276)

Your analysis of "the problem" is exactly the point of TFA. The stated concern is not that the content of the tags has no standard, but that the format of the tags has no standard. If a single tag contains multiple words, should the words be separated by spaces or underscores, or should we use StudlyCaps?

Re:Don't agree (2, Interesting)

laffer1 (701823) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614322)

Case is also an issue. Some sites only allow lowercase tags while others don't care about case.

This is similar to the problem blogging sites have with cross site scripting. Try to tell a blogger you won't take HTML or bbcode posts (depending on generation of the blogger). Regardless of what you do, there's going to be sites that don't follow the rules and there will also be ways to screw it up for everybody.

There isn't a standard for many things on the internet which causes validation to be near impossible. Security researchers complain people don't do input validation, but I've never seen a complete webapp that's an example of security at the time its written. You can't validate things like addresses, names, e-mail addresses, or long text entries including blogs and content without leaving out characters that should be valid or flat out blocking some from using your service.

As for the standard, this reminds me or RDF. Had it taken off, we could tag data with properly defined, shared tags. Defining tags in RDF would allow sites to share the information through RDF and thus solve the problem of transmittal. Of course getting everyone to agree to this is another thing.

Re:Don't agree (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17613372)

I agree with you, and would add:

  1. If you establish a "tagging standard", you practically guarantee nobody's going to follow it. What's in it for them?
  2. What normal person care about tags anyway? If we want more info on a topic, we use Google.
  3. The blogosphere is for losers anyway. Most of the time, they just sit around blogging about the blogosphere. Case in point: TFA. This garbage dump of anti-content can remain disorganized, for all I care.

Re:Don't agree (1)

MoogMan (442253) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614354)

No, the problem with tagging, is that everyone else may have a different interpretation of what the metadata means. The solution to this? Why, tag tagging of course.

Automatic tagging (5, Insightful)

drcoppersmith (1048722) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613002)

I'm inclined to disagree that 'tags' are the answer here. I wrote my masters thesis on a method automatically generating semantic webs from plaintext. It's a huge problem with about a dozen different stages, but I had backing in all of my research from the psycholinguistics and computer-science field.

Herein lies the rub: You're never going to get everyone to agree on a set of appropriate tags. Even if you do, you'll never have them uniformly applied (well I find that humorous but you have it tagged as inappropriate).

There are other solutions here, such as automatic semantic generation. Hey, I never said it was an easy solution, but it's one that I'm certain can be accomplished. Flame away ;-)

Re:Automatic tagging (4, Informative)

mangu (126918) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613106)

I wrote my masters thesis on a method automatically generating semantic webs from plaintext.

In the end, this could be said to be one of the central problems in AI. Basically, this is dimensionality reduction. People have been trying to do this manually for a long time. The Encyclopaedia Britannica's Propaedica is an example of a tentative semantic web for all human knowledge, but it's so inefficient that it's of very little use by a human, not to mention by automatic mechanisms.

You're never going to get everyone to agree on a set of appropriate tags ... There are other solutions here, such as automatic semantic generation

I believe it could be done if it were an automatically generated tag set. If it could be proven mathematically optimal in a certain context, it would be hard for anyone to disagree.

Re:Automatic tagging (4, Interesting)

drcoppersmith (1048722) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613476)

There are a lot of instances of manual tagging, and I agree with you that they're just too cumbersome (as does almost an entire field of psycholinguists [if you think you can get all of them to agree on anything you're sorely mistaken. They'll disagree just because they can]).

The automatically generated tags are exactly what I was talking about. I didn't get terribly explicit with my ideas, but you seem to be going in the same direction I was. Getting the software to both tag incoming documents and categorize the semantic webs generated by each is the key to some 'universal' tagging sytem. This way we have maximally efficient tags along with a standardized definition for each and (perhaps most importantly) an automatic way of tagging all the documents to be processed. No room for the "13 year old cheerleader tags" as someone so eloquently put before.

We still have the problem of naming the 'generic' tag categories generated by the software... The solution for that one is a lot hazier, though important. I don't think anyone will go looking for 'category 12233242' to find 'academic humor'.

Re:Automatic tagging (1)

djupedal (584558) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613518)

" I believe it could be done if it were an automatically generated tag would be hard for anyone to disagree."

Gotta luv those ifs - With English due to be a minority language before ye' know it, and since I already know Chinese/Japanese/Korean, let's just jump right ahead and use strokes. What? You don't have a clue? But what about the math-proven, optimally certain, shit-in-my-pants if it ain't true proposal ya'll just laid out...? Lead by example, ok?

itsatrap (2, Funny)

transporter_ii (986545) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613174)

You're never going to get everyone to agree on a set of appropriate tags.

Then how come everyone on here has agreed on a handful of standard tags:




Re:itsatrap (1)

drcoppersmith (1048722) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613502)

I think you'll agree with me that "slashdotters" are not "everyone". I mean, they're clearly the creme de la creme of "everyone", but what about all those lesser beings?

Re:Automatic tagging (4, Interesting)

remmelt (837671) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613184)

Tags are probably very community based, so they would only make sense within that community. (!itsatrap wouldn't work so well on That said, why make tags which are meaningless to other communities or have vastly different meanings to other people available as a sorting or searching option? Sure, you could make some pretty mean stats proving any point you'd like (bad grammar in tags up 14.8% from last year! tag "yes" used in 87% of all blogs, world population feeling positive!) but I don't see the point.

Also, anyone trying to make a serious argument containing the word "blogosphere" should really try and get out more. Come on people, it's not world hunger we're solving here. Viz: []

Re:Automatic tagging (2, Interesting)

drcoppersmith (1048722) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613700)

I agree with your take on tags being community based. I think there's more use for this out there, such as categorizing communities, looking at the underlying semantics of a website, determining the focus of a company, or summarizing the entirety of a body of research (and more interestingly, categorizig what is part of and what is not part of that body of research).

This is just a problem I've worked on for a few years and have always had a small fascination with, I'm glad to share it (both in the mundane and fantastic applications).

Re:Automatic tagging (5, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613216)

The article is mostly talking about standardizing the envelope, not the message, which is to say, how do you share/create a two word tag, and how to you specify exactly what is supposed to be described by that tag, and how do you share that in a useful way.

The fact that someone thinks something is funny and someone else thinks it is inappropriate is useful information to gather, if you get 5000 funny and 5 inappropriate, you have a lot more information than if you have nothing at all, but even in you get 10 and 10 you still have more information, which is probably a good thing.

Re:Automatic tagging (1)

drcoppersmith (1048722) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613568)

Standardizing the envelope isn't too interesting to me, but the potential of standardizing tagging itself leaves a lot more room for creativity for me. If we were to implement such a 'standardized tagging' scheme, we would need an envelope that made it work, but I'd rather think about the semantics than the technical side... personal preference.

I wholeheartedly agree with your take on the inappropriate/funny discussion. I can't say that I ever thought in terms of that before, since I've always looked at this from an 'automatic tagging' point of view, where one program is categorizing all of them. Though you bring me to a very interesting idea: We can categorize via machine the way we categorize IRL: consensus. We could make a population of agents tagging on different criteria (as you would expect from a group of people) and take the consensus (or some composite) as the tag. -=scurries off to write code=-

Re:Automatic tagging (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17613572)

Do you have a link to your thesis? I'm interested in reading it. Thanks!

Re:Automatic tagging (1)

jimmyswimmy (749153) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613938)

I think the best demonstration that a problem exists is on this story - Slashdot's tags are currently: tags, tagging, no, tag.

A good solution would be to find the linguistic similarities between the selected tags and meld them together. I get no extra information by using the three words "tag" "tagging" and "tags" which I would not have received from selecting only "tagging" or perhaps "tag". Find the similar word roots and use the appropriate one (probably the same as the most often-selected of the lot).

The other option (5, Funny)

T-Ranger (10520) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613004)

Is not to tag everything like 13 year old cheerleaders.

Dateline? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17613280)

...not to tag everything like 13 year old cheerleaders.
Otherwise you may find yourself in a living room Stone Phillips.

Re:The other option (4, Funny)

archen (447353) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613832)


One Key Point (4, Insightful)

Azarael (896715) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613016)

How do you standardize something that has not been widely implemented before? It's great to say that it would be good idea to have one standard practice for tagging, but which one? There's no reason to make a huge fuss about this until it a least one clear contender for standardization emerges (which will probably happen on its own).

Re:One Key Point (4, Funny)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613130)

Obviously we have to find the lowest common denominator between all the different tagging systems.

I propose that we standardize the following tags:
That should cover 100% of the content in a manner that everyone can relate to.

Re:One Key Point (3, Insightful)

T-Ranger (10520) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613282)

Well, not quite. Reading the blog post the problem lies with two areas: technology and linguistics.

For technology, as an example, how do you quote things? How do you separate tokens? Do you use StudlyCaps and spaces? "Quoted words", and commas? If the later, what about nested quotes?

Bullshit question. The question is solved. Use XML. (Yeah, well, it is the web). We don't need Yet Another CSV "standard". Tags may be presented as lists, in spans, or WTF ever. But if you are talking about storage and transmission, then store the tokens separately, and transmit them in an unambiguous format; in 2007, on the web, the solutions are implementation-specific and XML, respectively.

For linguistics, thats harder. Nouns or verbs? Talk to a librarian, Im sure there are volumes of information on the right way. But I don't care, as I'm still disgusted that the technology problem even exists.

Right now it seems there is little discussion on the problem. Right now, if implementations are trying to reinvent data encoding schemes either the implementations are totally brain dead (and need a kick in the ass from an outside force), or are completely oblivious to the problems they are encoding into there core features (and thus still need a kick in the ass). This is so bad, its worse then wrong. You have to try to get to the point of being wrong.

Of course, I don't care because tags are stupid. OTOH, perhaps I would care if they at least were implemented in a potentially useful way.

itsatrap (1)

Megane (129182) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613026)

Er, I mean notatrap!

One big problem is that people can just make them up, then you get the "greifers" who put bogus joke tags all over the place.

(remember, the opposite of "itsatrap" is "!itsatrap", not "notatrap"!)

Re:itsatrap (2, Funny)

Pink Tinkletini (978889) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614208)

Um, no. I don't care what the FAQ says; "!itsatrap" is hard to distinguish from "itsatrap." Maybe it works in monospaced code, but not so well in proportional font.

People who insist on sticking to the fucking rules are the number one problem facing today's society, methinks.

Didn't they have this problem in Babel? (4, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613028)

How to share and categorize information is an ages old problem. One man's trash is another man's treasure, likewise, one man's bread is another man's dietary problem.

I'm not sure, but haven't we already figured out that tagging would require more tags than the actual information being tagged to accomplish what the original poster was asking for?

Registry (1)

berbo (671598) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614096)

One approach to this is a metadata registry: []

That way one group can label their tags ( e.g. Microsoft:embrace_and_extend ) and others can submit their own tags (e.g. slashdot:itsatrap).

This is labor intensive and is not a universal solution, but its a partial solution

XML? (1)

gravesb (967413) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613038)

Why not use an XML standard? If sites used a or similar, then people could put whatever they wanted inside. It would be simple for automated tools and users to find the tags and search against them. One of the most useful things that are similar to tags is the alt field in img. It allows people to search for photos online. Of course, this is open to abuse like anything else, and weren't search engines based on meta tags in the header at one point until people took advantage of them? Still, if tags are going to be standardized, I think it should be through a mark-up standard, and allows people to be as creative as they want with the actual tag itself.

Re:XML? (1)

Azarael (896715) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613090)

Syntactically that would probably work fine, however, it won't add anything in the way of semantics, which is what the article covers. i.e. What types of text to actually put inside of the tags, spaces/no-spaces, etc.

Re:XML? (2, Insightful)

T-Ranger (10520) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613574)

Words have spaces between them. A tag may have multiple words and be an independent thought. Store it as English demands, with spaces. The Space, NoSpace question is only relevant if you are using an encoding scheme that is broken. Verb/Noun is a different question, but space/nospace, quotes, and BS like that is quickly solved with existing technology.

Isn't needed (1, Troll)

NineNine (235196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613044)

A tagging standard isn't needed. Tags are just keyword that describe something. They're *WORDS* for Christs's sake. Just screen scrape them if you have to. Put them in a database. Read them aloud with a British accent, if you'd like. But if you can't parse plain old words, then I don't think that any kind of "standard" is going to help you.

In the article, this guy is saying that some tags have spaces in them, and some don't, so that makes it hard. How about "where lcase(tags) like '%vista%'? How hard is that?

This guy is an idiot.

Re:Isn't needed (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613180)

Results 1-36000000 for tag "%vista%"

VISTA - Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy
VISTA, Visible & Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy. - 24k - Cached - Similar pages

The Blind and Visually Impaired - Local Services provided by Vista
Offer services and support to the blind and visually impaired in Leicestershire and Rutland. Information about their activities, events, newsletter, ... - 45k - Cached - Similar pages

VISTA - Statistical Analysis and display of Geometric and Other Data. VISTA is an interactive analytical and statistical program. ... - 13k - Cached - Similar pages

The UK ATC is responsible for the design and construction of VISTA, ... More information about VISTA is available from the ATC project pages, the VISTA ... - 9k - Cached - Similar pages

Vista is currently under construction
Thank you for visiting Our site is currently under development, but in the meantime information on the full range of Vista CCTV products ... - 4k - Cached - Similar pages

Coventry VISTA - Visually Impaired and Sighted Tandem Association
Visually Impaired and Tandem Cycling Association. Events, rides diary, ride routes and social diary. - 3k - Cached - Similar pages

VISTA - Volunteers In Service To America
A collection of resources and stories put together by former Americorps members and friends of the VISTA program. - 4k - Cached - Similar pages

Or did you think it only meant one thing?

Re:Isn't needed (1)

NineNine (235196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613392)

OK, then.

where lcase(tag) like '%windows%' and lcase(tag) like '%vista%'

Whatever. It's not rocket science.

Re:Isn't needed (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613486)

Thats a little better, but context is everything.
Your algorythm would work like google and would not require tags of any kind.
Tags are useful to subcategorize content into neat little blocks.
On a TV site, the tag "24" would be useful for finding information about Jack Bauer, but would be useless when talking about petrol stations open all night.

Each tag (like your vista example) needs some kind of upversion (related to the originating context) to make the tags specific to the subject and this is the root problem with generic tags.

People actually pay that much attention to tags? (4, Insightful)

east coast (590680) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613050)

I don't feel that tags have enough significance behind them to merit a standard. I'd be more concerned with truth in journalism first, for my part.

Hopeless (4, Insightful)

bigmouth_strikes (224629) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613066)

Trying to standardize tags in the context of standardizing what they are, is hopeless. It'll be like the Unicode standard; too complex to use in its entirety.

But to standardize the format of tags and to standardize how to exchange tags between systems, is a great idea.

I Completely Agree... (5, Funny)

setirw (854029) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613072)

Which is why I tagged this article with "njkewjdkewd."

I'm fired, aren't I? (4, Insightful)

elzahir (442873) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613078)

He said "blogosphere." Instantly, I don't care.

Only thing worse would be something like, I dunno, "tags should be a Web 2.0 standard" or somesuch.

Excuse me, but "proactive" and "paradigm"? Aren't these just buzzwords that dumb people use to sound important?

Re:I'm fired, aren't I? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17613316)

"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled"

I guess your hatred of neologisms and 'buzzwords' doesn't extend to manager-speak.

Please engage brain first (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614388)

"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled"

I guess your hatred of neologisms and 'buzzwords' doesn't extend to manager-speak.

First of all, the quote is by Feynman, who was a physicist, not a manager.

Second, I'm not sure where you see buzzwords in it, because I can't. It's a simple idea expressed in plain English, which is something a lot of PHBs and PR drones seem to have forgotten how to do.

Third, it's a very sane and simple advice to everyone (including scientists, engineers, managers, marketting, etc): you can't make technology by PR announcement. You can run the PR machine as long as you want that water really runs uphill, it won't convince nature to actually behave that way. You can't just rewrite the laws of physics, and if you try, don't be surprised if nature still behaves the old fashioned way. So if you want to build something that works, put your faith in how the world actually works, not in how much PR crap you can churn stating the opposite.

At any rate, it actually has a meaning.

Most of us have a beef with buzzwords that really don't have any meaning, or no extra meaning over a simpler everyday word. Whole paragraphs or whole memos, mission statements, etc, get written that don't actually tell you anything. That is the problem.

Re:I'm fired, aren't I? (5, Funny)

Frnknstn (663642) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613368)

"buzzword" is a term used by cynical people trying to sound important.

Re:I'm fired, aren't I? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17613548)

"Cynical" is a term used by anal-retentive people trying to sound wise.

Re:I'm fired, aren't I? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17613956)

"anal-retentive" is a term used by closet gay people gagging for a good hard pounding

Re:I'm fired, aren't I? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17614054)

function putdown (x,y,z) "(" + eval (x) + ") is a term used by " + y + " people trying to sound " + z + ".")
putdown (lambda { putdown (x,y,z); }, "recursion theorists", "relevant"); }
Your head asplode. :)

A standard for tagging (2, Insightful)

AlanS2002 (580378) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613088)

Would make tagging almost useless. There are many different ways you can view one thing and to limit the expressions used to tag something limits the possibilities of communication. On the other hand leaving the tags available as open ended can turn out to be redundant, you may as well just tag something as its complete description. Perhaps the best way would just be to let people make up their own minds.

Re:A standard for tagging (2, Insightful)

SchizoDuckie (1051438) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613110)

I don't think there is a real problem here... The problem mainly is the displaying of tags. The 'tag cloud' (and the person that invented it) should be banned from the internet and something better will have to be invented in the next couple of years. Tags that work on site x don't have to work on site y and don't even have to have any relevance so why a standard?

Is he talking about HTML tags? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17613102)

...or is he just another controlfreak whose article was tagged with vocabulary he didn't expect.

Tagging (and Wikipedia) don't need your rules. You can always close your eyes if you don't like it.

On the other side I know Zonk would be desperate to censor tag vocabulary like "stupid", "lame", "FUD" and (of course) "No".

Hyphens. (2, Funny)

caluml (551744) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613118)

I must say that the Slashdot way of tagging irks me. I think tags should have hyphens between words, much like they do in their "from the the-slow-down dept". Makes it more readable.
Any-tagging-stuff-I-have-to-write-will-use-hyphens as who knows what analbum is?

Re:Hyphens. (1)

Lissajous (989738) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613242)

...who knows what analbum is?

Bullshit (1, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613122)

Even more importantly, tags were meant to be universal and compatible: a medium of sharing and conveying info across the blogosphere
Oh my god what rubbish.


Re:Bullshit (2, Insightful)

arun_s (877518) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613826)

Yeah, I agree. I personally feel tags are hyped way beyond their actual worth. I couldn't care less about 'conveying info across the blogosphere', but I'm genuinely interested in organising my own information neater (e.g. my bookamrks).
Look at gmail, frinstance. Labels replace folders, and a mail can have more than one label. More importantly, they're predefined, and the interface doesn;t really allow you to be prolific with your tagging.
Compare this with the crappy way allows you to put a billion tags for each link, and I can see why its such a mess.
I agree with others here that something like tagging oughtn't to be standardised or they'll lose their whole purpose, but really, there are other reasonable solutions that atleast help in atleast reducing the amount of craptagging going on. I've experimented with Blinklist and, and my bookmarks in the former are far better tagged because I can actually see my existing tags while bookmarking a new site.

tagging (4, Funny)

AcidLacedPenguiN (835552) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613176)

and here I thought the standard for tagging was for the first person to agree or disagree with the headline, then the next has to immediately disagree with the first person. 5 minutes down the line if no one has added another tag, the third must disgree with BOTH the first and the second poster. Finally, a serious slashdotter will show up to add a relevant tag, followed by the oh so frequent itsatrap and slownewsday tags.

Tags are for things that AREN'T standardized (3, Insightful)

vidarh (309115) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613186)

Tags are human assigned labels for something that we don't have better meta-data for, or where we don't want to be bothered with formalism. If you want something formal, go use a proper taxonomy/ontology and put bucketloads of OWL or RDF-schema data on your site to define relationships, or use format with well defined semantics to add information. Noone is stopping you, and there are cases where formally defining relationships is worthwhile, such as when you want software agents to be able to infer stuff about the data. But that's not what tagging is used for. Tagging is used for ad-hoc manual classification in situations where it is good enough

XSLT for Tags? (2, Interesting)

null etc. (524767) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613194)

Similar to how XML uses XSLT to transform XML documents from one application to another, it wouldn't be a half-bad idea to have a Tag Transformation Language. Organizations with a lot of market share can define their own tag standards, and then people can optionally specify the transformation between their own local ontologies and the established tag standards. This has the advantage of being participation-driven.

I agree! (1)

tbannist (230135) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613198)

And while we're at it, we should get everyone to agree to speak the same language and believe in the same religion!

yes, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17613214)

such a shame we can't tag _everything_ in our everyday life :/ the world is in dischord, because we have no set standard scheme for tagging everything around us with the opinions of OTHERS rather than building our own.. stupid dimwit..

Already done (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17613222)

This is what RDF is for. You distinguish between your idea of the "fud" tag and somebody else's idea of the "fud" tag because the relationships are expressed as URIs. You refer to the subjects of the tagging with URIs too, meaning that you don't need special tagging behaviour built into whatever you are tagging - you just need a URI to point to. And because you can put an RDF file anywhere, it's totally decentralised.

This has already beeen designed and implemented in Amaya [] and Annotea [] by the W3C. The correct place to solve this is in the client, not in each individual website.

Too many chefs, etc. (3, Informative)

Pope (17780) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613244)

Tagging, like anything else designed to be helpful, simply won't work if *anything* is allowed. For every person who tags something "correctly" in an effort to do good, how many people will deliberately mis-tag something to produce misleading results?

Better to get rid of tagging altogether and go back to text searching! :)

No.. and yes (2, Interesting)

slashmojo (818930) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613308)

First of all tags are not exclusive to the blogosphere - they exist on the boardscape (see boardtracker [] for example) and of course on the many social nets and pretty much everywhere else.

There are already microformats [] for defining tags which can and should be used.

Tags are for building a folksonomy [] and created 'by the people' so are by their nature, to a certain extent, personalized and flexible.. what makes sense to you may make no sense to everyone else but so what? You made it, its good for you and thats good enough.. however chances are it will make sense to some other people anyway, no matter what or how you tag, so its all good.

Annotea Project (1)

Lodragandraoidh (639696) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613370)

The Annotea Project [] is a W3C project that ties together standards that allow attaching metadata to web pages without altering the contents of the object.

The Amaya web browser/editor [] is a W3C project that serves as a testbed for the consortium's standards - including an annotea implimentation (the most interesting part of the project imho).

Basically, you can keep your own local metadata, or have a central shared resource with that implimentation. Of course, you could build your own implimentation that has other properties (merging/sharing annotations/tags etc...)

Patent Tagging (2, Funny)

JediHomer (911877) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613378)

Someone should patent tagging, license it out for a small cost and enforce a standard...

World's best tagging system (2, Interesting)

nbauman (624611) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613382)

I've talked to librarians and information scientists, and they talk about "controlled vocabulary". They told me one of the best systems was Pubmed [] which is an index of essentially every article published in a peer-reviewed medical journal. Every article is "tagged" with Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) keywords, and you can search the database for those keywords. If they can use "heart" or "cardiac", they have to decide which one to use (they use "cardiac"). They have keywords to separate human studies from animal studies. Here's more explanation [] It's basically open source.

A similar system in law is the Westlaw key word system. The New York Times used to have a great keyword index, but I can't find it in the NYT online.

Standards aren't the be-all-end-all (1)

scdeimos (632778) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613394)

Even if there was a tagging standard, the choice of tag(s) will still be up to the people applying the tags. Different people will have different interpretations.
Just look at how well Genres worked out for MP3-ID3, especially on services like Gracenote where people would just upload any old cruft.

The cycle goes on and on. (1)

musterion (305824) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613404)

Hmmm .... I've got an idea--Why doesn't every one simply use the Library of Congress Subject Headings, or if you are French-speaking, RVM, or if you are Spanish Speaking--BIDEX. What? too restrictive? Not relevant? We don't like no stinkin' control.

If you allow uncontrolled assignement of "tags" (aka keywords) you will get junk. Some people will be conscientious and try to do a good job, some will be "cute" and tag will the latest slang for their domain; some will take advantage and tag for their own nefarious purposes. You will have to deal with the junk/crud/cruft.

If you impose some sort of control, you will have to deal with those who will flame about the restrictions, you will have to deal with endless discussion on what the correct "tag" is for any given subject and whether or not it offends some group or not.

There is a term for this area of endeavour--Library Science! There has been discussion and work going on related to the web and indexing schemes for at least 10 years. try searching for "Network Knowledge Organization Schemes" or some variant.

Dublin Core ... a cautionary tale (1)

ab762 (138582) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614320)

So while ago, there was an agreed standard for web metadata, the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative [] aka ISO Standard 15836-2003. Very few people use it.

Social grouping? (1)

Gunark (227527) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613414)

I'm surprised this isn't already common practice, but why not implement tag searching in a LikeMinds scheme. For example, when you're looking for items tagged "funny", you would be shown items that have been tagged as such by people who in the past have tagged things the same way you have. This way you have a better chance of finding things that really are funny to you, based on what you thought was funny in the past.

Obviously though this would do nothing for Slashdot's tagging system which has (probably unintentionally) become a micro-comment system -- in the way, for example, that people tag articles whose titles are questions with yes/no answer tags.

Evolution of Tags (1) (745855) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613432)

The only useful evolution of tags I can see is to give it a dot format, general to specific, such as:


Similar to OOP coding or Usenet. But, you wouldn't want to set a fixed standard, you would want it to evolve as it's used.

Re:Evolution of Tags (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613868)


All you have to do is map the tags

slashdot.itsatrap = fark.Florida

or something similar.

partial hierarchy for tags (1)

fantail (90626) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613488)

Rather than a standard, allowing people to use partial hierarchies might be enough for a sophisticated algorithm to figure out when tags mean approximately the same thing (given a large set of data).

For example, given the example of Windows Vista from the article, tags indicating partial hierarchies might look like "software/windows vista" or "windows/vista". The first tag could be interpreted as: both the tags "software" and "windows vista", and that the tag "windows vista" is a sub-tag of "software".

I've heard rumors of software that is capable of analyzing tags for large collections of objects to determine which tags are related and even make guesses as to when different tags mean the same thing. Allowing users to also say that one tag is a sub-tag of another might be enough to create full tag hierarchies and improve the ability to guess when two tags mean the same thing.

What would we use the standard for? (1)

MrBlic (27241) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613490)

The one time that tags were really useful to me were when I was asked to implement rounded corners on the portlets of a web page, and I was looking at what other people had done. I didn't find exactly what I was looking for until I checked for 'rounded' and found lots of other ways of rounding the corners of web content.

I've been asked to implement tags on an existing discussion site, and I'm afraid it's going to turn out as poorly as the tags on slashdot. Unless the tagging system is used by people in a way that's meaningful to them, the quality of the tags is going to be poor.

The tags have to fill a need for categorization, and there have to be people interested in those categories, then it will get used widely, and turn into something that even newcomers to the site would use.

So far, has done well, because the tags are 'mine' and they mean what I want them to mean, and they categorize my bookmarks, I know what to expect when I use them.

In a huge pile of similar things, like flickr, tags are the only categories that outsiders can use to narrow what they're interested in without text search.

Tags are truly implemented differently based on the role that they serve. There's no way to standardize yet. If they were standardized, how would one site use the tags on another site? What would all the use-cases be? There's also no way to ensure quality of tags are accurate and thorough. Text search is reliable because it looks at the content itself. Has text search been standardized? I think not.

Search and tags are web services that are exposed in different ways from different sites, for different purposes and that's about the best we can hope for for the time being.

the solution... (1, Interesting)

Bazman (4849) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613552)

I just RTFA and apparently the biggest problem is whether you type your tags as "Windows Vista","Piece Of Crap" or Windows_Vista,Piece_Of_Crap or WindowsVista,PieceOfCrap, so that people who put tags on might get confused when putting tags on Spaces? Quotes? Delimeters? Oh my. What shall we do.

  Basically, people are too dumb/lazy/stupid to read a one-line description of how to format their tags. How confusing can it be? You just show people how to do it in the form, e.g.

  Tags [ ] (eg dogs, "border collies", barking)


  Tags [ ] (eg dogs,border_collies,barking)


  Tags [ ] (eg dogs,borderCollies,barking)

Now, do we need a standard, OR do we need people to be able to read instructions? Note that one of these choices is a specific, set-in-stone piece of information, the other is a general piece of advice that people would do well to follow for most of their lives (although being able to read instructions is no guarantee that following them is a good idea).

Old problem, and you're not going to solve it. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17613578)

Libraries have had a similar problem, for the past hundred years of so.

Here is a book. Where do you put the book in the library, and how do
you classify it so as to make it maximally useful for your [*] patrons?

[*] That's important! Your patrons are distinct from mine!

You can order all the books in the collection
by accession date (when you got the book).

You can order all the books by author's last name.

You can order all the books by title.

You can order all the books by subject. If you do this, you can use
Dewey classification, LC classification, or something else.

Suppose you just stick with LC classification.

Even two libraries that have the same book, and both use LC
classification, say, may classify a book differently. Say you
have an AI book that is *the* seminal text covering how to do
clustering via fuzzy logic. Do you put this with all the AI books?
with all the clustering books? with all the fuzzy logic books?
(and all three sets of books may be in different places.)

Tagging content on the web represents a similar situation. If you
use a 'standard term' to tag a text, different sets of users /
customers / readers may not associate that 'standard term' with
the meaning you intended. A given term or phrase can be 'classified'
(library science term) or placed into different categories of meaning,
depending on context.

I think that the original poster's statement ("Tagging was intended to
be universal and standardized") either shows great naivete or hubris
on the part of the unstated "intenders". Context is the key. Any
one and his dog can come up with a standardized tagging scheme, but
users of it will nonetheless adopt it (or not) based on the scheme's
ability to classify information in a way that works for the adopter.
What prospective adopters want, however, is not a straighjacket that
forces them to classify web pages in a way that the adopter's users
won't understand and won't use.

---a former AI researcher

Hurry, guys.... (1)

Chapter80 (926879) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613622)

Quick, somebody tag this article "Yes".

Re:Hurry, guys.... (1)

berbo (671598) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613860)

And then somebody else tag it 'No' as well.

Re:Hurry, guys.... (1)

MORB (793798) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613926)

I always wanted to add a maybe tag when it happens.

But really, I love the humor in the slashdot tags: "The Need For A Tagging Standard", tagged with: tag, tagging, and tags.

The "fuckoff" tag on "Is A Bad Attitude Damaging The IT Profession?" was pretty good, too.

Meta keywords (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17613630)

I think this 'standard' already exists...

Argh (3, Funny)

eMbry00s (952989) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613636)

I think by "blogosphere", you really mean "internet".

Oh yes, Brain. (2, Insightful)

neimon (713907) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613646)

Let's create a committee to discuss the standard, and send out several RFCs, then split off into an angry sub-contingent that insists tags be open-source and then Sun decides to embrace tags, but screws it up, and Microsoft buys its way into tags and engineers a perfect way to pwn your machine through the tag "1337."

Don't forget to make it structured, with methods and types and blah blah blah.

It's just words, fer chrissakes. When you can tell me the difference between "its" and "it's" then you can talk about standards for words. Until then, PLEASE let's not have another standards war over something trivial that is supposed to save the world but will only serve to confuse everyone, all over again.

I believe what the article really meant was... (1)

ErGalvao (843384) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613656)

something like:
  • When your tag contains more than one word, separate them with an underscore, rather than a hyphen or a space
for an example. Of course it would be foolish to standardize which tags are "valid" or not, since this would destroy the whole concept of tagging. For that kind of purpose we have directories, like Yahoo! [] or DMOZ [] .

RSS is the answer (1)

Paulrothrock (685079) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613682)

RSS readers are ubiquitous. Generating custom RSS feeds from content is trivial on the server side. Building an RSS reader to pull tag information from another site into tagging software is trivial. The only thing that people need to do is to build it into their tagging engines so that their customers can easily find related information. The last thing I want to do, however, is to have things "suggested" to me. Why should and Technorati automatically be integrated? Leave that to the user.

Translation (1)

Alec Eiffel Jr (779121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613690)

One big problem is that you need to provide translations for all these tags in a large range of language...

there is a standard (4, Interesting)

Yonder Way (603108) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613718)

There is a standard but nobody uses it these days. Even the search engines disavow it anymore.

<META name="keywords" content="foo, bar, baz"/>

Better hurry... (3, Insightful)

supabeast! (84658) | more than 7 years ago | (#17613792)

If someone gets started on a tagging standard right now, it might see a little use before the whole silly idea goes out of style next year.

standard tagging API (1)

jefp (90879) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614010)

I don't care so much about the actual tags themselves. Letting people tag however they like is the whole point, isn't it?

But I would like to see a single standard API for adding tags and searching for tags. The exact same code should be able to connect to every tag-enabled site. A nice simple REST thing, an HTTP GET to send a query and an XML fragment as result.

I figure there would be two types of query:

1) Send an object identifier (URL, photo id, whatever) and get back a list of tags.

2) Send a tag or list of tags, possibly wildcarded, and get back a list of object identifiers.

Different strokes for different sites (1)

shawnmchorse (442605) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614058)

I'm a big fan of tags. I just recently got finished with a redesign of a personal web site at [] , and it uses tags heavily now. All of the content including photos, MP3s, videos, song lyrics, external links, documents, albums, individual tracks, and so on uses the same set of tags (which I applied). I can then use those tags to tie everything on the site together. Examples: Richard O'Brien [] , Little Nell [] , Rocky Horror Show [] . Since I did all the tagging, it's consistent across all the content as well.

That's a case I think where a tagging "standard" would not be at all useful, since making it non-standard is the primary reason it works well I think. Slashdot and other sites that use user-generated tags will always see a lot of humorous, insulting, and otherwise unuseful tags. I know I've seen photos of girls tagged "butter face", and Slashdot obviously has its own cults of "itsatrap", "slownewsday", and so on. Some that are specific to Slashdot ("slashvertisement") are quite useful though.

Standard What? (1)

Baavgai (598847) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614098)

Two issues here.

One is the "standard" of representation. Tags are not like a contact lists or meta data laden resource indexes. They're just words, an array of strings. If your favorite language can figure out how to go from, say, "tag1, tag2" to "array('tag1','tag2')" you have bigger problems than standards.

The other issue is defining a universal, standard, taxonomy. From Dewey to RDF, we're no closer now than we ever were. You're asking people to all come to an agreement as to how they view the world. Good luck with that.

Um wait... (1)

gillbates (106458) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614102)

You mean XML doesn't solve this problem? Blasphemy!

Confused - where's the problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17614122)

Is the author talking about an interoperable API or application specific tagging implementations? For our app, we limit a single alphanumeric tag to be listed via the web front end because we store the tags char delimited in a db field. If the guy is talking about a web API then I'd suggest something with ATOM/Microformats and we'd oblige with a parallel dataset. user-classified content flies in the face of established hierarchical information architecture, if someones going to start applying rules they need to make sure they don't kill the goose!

Tagging itself is something of a none issue for us, marking up a cloud is a major problem. What do you guys think of using h1 through h6 to mark up a tag cloud? Currently we use spans with CSS font-size decs but it's not possible to convey weighting information for the cloud in an accessible way. The options are to abuse the header element or offer an alternate ordered list.

They're not that useful anyway (3, Insightful)

AdamHaun (43173) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614312)

The only tags I like are my own. The real use of other people's tags is to show how they organize information, not to help me find something. The problems the article brings up are only the beginning -- the natural tendency of a global tagging system is for the number of tags applied to an object to increase without bound. If I'm doing a master's thesis on, say, web design, I might tag any number of sites "thesis". Is that useful to anyone else? Probably not. But it will interfere with someone who's searching for sites about writing theses.

Or be like a normal person... (0, Redundant)

Cylix (55374) | more than 7 years ago | (#17614344)

Tagging? Who cares? Gimme my pr0n....

Seriously, I don't tag, I don't care and I don't want to care.

I'm not going to change anytime soon and I bet there are a lot more of me then you.

This is one of the few days where I can tell I look like a troll, but this is exactly how I feel about the subject. I guess I'm an angry person.
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