ALT-C, Crowdvine and (social) tagging
The Crowdvine social network for next week's ALT-C Conference is now available and delegates are signing up apace.
One of the interesting things about Crowdvine is it's use of social tagging (solicited through a conference-specific set of profile questions) to show delegates' various areas of interest, expertise, etc. The idea is to help people get in touch with each other and, like any tagging system, it works as well as the tags it is built on.
For a community like ALT-C, the approach to tagging, and the resulting tags, makes for quite an interesting case study. Here's a couple of examples...
1) '(e-)learning' - As a human reader, I understand where this tag is coming from. It's trying to tell me that the tagger is interested in both learning and e-learning without needing to create two tags. Brilliant... if saving bits was the point of the exercise! :-) Unfortunately, it completely fails as a tag because clicking on it shows that no-one else is using it - everyone else uses one or more of 'learning', 'e-learning' and 'elearning'. Which brings me nicely to my second example...
2) 'elearning' vs. 'e-learning' - Both are in use. Clicking on the tags (at the time of writing) shows 18 people interested in 'e-learning' and 9 people in 'elearning' (there may be some cross-over). I'll go out on a limb and suggest that all these people are actually interested in the same thing! One is therefore tempted to ask why the 9 people chose to use the less popular tag? Actually, I can guess the answer so please don't tell me - whilst I accept that such action is completely understandable, it is also non-optimal.
There are probably other examples.
The point is that social tagging is a social activity, so you have to look at what other people are doing to get the most out of - not just when you first assign your tags, but subsequently as the community grows.
Hyphens may well offend your tagging sensibilities but if that's what most other people are choosing, it pays to go with the crowd.