Musings on tagging

My introduction to Flickr, combined with Nick‘s comments on tags and Technorati’s addition of searchable tags, have really got my brain moving.

(For the novice, tagging is the practice of assigning identifying keywords or ‘tags’ to a document stored online. Pictures on Flickr, links on Del.icio.us, blog posts on Technorati, etc. Even my ‘category’ assignments for each post could be considered tags. Metadata use in tag form makes searching for documents much more practical.)

My first thought was a knee-jerk reaction: metadata in this form would be much more useful using a standardized vocabulary. Something more along the lines of the Library of Congress Subject Headings, for example. Wouldn’t you rather know that searching for ‘China’ returned everything relevant, and you didn’t miss out on results tagged with ‘Chinese’ or something similar?

But then I got to thinking: The amount of human effort required to make such a standardized vocabulary useful would be staggering. Using an interface like Google Suggest might help in implementation, but wouldn’t solve the issue of creating a definitive tag list in the first place.

So let the creators of content do their own tagging. Yes it’s freeform, but it’s better than nothing. It’ll take time to develop, but perhaps harnessing the power of a group in this manner is the solution. And isn’t a librarian’s job to sort through information and organize it into a useful form? Doing that with tags is no different than other sources.

In the end, the idea of tagging documents has re-introduced the concept of metadata to a wide audience. And that can’t be bad for organizing the web.

Later today when I’ve got a bit more free time I’ll look into adding technorati tags to my own posts.

Your attention please

Now that my computer has (finally) settled down, I’m launching my aforementioned Big Photo Project:

“2005: A Year (almost) In Pictures”

Catchy and original, no?

I’ve signed up for an account at Flickr, a neato photo uploading and sharing service along similar lines to what del.icio.us does for bookmarks. My plan is to take a picture a day for the rest of the year and post them all to my Flickr account. If I was smart I would have started this on the 1st and gone through December 31st, but I’m not. 🙂 So thus the (almost). Plus I can almost guarantee I’ll let a day slip here and there.

I won’t promise that every picture will be notable or interesting or anything of the type. Today’s view of the street is a good example of that fact. I just think it’ll be interesting to see the results come next January.

Once I have a few more pictures up there, I’ll try integrating their neato Zeitgeist feature into the sidebar here.

This is a rare cause where I wish I had a camera phone. It would make snapping a picture each day much easier, instead of having to make the effort and remember to bring my camera with me. Who knows, maybe by year’s end I’ll have one…

This is about as artistic as I get, so enjoy it while it lasts.

Intercrack

The Post-Gazette has an article today about how the internet can be addicting. While their evidence is largely anecdotal, the lifestyle changes we’re seeing thanks to the online world are really mind-boggling when you think about them.

Sound schmound

My laptop randomly decided it didn’t want to play sound anymore tonight, and that Norton would not work anymore. I fiddled with it for a few hours just now, restarted a few times, all to no avail. Couldn’t even remove Norton. Then in despiration I restarted once more while I dug out the XP cd, ready to reinstall XP. Of course, this time it booted up just fine and dandy.

So much for sleep at a reasonable hour…

As a result I didn’t get to start on the photo project today unfortunately. Coming soon though, I swear.

Speaking of iPods…

Figure I should comment on this “iPod shuffle” that’s exploding on the scene.

I’ll admit, when I first heard the words “$99 iPod” I was tempted. But the lack of a screen really hurts it in my opinion. With no way to pick my song other than rote memorization of track order, well it’s just not gonna work for me. My Muvo TX is about the same physical size, and manages to fit in a small screen. And it only cost me about $90.

Admittedly, the Muvo only has 256mb, compared to the 512 that the $99 version of the iPod shuffle offers. But I can’t help but think if Apple really wanted to include a screen they could have, without bumping the price up too much. Screens have been a pretty standard feature on players for years now; removing it seems like a step backwards, especially for an mp3 player giant like Apple.

Also the marketing on the shuffle really makes me laugh. They’re trying to turn the lack of a screen into a feature somehow. From the official site:

“The trail you run every day looks different with an iPod shuffle. Daily gridlock feels less mundane when you don’t know what song will play next.”

I do love the warning at the bottom of the page: “Do not eat iPod shuffle.”

Techbrarians

Tame the Web has a great article up, summarizing 12 tech-related issues and practices librarians should be on top of. I’m to to speed on most of them, and I find the idea of iPods in libraries particularly intriguing.

A few years back the library I worked at experimented with offering audiobooks on 64mb Rio 500s. It didn’t really catch on and the Rios were tossed in the bargain bin at the annual book sale (and thus one became my first mp3 player). I tried out the audiobook service the library offered on them, and the sound quality was the real issue for me. I don’t know what bitrate was used, but it was artifacting all over the place. With an iPod though… the extra storage space really opens up doors for such a loaning program to be successful (including a car adapter would probably help as well). The only stumbling block might be what to do when a patron breaks an iPod accidentally… replacement charges would be rather high.

I also love the idea of libraries creating custom browser toolbars. I wonder how hard that is to do, cause I’m tempted… Or even to figure out how to add a library system’s catalog to Firefox’s plugin type search engines. Hmm, thinking to do!