Tag cloud and tagging?

The most frequently asked question about the Sacramento Press at this point is, what is that tag cloud and what are tags? Great questions. I’ll start with a definition and then give a few basic examples. Practical E-commerce has a really great definition of tagging:

 

"In general tagging can be defined as the practice of creating and managing labels (or “tags”) that categorize content using simple keywords."

 

So then tags are like categories. The problem with categories is that often things are given a single category, whereas anything almost always can fit into many categories.

 

Which brings us to the first concrete example of tagging, this article. If you were asked what this article was about how would you answer? You might say it’s about tagging. You might say it’s about help, frequently asked questions or tag clouds. All of those phrases I have added as tags for this article.

 

But what if that’s not how you would remember what this article is about? What if you think this whole subject of tagging is really just some crazy internet phenomenon. Then you could always tag it as, internet, some crazy internet phenomenon or anything else that would be easy for you to remember.

 

Jennifer Kyrnin has a great explanation of this on her article titled, "Tagging: What is Tagging and Why Should We Do It?"

 

The great thing is that other people benefit from how you tag things. If you tag an article as being about crime now anyone who goes to our website will be able to see that article on the crime page.

 

We are not telling people what a specific article is about, we are letting the community define what something is about. 

 

If this still isn’t clear to you, or you have other questions about tagging, please post your comments in the conversation below. For now, let’s move on to tag clouds.

 

When you look at an encyclopedia, whether online or in book form, you generally browse by letter, right? The letters are a way to browse for a topic and let you quickly locate the piece of knowledge you are after. Similarly, a tag cloud helps you quickly browse for a tag you might be interested in.

 

By default the tag cloud is simply a list of the more popular tags arranged alphabetically. Of course the difference here is that they are also different sizes and colors. This let’s you quickly know what are the most popular tags on the site. if you are logged in, this tag cloud is personalized to you!

 

This means that if you tag lots of stories "sports" then sports may be the most prominent tag in your cloud. Now you have a quick path to finding all the stories on the site tagged with your favorite topics. 

 

That is a quick and simple explanation of tags, tagging and tag clouds. However, I am fond of the expression, "The devil is in the details." And indeed I have omitted many specifics about tagging. But if you want to find out more simply ask in the conversation below this article.

 

I will participate in that conversation and will take all the highlights and address them in my next article about tagging.

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October 19, 2008 | 6:52 AM

Thanks, Geoff. This article helps me with the concept of “tag clouds”, and indeed, when I play more with them, their meaning and function becomes more obvious to me. I think the aspect of “tag clouds” is one of the most valuable aspects of the Press and something that distinguishes it from other news sources. Very creative!

October 19, 2008 | 1:52 PM

Thanks for all your input Fred. I do want to make one thing clear, we did not invent the concept of the tag cloud. What we did do is give it huge prominence on our site which few other sites if any have done.

Additionally we have no distinction between our top level categories and tags. Every category name: sports, crime, help, etc., are all simply tags. As far as I know we are the only ones that do this. By doing so our tags and our tag cloud are even more meaningful.

Article Author
October 19, 2008 | 4:48 PM

Geoff,
Great explanation!

January 4, 2009 | 3:55 PM

Thank you for the information! I am very behind on my computer skills and its fun to learn about a new tool.

February 3, 2010 | 1:13 AM

Geoff, I’m afraid I’m still a little confused about tag cloud and tagging but am sure all of this will become clear in time; I just signed up tonight and like what I see!

February 3, 2010 | 9:02 AM

Well if you’d like Ms. Harris you can drop by our office, meet our staff and get a more in depth understanding of tagging.

We will also put on a free workshop in the near future which will address a lot of these technically challenging features and hopefully you will be able to attend.

Article Author

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