Tagging people

Boundary studies are nice for figuring out where something doesn't work and why it doesn't work. I've been thinking about where tagging and folksonomies break down for my FIS paper. Some of the cases I've been looking at involve web services where you tag people.

Tagalag is a no-frills system for tagging people. It doesn't really offer anything in the way of immediate personal incentive. In fact, the only thing you can do with it aside from tagging people (e-mail address required) is put your XML feeds together in an OPML list for easy aggregation. Very bare, and very few users.

43people allows users to track whom they've met and whom they want to meet. Popular tags include occupation, gender, nationality, and location. Tags are also used to describe characteristics such as "funny", "glasses", and "brilliant". This shows tagging as a clear faceted classification. "Find people also tagged with..." makes it easier for people to search for interesting combinations, and you can narrow the search to the current city. Usual problems with keywords: "smart" vs "intelligent", etc. Particular problem: funny vs hilarious, relativity.

Consumating is the weirdest. It's a dating site with a much broader audience than the other two sites, and you can tell that from the tags. The most popular tags follow the tag profile of 43people, but the recent tags look like one-off tags used for communication. That said, Consumating makes good use of tags in conjunction with polls, prompting people to keep refining their profile every week.

So: tagging other people is still a bit weird, but shows a bit of the folksonomic piles-of-leaves flattened faceted classification. Tagging one's self, on the other hand, is more of self-expression, ad guiding it with questions is pretty effective.

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