Raising Awareness

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What Makes A Good Tag?

There are No 'Wrong' Tags - Are There?

Although from the theoretical viewpoint there are no 'wrong' tags, in practice care needs to be taken when creating tags. So here are a few tips.

Tags are Single Words

Each tag takes the form of a single word. This is fine if the idea you want to convey is easily defined as a single word or doesn't have multiple meanings. If this is not the case, tags can be extended by using a hyphen to link words together and still be treated by software and applications as a single word.

Singular or Plural

There are no rules so you choose whether to use the singular or plural form of a word. However, the choice of 'museum' instead of 'museums' or 'library' instead of 'libraries' by either the person tagging or searching will affect the results of the search. Library catalogue subject headings always use the plural form.

Words with Multiple Meanings

Some words can have multiple meanings, which could be confusing. When using the tag 'violet' do you mean a flower or a colour or a woman? You might need to extend the tag to make the distinction clear:

violet-UML-editor      (a piece of software)
violet-cool-gifts      (an Internet shopping site)
violet-hill-song      (a song and not a geographical feature)
violet-carson      (tv series actress)

Tags for Events and Awards

Web sites that use tags often display the tags visually as a tag cloud. These usually take the form of an alphabetical list of tags and use font size and/or colour to identify the most frequently used tags. This enables viewers to either pick from the alphabetical list or to easily spot the most popular tags.

Tag Cloud Types

If you want to create tags for a series of events or an award, it is advisable to think ahead and devise a consistent set of tags. Start with the name of the event (which might be a well-known acronym) and then extend it using location and/or date.

IFLA-2009	nobel-prize-biology-2000
IFLA-2010	nobel-prize-peace-1999

Note, though, that there are also advantages in having short tags, so sometimes a tag for an event such as IFLA09 may be preferred.

'Meaningless' Tags

Within social networking services, people new to tagging often create tags from a very personal viewpoint. These are often effective within a specific context, but of limited use to someone else searching for information.

An advanced Search on Flickr using the tag 'my-party' turned up 399 hits. And while extending the tag might be expected to reduce the number of photos found, using 'ann-party' actually found 630 hits. Nobody seemed to have extended 'ann-party' with a date, but a search on the tag 'party-2008' found 901 items.

Even for a personal set of photos, using the tag 'party' may well not be enough, if you are a regular party giver or attender. You might need to tag some as '18th-party', 'eurovision-party-2008', 'graduation-party', 'millennium-party' or 'engagement-party'.

Multiple Tags

An advantage of tagging is that any number of tags can be assigned to a resource. Assigning multiple tags to resources may take more time but it does get round some of the problems with tagging. So, if a word could be singular or plural, you could use both terms. Similarly, you could use both formal (or specialist) and informal terms as in 'oncology' and 'cancer'. Multiple tagging also helps when the tagged resource might be searched for via several routes. An image of a dress in a costume collection could be tagged not only with its designer's name, the year, decade or century it was created, its colour, fabric, length and style features (e.g. sleeveless) but also the occasions when it has been worn and by whom.

A Final Tip

It is worth spending some time considering the above points before deciding on your tags. So think carefully before you tag.

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