The parts of tagging
I like to think that tagging is straightforward. It may seem like a strange way to organize and find information at first, but once you get used to it the whole process is not that complicated.
However, even when a subject is not particularly complicated, it can still be difficult to talk about. I have found in my journey through life (and academia, which are not one and the same no matter what they tell you) that one of the most important parts of any discussion of a topic is solid definitions. As a result, I am going to try to break down using tags into simple definitions over the course of several articles. This article is the first, and defines the three actions that you will perform when working with tags:
Tagging: the act of attaching a tag to something. This is probably what you think of first when you think of tags. Tagging also refers to maintenance of your pool of tags; removing tags, renaming tags, organizing tags, adding new tags, etc. Tagging is the creative portion of using tags, because you have to think up which tags to use (also when you are thinking of using the SLS system or not).
Searching: the act of using tags to find specific targeted items. You could also call this “filtering” if you wanted. Searching is what you do when you know what you are trying to find, and you use tags to locate it. An example would be if I wanted to find that picture of my friend Suzy that I took in New York, and searched for items with the tags “suzy” and “new york”. Searching also covers using saved searches to sort and locate items.
Browsing: the act of using tags to find related items. Unlike searching, browsing doesn’t target any specific item or subset of items. Instead, when you browse tags you are usually looking for related items. For example, I might browse my “suzy” tag to see all pictures of Suzy. Closer to home, the tags attached to each article on Tagamac are best suited for browsing because while they do not supplement the search system (and are thus not very useful for locating specific articles), they do make it easy to find articles that are related.