In my del.icio.us account I have a tag for "public relations," one for "public_relations" and another one for "pr." The problem is, I mean all of these to be the same tag – but right now they are separate. Now extend this phenomenon across millions of other tagged links and you will get a sense of the central problem facing tagging today. The "experimental" ability to create tag bundles on del.icio.us helps with this, but it is still only the equivalent of a folder within my tags, and not a shareable feature that can address this problem on a more widespread level across del.icio.us. The end result is that the only option for most users is to use every possible version of a tag to make sure it gets listed. The impracticality of this leads to missed tags, hidden content, and user frustration or confusion.
This is not a problem that only faces tagging sites like del.icio.us. Anyone who has tried to do a search on Google Trends, or used the Blog Finder feature on Technorati will also be familiar with this problem. Ultimately, there are multiple versions of the same word or concept that people may use online to search for information. Using the example of Wikipedia as the model, it would be great to see Yahoo and del.icio.us create a TagWiki designed to hold data that could be used by any site from del.icio.us to Google to pull data on related keywords to augment search and tagging online. For each keyword entered into the TagWiki, I imagine the following pieces of content:
- List of person first added and list of editors
- Popularity score (based on number of posts using it on del.icio.us)
- Plural and gerund versions
- Versions in other languages
- Common acronyms or abbreviations
- Related tags often used in conjunction
- Index of popularity of versions (from most popular to least)
This concept would rely on close integration with del.icio.us to pull some of the popularity information, but could be a highly useful site online to determine which tags to use for content, as well as aggregate related tags for user searches. Their current tag bundles may provide the initial data to jumpstart this TagWiki (assuming they can get users’ permission to use them). Once the TagWiki holds the raw data on related searches, it could be used to add a "smart tag" feature to del.icio.us as something for both browsing and adding tags. Ultimately, it is this dictionary/thesaurus functionality that will help tagging make the next leap of usefulness. If del.icio.us can help the online world make this leap, it could mount a serious challenge to algorithmic search. Maybe del.icio.us could even become more popular than Google.