The Encyclopedia Tagonica
By John Rudy, Cigar Afficionado and Preeminent Expert on All Things Fleece
Kinds of Tags
There are many kinds of tags in this great world. Some are physical, some are metaphoric, and some exist only in the darkest corners of software developers' minds.
Some tags which exist in the physical world:
- Size tags on clothing. These tell you if the shirt you just bought will fit you.
- Present tags. These tell you the person to whom a present under the tree should go.
- License plates on cars are also sometimes known as tags.
Some tags which exist in the metaphoric space:
- There is a children's game called, "tag." I hear it's fun.
- In baseball, a popular play is called a tag, as in to tag a runner out.
- Some people refer to receiving a traffic citation as being "tagged."
But chances are good you might be talking about tags on web sites, wherein we get to the Dark Corners of software developers' minds. Tags are used to organize content on web sites. They allow ad-hoc groupings of possibly-related information, typically generated by an online community. They allow users to then navigate more quickly and efficiently to the content located on the site, and to find potentially "hidden" relationships between said content.
On the Trilogy sites, tagging is used in such a manner. Tagging in this way is also often used in the blogging world (also known as the "blogosphere"), and on other community-content-driven sites such as Flickr.
The typical implementation of tagging in such sites is that a tag must be a single word. If a tag needs to be multiple words, different sites have different rules. Some just don't allow it -- you munge all the words together, for example, "sqlserver2008." Others, like the Trilogy, encourage it, but prefer you to use dashes (
-) between the words, for example, "sql-server-2008."
Issues with Tags
Setting aside the physical and metaphoric tags (which tend to not have too many issues, unless you've already been pulled over a few too many times), we will continue to focus on content organization. There are issues with this approach:
- Users define the tags. As a result, different users will define different tags for the same content. See "winforms" vs "win-forms."
- Some users don't understand tags, and attempt to write a summary of their question in them. This leads to tags such as, "the."
- Some users use tags which have no right to exist at all. Notable examples on the Trilogy include anything that starts with, "belongs-on," as well as the ever-so-popular "plzsendthecodes."
Because tags are user-generated, they are also often user-editable after the fact. This allows good users to clean up the bad users' tags (removing, say, "belongs-on-meta"). Unfortunately, it also allows bad users to add bad tags to others' content.