David Weinbergers new book definitely brings out my inner librarian but while I generally have enjoyed it [despite its massively geeky nature] I’m not sure I 100% agree with some of its major points [plus it good be a bit shorter – it kind of runs out of steam]
While I do agree that tagging is a great concept and that there is a genuine need [and demand] to find and use more flexible ways of organising information online – completely user generated tagging only really seems to work if you have an audience large and engaged enough to really add value..it works fine on sites like Flickr and Delicious but there seems to be pretty major diminishing returns when its used on other sites and its a risky navigation strategy on its own certainly..
Increasingly though standard information architecture [which I have spent the best part of ten years studying!] seems limited and restricting and in this Google age people turn more and more to search as their first option ahead of browsing which in some way lessens the experience for the user.
Maybe some kind of tagging is the answer but I think it needs to do more than it currently offers.
JISC is funding a couple of pieces of work in this area including Enhanced Tagging at UKOLN and Rich Tags by mSpace at Southampton Uni, both are seeking to add value to the concept of tagging and sync some of the more Web 2.0 concepts with the idea(l)s of the JISC Information Environment and Repositories.
Its the Rich Tags project that really interests me. I think its an interesting way of adding more value to the idea of tagging and sits somewhere between some kind of traditional cataloger task and the open social tagging of something like Flickr. It is also working on a way of actually implementing the system on third party websites and repositories.
Recent usability work on the JISC website has [not for the first time!] highlighted the need for new routes through the site – based on terminology and topics more familiar to our users than our internal terms [believe it or not we have been really trying to do this for a while now!] and maybe tagging is something that can help with that..we’ll see but I have high hopes that something like the mSpace work will be useful..