Guten tag

As the countdown to the website launch begins, I don’t expect to be getting much opportunity to blog over the next few days.

Yesterday was spent tagging up some of the stories that have been imported over from the old CMS. It’s a funny job – my instinct is to just tag everything and anything that is mentioned in the story. But, when you remember that these will appear in the “related stories” box on the page, you have to be a bit more tactical with your tags.

Steve (our multimedia editor) and I have been building up a few internal rules as we go along. As, when the website launches, journalists or sub-editors will tag the story, I imagine we’ll develop a stronger set of tagging conventions. Apprently this, according to people wiser than I, is called a folksonomy. But, of course, it’s a folksonomy that will be created only by the content creators, rather than the users.

I am curious to know if this will effect the way things are tagged and, if it does, whether that is a bad thing or not? Should there be a way for readers to submit tags? Would they even want to? And, if they do, how would you stop that creating a tag cloud as large as the moon?

This ties in to a conversation Marc (my editor) and I were having the other day about the transparent newsroom. He’s written about it on his blog. I have been really taken with what the Spokesman Review is doing in the US (see right hand column on their homepage). They have been experimenting with a variety of different techniques to open up the process of newsgathering and writing, with varying degrees of success. [found via the World Editors' Forum weblog]

I love the idea that I am not only directly answerable to the people who sign my pay check, but also to the people I purport to be writing for and, if we would make any of the things the Spokesman Review is doing work on our paper, I’d love to try them.

But, as with the tags, would anyone really be interested in taking part? If so, how?

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5 Responses to “Guten tag”


  1. 1 frankschulteladbeck February 24, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    Firstly clever title! I thought that I might be reading some German, and that is why I dropped in, but your subject happens to be something that I was considering this past week.

    As a reader, I have other means of keeping track of blogs, news articles, or other items that I am tracking on the net, so the concept of allowing me to submit a tag does not seem something that I would do.

    As an author of a couple of blogs, I was looking at my billowing tag cloud when I considered the point of what I am trying to accomplish: have clients find me; have them read my modest writings; then have them consider using my services. To that end, I thought that I should limit my tag cloud, refine it if you will, to ensure that my possible clients would encounter me easily. I was also considering that I should put the same import on the tags as I do on keywords, so I have been analyzing how people search, and which phrases they are using to find me. Those insights are now leading me to create a better tag cloud.

    Maybe this rambling will give you some ideas. Have a good week.

  2. 2 Jon Bounds February 24, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    I think that artificially restricting what you tag, or the number of tags, make it a bit less of a folksonomy and more of a system of catergories.

    Yes there needs to be a different algorithms and display systems affecting how the tags are used (restricting tag clouds to 50 tags for example, or ‘related stories’ having to have two tags in common at least), but I don’ think that should stop things being as tagged as possible.

    It’s also worthwhile (I think) to let readers/users tag – I’ve been experimenting with this on BiNS using a WordPress plugin called Tag This. Obviously it needs to have spam filters, and a tag is only applied (my setting) if two users tag the same word – but it’s a great way of democratising navigation (if it works!).

  3. 3 mark February 24, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    I think your readers should be able to tag the stories. There are a number of reasons for this;
    * Your reporters have already decided what the story is about – they wrote it. So the tags they use will (consciously or unconsciously) reinforce their take. The idea of tagging (on of them anyway) is to allow for *alternative* takes on a story to be (re)presented.

    * User tagging is a part of the conversation – you allow them a voice.

    * People are organizing machines. But as we are not alike we need alternative organizational streams. An article your reporter may think is a business story may be seen by me as an education story and by someone else as a corruption story.

    * Following on from this, the users will start to form ad-hoc search patterns based on other users tags. I will be able to see that there are others who think like me (we tag a story the same way) and I can use them as trusted agents to find interesting stories I may have missed.

    * That could then be used by you to allow for communities to be built on your space by taggers with the same way of thinking and possible be a reverse publishing possibility.

    As to whether or not the public would be interested – well , surely thats not your call? If the are they are, if not, not. We need to give them the *opportunity* to do things, not second guess them.

  4. 4 Pete Ashton February 24, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    @Mark, I can’t imagine any circumstance where I’d be bothered to tag a newspaper article. Putting in bluntly, why should I?

    I’ll tag my photos on Flickr so I can create ad-hoc sets of them and find them again.

    I’ll tag bookmarks on delicious for the same reasons.

    For both I feel like I’m very loosely part of a community by by tagging my content I’m helping others.

    Crowdsourcing exercises like the Library of Congress Flickr program work because there’s a shared sense of heritage. I don’t think that applies to the archives of a newspaper.

    Now, if you tracked which of your articles have been bookmarked and sucked the tags out of delicious, etc then that’d be interested. You’d have to have content worth bookmarking first though.

    Oh, and like Jon I don’t think what Jo’s been doing is folksonomy. This is using the tagging system to categorise, effectively letting you create new categories on the fly. A folksonomy, as I understand it, takes lots of individuals different systems of categorisation and looks for patterns that emerge. It’s more about serendipity and order through chaos than comprehensive archiving. And while both are valid and interesting there aren’t any shortcuts to the latter.

  5. 5 stpatricksfestival February 25, 2008 at 7:58 am

    I’m with Pete. What you’re doing is Taxonomy, and you should be able to draw up a structure of parent and child tags in your CMS.

    We did this on the Audiences Central site – http://www.audiencescentral.co.uk
    and the result was that documents can be connected to eachother in search, listing and in various other ways.

    I don’t think anyone will spend the time organising your content for you – but I might share stuff on my Google Reader (most likely) and I might add a really interesting post to Delicious (not that likely). More likely still is a blog post with an inline link. But no meta-data anywhere in there, sorry!


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