Events the past days has got me thinking about the power of social tagging and its connection to findability. Thoughts that commend me to writing my most personal (and perhaps off topic) post yet on this blog. (All thoughts expressed in this post are my own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my employer.)
Rumors about the shut down of Delicious have been circling the web. Even though it is still unconfirmed from Yahoo, my Twitter feed has been filled with comments about how to save your bookmarks, export bookmarks to other services, petitions to Yahoo about saving Delicious or making it open source.
Traditionally when talking about user tagging of content the topic is re-finding things. Users tag information on the web or an intranet in order to be able to find their way back to them. However most of the comments that I’ve seen about Delicious being shut down has nothing to do with this. As I see it, users don’t claim to be missing the bookmarks themselves, but the social network, research, collaboration and search capabilities that came with the bookmarking service. Delicious seems to have emerged from a service that helps you bookmark your things for re-finding them to a service that helps you find new things based on the tagging of others. Tagging, or social bookmarking may very well have started as a way of re-finding your information but has grown into a new way of discovering information, in parallel to search. (Maybe that is an explanation to the tweets wishing for Google to buy delicious from Yahoo?)
So, tagging can not only help you re-find your own stuff but also explore new things and spread information. One good example of this is what is currently going on in the swedish Twitterverse. It all started with one journalist’s discussion with her friends about the disbelief towards the women accusing Julian Assange of sexual assault. It quickly turned into so much more; a profound discussion about the fine lines of sexuality, what is OK, what we want and like and how to say no. Using the hash tag #prataomdet swedish twitter users are writing about and discussing their experiences in an effort to change the cultural climate so that people talk about it, start communicating with each other about sexuality. You can easily follow all the tweets real time and read blog posts on the topic at prataomdet.se. Many of the major news sites have now started reporting on this as well after the massive activity on twitter. (For non-swedish speaking readers an effort has also been made to start discussions in English as well at #talkaboutit on twitter.)
The feed in itself is thought provoking and can easily keep you busy for hours. Besides the content and openness of the discussions I find something else amazing. In a matter of hours this one tag joined together users, many of whom have never interacted with each other before, helping them share and find new information about something that was unspoken of earlier. Combining the power of social networks and tagging made this possible.
I usually write very different sorts of blog posts at this blog. This one time I just wanted to revel over the amazing possibilities for interaction that technology offers us today. Then maybe the next step is to think about how to tap into this power of interaction and how findability within the enterprise can benefit from this as well. In the mean time I recommend reading about What social networks reveal about interaction or how Västra Götalands Region are currently working on incorporating user tagging into their metadata.