[OPEN-ILS-GENERAL] Feature inquiry

Karen G. Schneider kgs at esilibrary.com
Wed Oct 8 08:14:16 EDT 2008

Jonathan Rochkind wrote:
> I think the only point at which a user would actually be motivated to 
> tag something is when they are organizing citations for their own use, 
> one way or another. When they are saving a citation to their own 'book 
> bag', or to making a request (saving it to their request list), etc.  
> By and large, people don't tag just for the enjoyment of tagging, or 
> to provide useful query words for others. They tag to achieve some 
> personal goal. "personal value precedes network value”. 
> (http://bokardo.com/archives/the-delicious-lesson/)
This article argues compellingly that in Delicious, tagging is ancillary 
to other activities -- primarily, bookmarking items they want to find 
later. This gets back to the idea of making tagging easy to do, building 
it into logical workflows, and providing incentives. Those incentives 
certainly include findability -- that's why people tag in Delicious -- 
but they also include other personal motivation -- look at the 
reputation system Amazon has built. (Note that reviewing in Amazon works 
far better than its tagging, and it's much better thought-out.)

I see Mark Leggott has another post about bookbags -- people build 
bookbags for a variety of reasons, and if one could add tags -- well, 
that would be delicious (pun intended). For example, I have a Localvore 
bookbag to track books I'm interested in about the local food movement 
(it would be more useful for me if the bookbag had some history and 
allowed me to make personal notes). I wish I could tag it with a slew of 
relevant tags.

>  that motivates tagging, you've got to let the user apply the tags at 
> the moment of personal use. You can't say, oh, you can tag, but only 
> after you've checked out the book.  Nobody's going to go back to the 
> catalog to find a book they already checked out to add a tag. Users 
> find books in the catalog _before_ they've checked them out!

Actually, Jonathan; this is how Netflix works. It's not that its users 
"find" the items they've checked out; it's that Netflix pushes these 
items under their noses the next time they log in and makes it hard NOT 
to rate/rank/review (different from tagging, but still building social 
data). This is also true with Amazon resellers and a few other systems. 
Note that Amazon provides very subtle vetting... I don't know how they 
manage it, but it's obviously reputation-based. Like Wikipedia, the 
heaviest reviewers tend to be self-policing.
> Then once you've got the personal value there, if you want to achieve 
> the network value, that's when aggregating tags accross multiple 
> institutions matters. But if users have got no motivation to tag, no 
> personal value, they aren't going to do it in the first place. In that 
> case, those worried about tags 'polluting' the catalog don't need to, 
> because there aren't going to be any tags there anyway.
> Jonathan

A really interesting question is why we even want people to tag. Tim 
Spalding (I know, a controversial figure to some, but work with me) 
would say it's all about the data. It's not the individual tag -- it's 
the power of tags in the aggregate, and the useful data that builds that 
helps us deliver better services to our users. Again, without scale, 
it's pointless. A system that has a few lonely tags floating around is 
worse than a system without any tagging -- the crank tags and the 
spelling errors would stand out, and there would be a preponderance of 
personal tags to the really useful tags. Scale requires a lot of data -- 
far more than any one library system could provide.

Jonathan, have you looked at Insurge yet? I know you're interested... 
(tempt, tempt...)

| Karen G. Schneider
| Community Librarian
| Equinox Software Inc. "The Evergreen Experts"
| Toll-free: 1.877.Open.ILS (1.877.673.6457) x712
| E-Mail/AIM: kgs at esilibrary.com
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