Home » Archive » Wheelbarrow: Metatags

, written by Jeremy. Read the commentary.

What’s with the wheelbarrow? This is a placeholder where I want to begin to use and understand the humanity of tags.

More here.

Metatags: first derivative of thought.

Metatags are key to meta-knowledge

Clay Shirky: “Taggers are good at characterizing material in ways that search engines are incapable of, and tags are thus good for letting you find material whose characterization does not appear in the text itself.”

Remeaning the world: the fundamental drive of modern humanity.

Are metatags culture?

Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn: “Culture is a product; is historical; includes ideas, patterns and values; is selective; is learned; is based upon symbols; and is an abstraction from behavior and the products of behavior.”

Are metatags a world view?

Ludwig Von Mises, Human Action: A world view is a theory (interpretation of all things) and a technology (precept for action). This includes metaphysics, religion and philosophy.

“Human thoughts and ideas are not the achievement of isolated individuals. Thinking succeeds only through the cooperation of thinkers. No individual could make headway if he must start from the beginning. Older generations have formed the tools, concepts and terms, and have raised the problems.”

“Action is always directed by ideas; it realizes what previous thinking has designed.”

Promise of metatags

Liz Lawley on Many-to-Many writes:

“I understand completely the value of controlled vocabularies and taxonomies. I don’t want to have to look in six different places for information on a given topic—I want some level of confidence that the things I want are grouped together. On the other hand, I don’t share the optimism that so many of my colleagues in this field seem to have that the collective “wisdom of crowds” will always yield accurate and useful descriptors. Describing things well is hard, and often context-specific.”

There’s a nearly universal hope that someday, somehow we will discover some fall-over, easy way to do difficult things. Fortunately for those practioners of perfection – beautiful, brilliance, and clarity remain hard work.

Metatags tell you who you are

Jeremy Wagstaff has a summary on folksonomies.

Citing Wired’s Folksonomies Tap People Power:

“The job of tags isn’t to organize all the world’s information into tidy categories,” said Stewart Butterfield, one of Flickr’s co-founders. “It’s to add value to the giant piles of data that are already out there.”

The article describes the website of contemporary design magazine Moco Loco, to which 166 Delicious users had applied the tag “design.”

“But 44 users had also assigned the URL the tag “architecture,” 28 “art,” 15 “furniture” and so on. That means that because so many people applied so many different tags to Moco Loco’s site, it could be located in a number of different ways.”

One of the great values of getting your company into the community of taggers is the wealth of information the tags provide about your company.

Rules for priceless metatags

From Clay on Many-to-many:

“I think cheap metadata has (at least) these characteristics:

1. It’s made by someone else
2. Its creation requires very few learned rules
3. It’s produced out of self-interest (Corrolary: it is guilt-free)
4. Its value grows with aggregation
5. It does not break when there is incomplete or degenerate data

“And this is what’s special about tagging. Lots of people tag links on del.icio.us, so I gets lots of other people’s metadata for free. There is no long list of rules for tagging things ‘well,’ so there are few deflecting effects from transaction cost. People tag things for themselves, so there are no motivation issues. The more tags the better, because with more tags, I can better see both communal judgement and the full range of opinion. And no one cares, for example, that when I tag things ‘loc’ I mean the Library of Congress — the system doesn’t break with tags that are opaque to other users.”


I am talking about supertagging (and subtagging) as evolving voluntary conventions, protocols and good
manners (many of which can be automated). The name of the game is putting like with like in date order.
The beauty of multifaceted classification systems is that you can cut the information from multiple
view points according to (common?)purposes which gives bloggers etc. a new capability — multifaceted
questioning. The top facets that I cut out of the Top Technorati 250 already give bloggers access to
useful choices they did not have before, as you shall see next week, if you subscribe. The tool would
become more useful if we could work our way down through more Technorati tags.

I think at this point we are not trying to get taggers to change their behaviour, just to add value to their questioning and collaboration experience.

I think our purposes are potentially in harmony. I wonder whether we could begin to set up a common
consciously multi-faceted tagging space, for example. Certainly, exchanging links would be useful. I
will put you on my links list, along with the Living taxonomy project. As a blog beginner, it is a
challenge to become known, isn’t it?
tagging space


Not sure I caught the drift of what you’re on about here. What’s happening next week (if I subscribe)?

A quick gander at your blog suggests you’ve got a lot of experience in this stuff. Fun to see that you were a diplomat for Canada (I just left the Canadian government). And really neat to read you’ve worked with Amidon.

Before I throw you up on my blogroll, I’d like to read a bit more of your work. You’re right, starting out is tough sledding — but I keep my references for blogs I know well and read regularly.

But, all that said, I’d love to connect with you on this stuff though you’re likely to find me so spectacularly ill-informed the conversation will be a one-way flow.