A glossary of terms related to social tagging

There are many terms related to –and many times created because of– the social tagging phenomenon. The following is a list of terms that are relevant to social tagging. This list may become larger throughout time. I’ll try to add new terms to it, but I’ll also appreciate your contribution to expand it. Feel free to contact me or leave a comment in this blog post for any proposal you have.

These are the terms I have collected so far:

Tagging & Social Tagging

Tagging: Tagging is an open way to assign tags or keywords to resources or items (e.g., web pages, movies or books), in order to describe them. This enables the later retrieval of the resources in an easier way, using tags as resource metadata. As opposed to a classical taxonomy-based categorization system, they are usually non-hierarchical, and the vocabulary is open, so it tends to grow indefinitely. For instance, a user could tag this blog as social-tagging, research and blog, whereas another user could use web2.0, social-bookmarking and tagging tags to annotate it.

Social tagging: A tagging system becomes social when its tag annotations are publicly visible, and so profitable for anyone. The fact of a tagging system being social implies that a user could take advantage of tags defined by others to retrieve a resource.

Tag cloud: In order to enable visual browsing, social tagging tools typically provide an interface model known as tag cloud. When users access the information in these structures, it is presented in the form of a cloud consisting of the most popular tags, where the larger is the font size of a tag, the more popular it is on the site. Typical tag clouds have between 50 and 200 tags, and tag weights are represented using font sizes or other visual clues. In addition, tags can be sorted in alphabetical, size-based or random order, and users can usually customize clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. These structures are particularly useful for browsing or information discovery, because they provide a visual summary of the content in the collection. More information on Wikipedia: Tag cloud.

Social Bookmarking & Social Cataloging

Social bookmarking: Delicious, StumbleUpon and Diigo, amongst others, are known as social bookmarking sites. They provide a social means to save web pages (or other online resources like images or videos) as bookmarks, in order to retrieve them later on. In contrast to saving bookmarks in user’s local browser, posting them to social bookmarking sites allows the community to discover others’ links and, besides, to access the bookmarks from any computer to the user itself. In these systems, bookmarks represent references to web resources, and do not attach a copy of them, but just a link. Note that social bookmarking sites do not always rely on social tags to organize resources, e.g., Reddit is a social bookmarking approach to add comments on web pages instead of tags. The use of social tags in social bookmarking systems is a common approach, though. For more information, see: Social bookmarking and List of social bookmarking sites on Wikipedia.

Social cataloging: They are quite similar to social bookmarking sites in that resources are socially shared but, in this case, offline resources like music, books or movies are saved. For instance, LibraryThing allows to save the books you like, Hulu does it for movies and TV series, and Last.fm for music-related resources. As in social bookmarking sites, tags are the most common way to annotate resources in social cataloging sites.

Folksonomy & Personomy

Folksonomy: As a result of a community tagging resources, the collection of tags defined by them creates a tag-based organization, so-called folksonomy. A folksonomy is also known as a community-based taxonomy, where the classification scheme is plain, there are no predefined tags, and therefore users can freely choose new words as tags. A folksonomy is basically known as weighted set of tags, and may refer to a whole collection/site, a resource or a user. A summary of a folksonomy is usually presented in the form of a tag cloud.

Personomy: Personomy is a neologism created from the term folksonomy, and it refers to the weighted set of tags of a single user/person. It summarizes the topics a user tags about.

Simple Tagging & Collaborative Tagging

To the best of my knowledge, these two terms were first coined by Gene Smith, in the book Tagging: People-Powered Metadata for the Social Web. Previously, Thomas Vander Wal referred to them as Narrow Folksonomy and Broad Folksonomy.

Simple tagging: users describe their own resources or items, such as photos on Flickr, news on Digg or videos on Youtube, but nobody else tags another user’s resources. Usually, the author of the resource is who tags it. This means no more than one user tags an item. In many cases, like in Flickr and Youtube, simple tagging systems include an attachment to the resource, and not just a reference to it.

Collaborative tagging: many users tag the same item, and every person can tag it with their own tags in their own vocabulary. The collection of tags assigned by a single user creates a smaller folksonomy, also known as personomy. As a result, several users tend to post the same item. For instance, CiteULike, LibraryThing and Delicious are based on collaborative tagging, where each resource (papers, books and URLs, respectively) could be tagged (therefore annotated) by all the users who considered it interesting.

For more information on simple and collaborative tagging, see my previous post: What are social tags?

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Category: social-bookmarking, social-tagging, tagging

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- April 25, 2010

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