Thursday, April 17, 2008

Searching, a skill?

I told my girlfriend in a joking manner that I was better at "Googling." I'm not really, but I think I'm more likely to use Google than she is (actually, she is a Yahoo! person... we are so different). She's also more likely to ask someone else, but I'm lazy and if it involves me leaving my desk, I'd rather go another route. Anyway, she said that "Googling" was hardly a skill. To prove her wrong (for once), I found a few websites that discuss search strategies and found one that describes the weakness of tags. The reality is that tags only provide some information because there is a structure to it. That is; tags are not completely miscellaneous because tags are ultimately categorical (sorry, Mr. Weinberger).

Using "wisdom of the crowds" to find information still requires effort on the user to learn how the population generally tags items. For example, users of know that there are many tags that are generally too vague to be of value, like "rock" and "pop." More importantly, there is an entire language of tags. True, new tags can always be created, but in order
to be useful, tags need to be used by the crowds. The most successful tags are one that have a standard definition and are discriminatory. For example, if I wanted to find my sister's favorite band, I can type "female vocalist" and "goth", which brings me to Evanescence and similar bands. However, if I were to choose two other tags on Evanescence's page I'm not going to get the same result, even if I take the most popular ones ("rock" and "female vocalist"). I think Mr. Weinberger's real focus was not just on the miscellany of the internet, but rather the personalization which can be derived from miscellany. Rather than pre-structure, adaptive-structure strategies are needed for information content.

No comments: