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Pew Study Shows 28% of People Online have Tagged Content


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January 31, 2007

Pew Study Shows 28% of People Online have Tagged Content

Heather Green

A Pew Internet study out today shows that a pretty impressive number of folks are using tagging, just three years after it became popularized with del.icio.us and Flickr. I remember when I first wrote about tagging nearly two years ago how disruptive and yet foreign the idea seemed.

The main findings of the December survey of 2,400 people:

"28% of internet users have tagged or categorized content online such as photos, news stories or blog posts.

"On a typical day online, 7% of internet users say they tag or categorize online content."

About the same percentage of 18 to 29 year olds (32%) as 30 to 49 year olds (31%) tag.

And about as many women (27%) as men (29%) tag

The Pew study took a different tack from most surveys, including an interview of David Weinberger, a real expert on classification who has a book out shortly, within the study. There is a little on the difference between heirachical classifications, as set out by Dewey, and these folksonomies.

Here's part of the Q&A that I found interesting.

Q: What's the future of tagging?

Weinberger: Because it's useful when there's lots of information and the information is truly meaningful to individuals, it'll be adopted more and more widely. But we're also going to invent new ways to harvest tagging. Flickr, for example, is already able to cluster photographs by subject with impressive accuracy just by analyzing their tags, so that photos of Gerald Ford are separated from photos of Ford Motor cars.

We'll also undoubtedly figure out how to intersect tags with social networks, so that the tags created by people we know and respect have more “weight” when we search for tagged items. In fact, by analyzing how various social groups use tags, we can do better at understanding how seemingly different worldviews map to one another.

11:25 AM

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TaggingHeather Green at Business Week reports on the Pew Internet research study about the prevalence of tagging among Internet users. From Flickr, to social bookmarking to blogs people are increasingly tagging or categorizing content with 28% of Inter... [Read More]

Tracked on February 6, 2007 10:02 AM

I have never derived any value whatsoever from tags. When I click on one, I get nothing but useless junk.

I do tag my videos at YouTube, as "vaspers" and "compumusik", because their tag system works when the tag is the uploader name, or musician/band name, but not very good when the tag is a conceptual category.

Posted by: vaspers the grate at January 31, 2007 04:23 PM

I wonder how many people actually tag other people's content. I tag only mine, usually for indexing it. I am not sure how collaborative this practice really is...

Posted by: CH at February 1, 2007 10:46 AM

Vaspers, you do realize that you just described a benefit that you derive from tags....

That said, tagging is over-hyped, and that's why it's going to be judged as a failure. People expect too much of it. It's good for what it's good for: Ad hoc classification, reflecting the zeitgeist.

But tagging has the potential to result in a very muddy pond. If one relies on tagging, one _needs_ tools to do things like "cluster the tags" or filter them for significance -- to subvert the concept, as it were.

Tagging fails in another way: It caters to the whim, to the impulse of the moment. That makes it difficult, as with all pop culture (and tagging is pop culture), to tell what's really valuable from what's merely perceived as valuable. Of course, to some (profoundly mistaken) thinkers, those are the same thing.

Posted by: eric at February 1, 2007 12:52 PM

... OK, I just read the Pew report, and it actually states nothing like what you say it does. In fact, it states nothing like what _it_ says it does.

I quote: 'These people said “yes” to the following question: “Please tell me if you ever use the internet to categorize or tag online content like a photo, news story, or a blog post.”'

CATEGORIZE is _not_ synonymous with "tag".

Posted by: eric at February 1, 2007 02:07 PM

I have to agree. There has been some liberty taken here in assuming it means genuine tags. I have to admit I find it hard to believe as I am an avid blogger and still do not use tags!

Posted by: Jerry at February 6, 2007 07:44 PM


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