Putting tagging to work

I’ve previously noted the conversion of my sideblog to del.icio.us, partly so that I can take advantage of tagging. The whole tagging phenomenon has caught fire among the blognoscenti because it provides a quick and dirty–and effective and flexible–way to categorize content.

Technorati, the blog search-engine, has added a tagging facility–it finds del.icio.us entries, flickr photos, and blog entries with a given tag. In order to make these tags explicit, Technorati lets blog authors insert a rel="tag" attribute into a link in order to be treated as a tag by Technorati, though what many bloggers do not know is that as long as their software supports categories and/or keywords, and they are publishing feeds containing this data, Technorati will figure it out from that.

I’ve started assigning keywords to my posts, and am including all that data in my feeds. I’ve also decided to take advantage of Technorati’s tagging thing by creating direct links to its tag directories for each of my keywords. I’m still using categories as well, but I’m not creating Technorati links on category names–somehow it doesn’t quite feel right. Perhaps an information architect could diagnose my taxonomic malaise–all I can say is that tags are feel like they should be used to discover communal links; categories feel more idiosyncratic.

Anyhow, the result of linking to Technorati’s tag directories is something vaguely akin to trackback–it lets you see what other people are saying about the same subjects. It’s still somewhat primitive, but it’s a start.

It occurred to me that it should also be possible to extract links from a blog entry, search del.icio.us for that URL, find how other people have tagged it, and use the most popular tags as the blog entry’s tags, resulting in consensus tagging without even trying. There are some problems and interesting ramifications to this approach: 1) not every link I might use will be in del.icio.us; 2) I might not want to use the consensus tags; 3) the consensus tags will change over time–this, in my opinion, is the most interesting and most problematic part of the idea; 4) I’d have to do more programming work, and I’m lazy.