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Observations on Search Sig Social Search Event

Earlier this evening I attended the SDForum’s SearchSIG event on tagging, social bookmarking, and tagging. One of the great things about living in the Bay Area is the easy access you can get to newsmaking companies and topics. I am sure that there will be many interesting transcripts, podcasts, and summaries of all of the interesting content that was discussed at this event. Instead of rehashing who said what (I will provide links as I discover them, of course), I just thought I would pass along a few observations:

Observation #1: Either these panelists know a whole lot more than they admitted about what motivates taggers, who is actually tagging, and what the future holds or they are learning about it at the same time as we are, albeit with a better view as to what’s going on. One of the most interesting themes of the talk was what I interpreted to be the relatively nascent understanding of who taggers are (besides the “early adopter” crowd generically defined), the balance between those who tag to help others versus those who tag to create knowledge for others, the privacy concerns around tagged data, and what it will take to make tagging more interesting and relevant to a larger audience.

Observation #2: The folks on the panel (Digg and in particular) are really thinking about the social etiquette and social interactions associated with what they are developing.
I was impressed with the amount of thinking that Joshua and Kevin expressed about the social implications for how people find information, share information, make it known that they are experts, and utilize/form social networks in determining how to advance their products. The most interesting point of this discussion was about how to take lessons that others have learned (LinkedIn, MySpace, etc) from their usage models and apply to features to include and features to avoid. I was pleased to hear how much thought they were putting into this area and the way that they seemed to want to watch and take cues from emerging behavior rather than shove features at users.

Observation #3: Like all useful communication media, pollution is on the horizon. It is clear that splagging is on the mind of all of these folks, Digg in particular. One of the more interesting audience comments came from a courageous search engine marketer who admitted that she saw the opportunity to whack these services to improve search visibility. Evidence of attempts to game some of these systems is already evident. These arms races are always difficult to win (see email spam and blog spam).

How large does the universe of tag contributors need to be before tagging has a more meaningful impact on the Internet as a whole? I still maintain that it is an enthusiast activity and that there are a lot free riders benefitting from the work of those who tag/classify news and websites in high technology. I am curious to see how tagging will spread to new markets.

Will the collaborative spirit that exists among many companies in this space continue for much longer? There were hnts that not everybody on the panel was in favor of sharing the information they had collected, be it due to privacy or business concerns. There are some obvious gains to standardization and collaboration at this point in the tag market’s development.

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