Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tag Aliases: get them, people.

This has been on my mind ever since I made this identi.ca notice:

# vs # -- AKA, "Why Tag Aliases are needed in every tagging system."

You'll notice that Rails and RubyOnRails are two seperate tags -- even though they both reference the same topic. This almost inevitably comes up when you're dealing with a tagging system where individuals supply the tags in question. Is it #sn or #socialnetworking? #rails or #rubyonrails?

The first time I saw tag aliases in the wild, they were on an imageboard for porn. Yes, all innovations have their roots in porn. Porn is the great innovator! All hail porn!

Tag aliases evolved out of necessity in the world of web 2.0 pornography: when dealing with certain topics, say fetishes for example, there are often two ways to reference the same topic: the technical nomenclamature, and the common name. So, what do you tag it under? Both, of course. Under the hood, the system tags these tag aliases together and presents one uniform tag, which can the technical tag, the common-name tag, or both (for usability).

As I've demonstrated, tag aliases are useful for more than porn. When you're dealing with microblogging, for instance, do you want to use a short name, for space, or a long name, for usability / readability? Without tag aliases the community really has to decide on one or the other. With tag aliases, it's just a matter of personal preference -- you may not want to use the shorter version of a tag if you have a readership unfamiliar with the topic at hand, for example.

So why the hell do I only see tag aliases on random pr0n imageboards and not where they're needed in other portions of the web 2.0 space? It might be a matter of mechanics. Who gets to decide what tags are aliased, where? Is it a Wiki-like system, or a trust-based system like StackOverflow?




That is all.

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