What Makes Social Tagging Work

Tim over at LibraryThing has writen an excellent analysis of what makes social tagging work, by comparing the strategies used by Amazon and LibraryThing. His primary observations are that social tagging works when:

*taggers need to remember “their” stuff

*tagged content collections are associated with people (this enables what I call rich serendipity)

*you get sufficient scale in both tags and taggers to get meaningful tag clouds associated with content

Tim is mainly thinking about tagging in an ecommerce context, but the same factors will also apply in an enterprise environment. I keep encountering social tagging advocates who are In the first headrush of enthusiasm for a new fad, and don’t recognise that a corporate intranet environment is not the same in openness, scale, diversity and transactional support as the internet. They are different beasts, and the things that make social tagging work on the internt are not necessarily present inside the corporate environment. If those factors of scale, diversity and personal findability motivation are present or can be designed into the environment, then maybe it will work.

One thing Tim has underplayed in his analysis is that LibraryThing employs social tagging as its primary findability aid after author and title, whereas Amazon has much richer findability support, using a wide range of methods.

5 Comments so far

Hi Patrick, I’m a 20 year old Sudanese studying in Malaysia. I just thought you should know that I discovered your blog about 2 weeks ago and through it tons of other really great blogs about KM. I’ve been lurking around since then and I’m loving your posts (recent and previous).

I’m majoring in KM and I’ve still got one more year to graduate. Believe it or not but the material we are taught in the classroom can in no way be compared to the material found on the KM blogs or discussion forums I started discovering recently after 3 months of searching for good sources. I’m tired of the one-sided content thrown at students in KM classes.

Your blog together with others have helped me grasp a lot of concepts much better. A big challenge with KM (especially when it comes to application) is the evolving definitions. KM is highly subjective. In an environment that allows a lively discussion, KM can be a lot of fun. However in a dead/rigid environment with no room for a lively discussion, KM is a real pain!

More than half of my classmates changed their major. I haven’t and I won’t. It’s just too interesting to simply give up on. KM is the future.

Thank you for your blog =)


Posted on February 23, 2007 at 10:50 AM | Comment permalink

Patrick Lambe

Thank you so much Amir, it’s nice to know if someone finds this useful, and also good to see how much appreciation you have for KM. May I ask where you are studying KM? Are you in touch with any KM groups in Malaysia?

Posted on February 23, 2007 at 12:42 PM | Comment permalink

Patrick - another way of saying this is that certain web 2.0 things such as tagging don’t scale down in many environments (unless specific criteria are met).

Tagging is normally heavily used by writers but much less so by readers of material…

Posted on February 23, 2007 at 10:26 PM | Comment permalink

Hi Patrick, I’m studying at Petronas University (Universiti Teknologi Petronas, UTP) and no I’m not in touch with any KM groups here in Malaysia (not yet at least). I’m too busy studying for the SAP ABAP cert which I’m hoping to sit for by the end of this year.

Btw, apologies for going off topic previously. I’ll be sticking around and checking regulary.


Posted on February 24, 2007 at 01:32 AM | Comment permalink

Patrick Lambe

Hi Matt - what specific criteria have you come across in an enterprise environment? And isn’t the key factor in tagging propensity likely to be whether people need to retrieve “their” stuff, whether they create it themselves or “adopt” it for their own use?

Amir - good luck with the studies, and thanks for your comments, KM is about sharing, and you shared - that’s not off topic in my book smile

Posted on February 24, 2007 at 09:44 AM | Comment permalink

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