Tag! We’re it!

Alright, I admit it—I didn’t get out (or online) much while I worked for Ameritrade. 60 hour work weeks for two straight years while building a design practice and a forward-thinking trading platform will do that to your peripheral vision. Well, I’m making up for lost time, slowing down to explore the web… big time.

The IA in me is smiling. No, not for the sheer joy of seeing community indexing, the IA in me is smiling because it’s becoming clear to me where the web is heading, and it’s not following a topical, structured, media-filtered path.

Take Technorati for example; the approach is like a Bizarro perspective of the mainstream media.


Technorati isn’t dumb, ugly, inhumane or bizarro as a nemesis dimension in a comic book, but they are backwards in their approach to presenting a political/news media lens of corporate America… in a very good way.

The mainstream media presents the news by using explicit filters to ensure that what is published or broadcasted supports the primary objectives of capitalism. In the past, I’ve ranted about the much needed expansion of the Google and Yahoo! news model to place blogs into the mix when drawing from indexed sources. Well, Technorati flipped the model entirely with a communal approach to exposing and digesting information. There are no “vanilla” labels of a topical navigation, splitting the world into simplified categories and driving a pre-conceived notion of “valuable” content (i.e. politics, business, sports, etc.) into the skulls of society.

Technorati leverages tagging to present information based on our desires.

Run a tag search on “free speech” and you get a descriptive page of the latest blog entries, flickr images and a contextual list of social bookmarks which include mainstream media articles (based on del.icio.us and Furl tagging). It took me a few returns to stumble upon the revolutionary aspect of this approach. I mean, three months ago, I would’ve been happy if Google News simply added a column of contextual links of blog post that corresponded to a search query. Technorati has flipped the script and featured bloggers, reducing the media to a column of “see also’s.”

This is how you build community. I love it.

So where can this go? Can this approach sustain a movement towards fundamentally altering how American society exposes and digests information? Man, “it depends” is such an understatement.

  • If Technorati can reach a tipping point, similar to Google a few years back, and devise a marketing campaign, where, say, Tony Soprano is shown “Technorating” waste management on his computer, the impact on society could be huge. People will start to look for information from other people (sans an editorial slant), which flips the trust and credibility model
  • If Technorati partners with a Google to provide user-generated content within their results pages, society will begin to experience contextual alternatives to mainstream reporting, entertainment, et al without being forced to have to go search for it through RSS and other technical means.
  • If Technorati is bought by a Google, all bets are off. Only time would tell if Chomsky’s “propaganda model” proves itself to be a truism or if new media and its superstars are exceptions to the rule.

It’s obvious that the web’s semantic synapses are continuing to form. This is only the beginning.

0 responses to “Tag! We’re it!”

  1. Thanks for the great post! I completely agree with you. I also think technorati is revolutionary. It makes Google news feel boring and outdated. I think we are entering a time of mass participation and content sharing. Whether that is via blogs that get aggregated by technorati or due to links and bookmarks of hot sites, links, etc. that users save and share on their personal and social bookmarking engine like http://www.blinklist.com or del.icio.us. This is going to be a fun next 5 years. We will see lots of changes.


  2. Absolutely. And change is good.

    The next important step for Technorati (and even the big boys of search) is to design interfaces which leverage all of this information in a manner that is a) easily digestible and b) valuable.

    Technorati’s interface is beautiful, and well defined in terms of information design. Where the interface slips in value is in the rules of how it presents these tagged object returns. Once they’re mined, they are displayed purely as a contextual glimpse into the *recent past* of the concept being queried.

    You search for “Tom Cruise” and you get recent object returns only, in this case, mostly negative noise. Well, what about the noise that positively defined him in 1998?

    Blogs are temporal by definition, but the opinions and facts within the post are not. The have shelf-life as information objects. So how does one balance the concept of time and value in a search result?

    Relevant, tagged information objects disappearing into the pagination void needs to be addressed. Clusty.com does some interesting things with clustering queries into different “folders” so one can glance at the returned objects on a meta-level, before digging into pagination. Object-centered or results interfaces need to be iterated on a few more distinct levels, with multiple views to display different cuts on data.

    And algorithms can’t do it alone. In five years, we’ll probably be looking back at today’s version of Google search and saying something very similar.


  3. I’m an ignoramus in the blogs-shpere having just started a blog last week, but I’ve been positively bugged by a kind of premonition that the web is finally waking up and discovering it is a kind of meta-inteligence beyond sci-fi’s wildest dreams for AI. Exciting times.


  4. […] These constructed, mechanical relationships define false, explicit edges of our culture, which in turn raises the value proposition of media and news organizations simply by standardizing on such lexicon. This standardization of topical interests — unknowingly bought into by the public as what is *real* — enables a sussinct universe of sales and stories, broadcast on television news and pumped through newspapers, serving as the ying to the entertainment media’s yang. […]


  5. […] So when we engage in the practice of tagging our information objects, we’re not only engaging in an activity to increase discovery of our voice via common signifiers, we’re explicitly participating in an the expression our personal mental model of the object through our signified constructs; adding these tags and aggregate objects of words, colors, sounds and movement to the branches of each other’s trees. […]


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