As an information architect, I love the idea of tagging (or folksonomies) as much as everyone else. I have had tremendous success using del.icio.us to find information that is difficult to surface with search and love clicking through flickr tags looking at interesting photographs.
But sometimes the concept just doesn’t work, even in domains where we’d think it should.
Odeo is a podcast site that contains community-contributed content. Only just out of beta, it would be considered a ‘Web 2.0′ style site. It uses tagging almost exclusively as the organisation method for its podcasts, with tags being contributed by the listeners and contributors. It has no ‘traditional’ organisation methods beyond a couple of ‘new audio’ lists and a top 40.
IT Conversations contains podcasts of primarily tech conferences, plus interviews. It is a more traditional website, with a core team recording material and managing the site. It uses no tagging whatsoever, but has a wide range of more traditional organisation methods. For example, content is organised by event, speaker, topic, series, rating and popularity.
Both sites offer the ability to subscribe to content and download it automatically.
The key difference between them (for me, and this is important as it may be the opposite for you) is in the findability of content. On Odeo, although there are interesting podcasts, they are practically impossible to find. On IT Conversations I have found, and continue to find, masses of interesting content.
Odeo’s tags continue to fail me. Right now, I’d really like to subscribe to some podcasts that are primarily music with a little talk – mostly independent, new music. But I can’t find the blasted things. Sure, I can find all 187 podcasts tagged ‘music’, but I can’t do any better than that. I can’t see what other tags only apply to the music set. I can’t see all the independent music together (as they are tagged indie, independent, alternative, rock etc etc).
IT Conversations’ traditional methods give me more success. I can get all the podcasts from BlogHer or find all on blogging (and I know they will all be in one spot). If I hear someone I like, I can search for more from them. While they could do better (eg by linking all of a particular speaker’s talks together), I’m much more likely to wander in and find something useful.
Now I know that some of it is due to the content domains. Conference talks are inherently more homogeneous, with a narrower list of conferences, speakers and topics. But it would not be hard to find a set of general podcast attributes such as mostly talk/mostly music, music genre, topic (politics, technology); and set up some preferred vocabs for the most popular ones. Yes it would take someone to do this, and it would be some work. But it could be kept flexible and grow as the content grows.
Tagging has potential, but it should not be used as a substitute for effort, thought and management of content. It is only one of many methods of organising content and in most domains should be used in combination with other methods.