Thursday, September 29, 2005

Why tagging is better than categorization

I just came across a brilliant piece of writing that explains why tagging is so much better than categorization. The beauty of the analysis that I found is that even the average Joe can understand it. Clearly articulating why tagging is better than categorization is not easy but Rashmi, the author of the article, has done a really nice job.

Here are a few of the key takeaways from the article:

"In the digital world, we don't just categorize an object, we also optimize its future findability. We need to consider not just the most likely category, but also where we are most likely to look for the item at the time of finding. These two questions might lead to conflicting answers, and complicate the categorization process."

This could not be any more true and is very fundamental to the way that we have developed BlinkList. The "Tag Manager" and starring of "favorite" links on BlinkList was specifically designed and optimized for future findability. Jiangti, our lead developer was brilliant enough to recognize the shortcomings of other filing systems and was instrumental in helping us develop a new unique approach.

"In my opinion, tagging eliminates the decision - (choosing the right category), and takes away the analysis-paralysis stage for most people. (Note that some people might still freeze up in deciding between different tags, or figuring out ways to optimize future findability. These are valid concerns that tagging systems can address better than they do now)."

Again, this is a key insight. Forcing people to group things into one and only one category is not natural and not how the mind works. When you first find a site, it triggers many different mental concepts and tagging takes the pain away because it does not force users to find the "single best category." Often there is not even such a thing as a "best category." Secondly, using an auto-suggestion script we can also recommend the most appropriate tags to people, which further reduces the analysis-paralysis" stage for most people.

While some users have some trouble at first, I would strongly recommend to stick with it, give it a try, and in a few days you will see the light!

To read the full "Cognitive analysis of tagging" click on the clink. Rashmi, thanks for helping out in making tagging easier to comprehend and to explain.

Blink It


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