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Internet users play tag with online content: study

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Web 2.0 pioneers are taking personal control of how online content is organised, according to new research.

The study, conducted by the Pew Internet & America Life Project in December 2006, reports 28 per cent of US internet users have categorised, or "tagged", user generated content online. Tagging is effectively a new form of searching for content which allows users to mark, store, and then retrieve the web content they or other users found valuable.

For example, photo sharing site flickr.com allows users to add labels to pictures. When a user searches for a photo with a specific label all the pictures that have been tagged with that term will be found.

"Tagging lets us organise the vastness of the web using the categories that matter to us as individuals. You may want to tag, say, a Stephen King story as 'horror' but maybe to me it's 'ghost story' and to a literature professor it's 'pop culture'. Tagging lets us organise the net our way," said commentator David Weinberger, who has written a book on new classification systems.

Tagging also allows social groups to form around similarities of interests and points of view. If you're using the same tags as I do, we probably share some deep commonalities," said Weinberger.

Weinberger pointed out that analysing which tags are most frequently used, and how they relate, can give a new insight into online communities. He calls these patterns "folksonomies" - a play on taxonomy.

"Folksonomies reveal how the public is making sense of things, not just how expert cataloguers think we ought to be thinking."

Copyright © 2007, ENN

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