Jeremy Wagstaff interviewed me for an article he did on tags for the Asian Wall Street Journal.
The WSJ is behind a firewall, so I can’t point you to the article (ironic!) but I was given the bit with my pithy quote:
Last year a couple of free Internet services started doing something interesting, entirely independently of each other. Flickr (www.flickr.com) is a Web site for storing your photographs; del.icio.us (simply http://del.icio.us) lets you store bookmarks to your favorite Web pages. They share two features: Both let users add tags to what they are storing, and by default share that data with any other user.
So, say you upload a photo to Flickr, you might add a word or two to categorize it — say, scuba, or marzipan. The same applies if you add a Web page to your del.icio.us bookmarks. But because both of these tools are public, it also means that you can see what other pictures, in the case of Flickr, or Web page links in the case of del.icio.us, have the same tags.
This wasn’t intentional: Joshua Schachter, a 30-year old New Yorker who set up del.icio.us, did it primarily because he wanted to keep track of his bookmarks. But suddenly you could see not only what you are gathering, but also what other people are gathering. “The motivation was mostly because I was solving a problem I had, and then I solved it for everyone,” Mr. Schachter says. Social tagging was born.
Others realized that this was a grass-roots kind of classification that could be extended. Instead of someone hiring dozens of drones to sit at a computer and surf the Internet categorizing Web pages and photos so that people could find them more easily, people were doing it on their own, voluntarily, just by adding whatever key words came to mind when they added a Web page or photo.
Instead of a committee sitting down and deciding on some hierarchical system of categorizing stuff, it was ordinary people adding whatever tags sprang to mind, on the fly. A sort of egalitarian taxonomy — which is why some people are calling it “folksonomy,” which may or may not catch on. It’s not perfect but it works: As Gen Kanai, a Japanese-American based in Tokyo who has been working on tagging, puts it: “The user does a bit more work tagging, but it results in a wealth of information once the tagged information is cataloged and associated with other data that has the same tag.”
If anyone has a PDF of this article, or a scan, I’d love to get a copy!
UPDATE: I now have a copy- thanks everyone!
Tagging the Internet – Jeremy Wagstaff – Wall Street Journal Asia (28 Jan 05)
UPDATE: My discussion with Jeremy is on his site: