Tagging and Taggers

A recent research paper, “Can Social Bookmarking Improve Web Search?” by Paul Heymann, Georgia Koutrika, and Hector Garcia-Molina, draws numerous interesting conclusions about the effect of taggers and tagging on findability. The authors used del.icio.us as the source for tags.
Several of the results they found:

  • “Tags are present in the page text of 50% of the pages they annotate and in the titles of 16% of the pages they annotate” (p. 8). It seems that taggers are not particularly original in their tagging.
  • “Pages posted to del.icio.us are often recently modified” (p. 4) and “approximately 25% of URLs posted by users [of del.icio.us] are new, unindexed pages” (p. 5). By monitoring tags of interest to you, you can find out what’s new more effectively than you can by setting up standard search queries.

Their closing section, in which they discuss how tagging could be improved in the long run, bears quoting at length:

In terms of tags, we believe that user interface features could have a large impact on improving the quality of tags for search. For instance, interfaces that recommended tags not in the page, or not common for the given domain, might help alleviate those two problems. Another approach might be to have domain-specific sites (e.g., photography) which might have higher quality tags due to the shared context of the users.