Thursday, February 17, 2005


personal tagging

People hate urban sprawl because it's ugly, inefficient, causes inconvenience, and reflects poor planning. One might usefully think of a desktop equivalent to urban sprawl: the "scattering" of information across applications, and the "cluttering" of the screen with pointers to that information.

In an interesting paper,
Views on views (PDF), Ariel Shamir explores how to solve the scattering and cluttering problem. His solution involves inviting users to create personal, subjective tags for file items, to escape the serious limitations of PC folder systems without relying on formal or machine generated metadata, which I feel only appeals to database managers, librarians and other fussy, hyper-logical people.

Personal information managers have never been that successful, but their need has never been greater. Some might object that personal tagging is labor intensive and therefore unappealing, but I'd argue that's what allows the information to become personal, instead of being just more stuff filling a hard drive. The approach has some positive similarities to qualitative/ethnographic coding software packages, such as Atlas-ti.

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