Tagging mechanisms and strategies part 1: General and specific

Back in May I asked: Can elmcity and Delicious continue their partnership? The answer turned out to be no. That’s partly because the new Delicious broke some capabilities I was relying on. But it’s mainly because tagging is so fundamental to the elmcity service that I needed to be able to control, explore, and evolve it.

It continues to evolve, but now’s a good time to review — from the perspective of elmcity curators and contributors — how the principles and mechanisms for tagging calendar feeds (and individual events) illustrate (and extend) some ideas I originally developed during a long infatuation with Delicious. I have a lot to say on this subject, so my plan is to say it in a series of installments of which this is the first.

Principle: Describe things in both general and specific terms

For university calendars, I advise curators to use both a general tag, university, and a specific one. In the case of Seattle some specific tags are uw for the University of Washington, seattleu for Seattle University, and nscc for North Seattle Community College. That makes these views available:

All university-related events, a view that’s currently based on this set of feeds:

University of Washington 376
GoHuskies: Women’s Basketball 22
GoHuskies: Volleyball 3
North Seattle Community College 20
GoHuskies: Basketball 23
Seattle University Redhawks: Basketball 23
Elisabeth Miller Library 15
Seattle University Redhawks: Women’s Basketball 23
Seattle University Redhawks: Volleyball 2
North Seattle Community College (eventful.com) 3
Graduate Student Council at Seattle University – University (facebook.com) 1
Seattle University Redhawks: Swimming 8
Seattle University Redhawks: Women’s Swimming 9
UW Medicine- South Lake Union Campus (eventful.com) 1

Just UW events, based on these feeds:

University of Washington 376
GoHuskies: Women’s Basketball 22
GoHuskies: Volleyball 3
GoHuskies: Basketball 23
Elisabeth Miller Library 15
UW Medicine- South Lake Union Campus (eventful.com) 1

Just NSCC events, based on these feeds:

North Seattle Community College 19
North Seattle Community College (eventful.com) 3

Just Seattle U events, based on these feeds:

Seattle University Redhawks: Basketball 23
Seattle University Redhawks: Women’s Basketball 23
Seattle University Redhawks: Volleyball 2
Graduate Student Council at Seattle University – University (facebook.com) 1
Seattle University Redhawks: Swimming 8
Seattle University Redhawks: Women’s Swimming 9

Mechanism: Multi-tag query

The views above are all based on single-tag queries:

view=university

view=uw

view=nscc

view=seattleu

Here are some examples of multi-tag queries:

view=university,sports (all university sports)

view=seattleu,sports (just Seattle U sports)

view=seattleu,swimming (just Seattle U swimming)

view=university,basketball (all university basketball events)

The last two examples again illustrate the general/specific idea. For sporting events I recommend using the general tag sports and specific tags like swimming and basketball.

Back in 2006, in Del.icio.us is a database, I wrote:

Although it’s intuitively obvious to me, I suspect that most people don’t yet appreciate how easily, and powerfully, tagging systems can work as databases for personal (yet shareable) information management.

Del.icio.us isn’t simply backed by a database, it can function as a database.

I think most people still don’t appreciate that possibility. In the elmcity context I’m hoping to show how it applies not only to personal but also to collective information management.

(This series: elmcity tagging principles.)

6 Comments

  1. I could not agree more Jon, about the value and lack of awareness of a multi-leveled tag structure. And I still am holding out some hope for delicious.

    The other thing is that it provides this both in web view and rss. I have tried a similar tagging strategy for my photos in flickr, but I cannot join tags, I can do a url for “dog”
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/dog

    and

    “dalmatian”

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/dalmatian

    but not both.

    And while I can combine them in search, the results do not provide me an RSS feed.

    And then I ended up wrestling with Pipes, and that leaves me wondering if Yahoo will flush that useful tool as well.

    Tag thinking is still an arcane art.

  2. The other thing is that it provides this both in web view and rss

    Yes, that’s another idea I picked up from Delicious. In http://elmcity.cloudapp.net/seattleopencalendar/html?view=seattleu,sports you can replace /html with /xml, /json, /rss, or /ics.

    One particularly good use of the /rss flavor is shown on my blog’s homepage. If you scroll down to the bottom right you’ll see a widget called Upcoming music in the Monadnock region of New Hampshire. It’s the RSS view of music events in the MonadnockNH regional hub. I run my blog on wordpress.com partly to embrace its constraints and understand how things can work from the POV of somebody who can’t, or doesn’t want to, deploy their own wordpress instance. Those constraints forbid IFRAME or JSONP strategies, but you can make an RSS widget.

    A nice example of the /ics flavor is seen at http://elmcity.cloudapp.net/services/MonadnockArtsAlive/html. If you check its list of feeds (http://elmcity.cloudapp.net/services/MonadnockArtsAlive/stats) you’ll see that one is http://elmcity.cloudapp.net/elmcity/ics?view=music. In other words, the MonadnockArtsAlive hub, which is a compendium of arts and culture calendars in our region, is reusing the aggregated music feed I’m producing at http://elmcity.cloudapp.net/services/MonadnockNH/html?view=music (and echoing on my blog via its RSS flavor).

    This idea of composing hubs from sets of inbound feeds, some of which can be the output of other hubs, is a topic for a future installment.

    1. Thanks for posting this Jon. Feeding a sub-hub from tagged content of a main hub helps clarify some of the principles you have discussed around tagging and categorization. I can see how this could be expanded to create some neat niche/specialty hubs. I may send some further questions on this concept your way soon.

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