When I read about Technorati tags, I was excited. In fact, I knew to be excited about it because Kevin messaged me, and first thing I read about them online was David Weinberger’s encomium, and when Kevin and David are excited about something, I know enough to realize that it’s good. And when it involves searching (Kevin’s area) and epistemological taxonomy (David’s area of concentration), somebody who respects those guys as much as I do simply must get excited. So I did.
But I should pause to say that I’m not a natural for “tags.” I’ve hardly ever used deli.cio.us tags. I didn’t begin tagging my pictures for flickr for ages; even now I’m liable to tag pretty cursorily (no, I don’t mean “with a computer pointing device”). I don’t use categories in my own Moveable Type posts, although the Seabury site that used to be (and may someday live again) integrated categories into its architectural rationale. And once I started thinking about tags, I felt chagrined; the folksonomized Web that David envisioned, that Kevin and Stewart and all had begun to implement, presents such a tremendous opportunity — but here I was, too lazy to tag. I had worked on my to care about valid mark-up, and I emphasized this aspect of the Seabury site. But I just wasn’t sure I had the determination to add Technorati tags to my posts. You’re too polite to complain, but I get long-winded — how would I tag my monologues without repeating most of the words? I was going to be a stick between the spokes of the organic semantic Web, when my friends were building and turning the wheels.
So I didn’t blog about tags at all. I thought they were a great idea, but I didn’t have the energy to implement them here, and I didn’t want to be a party pooper. Who knows? Maybe if the haphazard-HTML writer I once was can become a CSS ascetic, even lazy AKMA could become a tags-onomist.
But now Shelley has spoken up and even illustrated her wise words, and I think I have to agree with her (I didn’t implement “nofollow” either, so she’s my official Webby Oracle this week). It’s not so much the vulnerability to spam; it’s not so much the imprecision; it’s not so much the bother tagging; but the cumulative effect of a number of “it’s-not-the”s tarnishes the luster of this really great idea.
Brilliance still peeks out from beneath the tarnish. The idea excited me at first, and it still does in a murky way. I expect that the fantastic organic semantic webbiness of the idea will come to expression in more spam-resistant, more precise, less cumbersome ways, and I expect that I’ll get on board in a while (no doubt before it’s really easy and an obvious thing to do); that far, I share David’s ultimate confidence in a grassroots taxonomic web. For now, though, I remain unconvinced about this step toward the Web of tags.