Watch the tags!

We are an electronic society full of taggers. For those librarian readers out there, you all know that tags are important. They’re metadata! They tell us who or what is in a picture or a document, and that’s important. But tags have gotten somewhat out of control. We tag almost everything. I’m guilty of adding 3 or 4 tags to each of my blog posts. Hopefully they’re useful, but I have to wonder if anyone even reads the tags. And there are many times when I question just how useful tags can really be.

Flickr lets you search by tags for photos, which many people (including the folks at Flickr I’m sure) find useful for locating photos of a specific item. There are many times when searching for a tag can be useful. I searched for the tag “astrophoto” on Flickr and got 2,894 hits. A quick look at the first few pages of returns shows that the photos are astronomically related, so if all I want are pictures of the stars, it was a great search. It’s a useful tag that points people in the right direction. Unfortunately, there are some really useless tags too. One of Flickr’s most popular tags (and this is likely true of almost any photo website) is “me.” 3,401,538 photos on Flickr alone are tagged “me.” (At least at the time of my writing, this could change by the time someone reads this.) It’s not true! They can’t all be me, because I’m me and a lot of those people don’t look like me! Not only is the “me” tag useless because of the number of photos using the tag, but because when a photo is tagged “me” it usually leaves out the name of the person being tagged. This means that you can’t search tags for that person, because they aren’t tagged with their name but with the useless “me” tag.

My favorite “me” tagged photos are of babies. How likely is it that a 1-year-old child took a photo and uploaded it to a photo sharing site, and tagged it “me.”

And Flickr fans, please don’t think I’m picking on Flickr. I use it myself, as you can see from the photo box here on my blog. All photo sharing sites have these issues. I do like Facebook’s tagging feature. When tagging a Facebook photo, you can type the word “me,” and you can use “me” as a tag. However, Facebook’s tagging system automatically suggests your own name as a tag when you type in “me.” Hopefully, this will make people think about using the “me” tag in the future.

Watch those tags people! I want to be able to find photos of my friends out there, but those “me” tags kill me every time.

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