Advanced Tagging — Hierarchical And Ordered Tags

Could the order of tags be a general solution for hierarchical tagging? It would be similar to relations between words within sentences or to the order of folders in a directory and without enforcing a structure.
Tagging and meta-data in general are new and very interesting approaches to handle data by adding semantic data or relations. We see currently the first generation of online services that support tagging for bookmarking, photo and other services. If you are interested to read more about tagging I highly recommend an article about del.icio.us and Flickr and a comparison between tagging (folksonomies) and hierarchies (directories).
Common for the first generation of tagging systems seems the use of flat tags that do not have a hierarchy or any relationships to each other. I guess everyone who has used tagging for a while has noticed that the lag of relationships between tags is a limiting factor. For example, the meaning of “social bookmarking software” and “bookmarking social software” is very different. In one case “social” is associated with “bookmarks” and in the other case with “software”. So, the problem is that a search for “social+bookmarking” shows both items.
Hans Reiser has discussed this problem of relationships between tags in a very interesting whitepaper about name spaces because it is important for the next generation of file systems that will provide mechanisms for tagging or other meta-data. He proposes a solution that uses a special character to define hierarchical tags, e.g. “subject/strike to/elves from/santa”. But is this solution consistent with the general concept? I mean would a bookmark with the hierarchical tags “computer/hardware” be listed under hardware? I’m not sure what to expect because is doesn’t look like a familiar metaphor.
I wonder if ORDERED TAGS would be a more general and simple solution for hierarchical tagging. It would be very intuitive because it is very similar to writing sentences in a string of tags, e.g. “development software social bookmarking.” All tags in this order could be searched as flat tags. But I could also search for ordered tags: “social bookmarks”. The tags “social” and “bookmarks” needs to be in this order but can be at any position within the string of tags. In Hans Reiser’s example I could search for “to elves”+”subject strike”. A disadvantage of not using an operator that explicitly defines a relationship is the risks of getting items with unintended tag orders. But I think, examples of search results from Google, Yahoo, etc. show that unintended word orders have a low practical relevance.
A more complex search system could even support wildcards to search for ordered tags beyond neighbors. For example, I could search for a bookmark with the ordered tags “computer hardware video card” with “computer * video”. Or I could use a small set of tags as main categories and place one, two, or more tags of the main categories in the most left positions within the string of tags. The search term for the first main tag could be “^computer”. Well, I could go on with examples for regular expressions to search for computer and computers at the same time because tagging systems (folksonomies) tend to be inconsistent or different users have used different tags for the same thing, e.g. socialbookmarks, social_bookmarks, social-bookmarks.
A well ordered set of tags could even be equivalent to a well-defined directory structure, e.g. “computer hardware CPU shopping budget”. But the big advantage is that I can use ordered tags as well as flat tags to search for items. A special character to explicitly define a hierarchy or relationship between tags could be useful if necessary but should be optional and not enforced nor should it hide one or more tags of the hierarchy.
Update: Recently, I posted a script to search bookmarks that can search for ordered tags when regular expressions are used.
Related bookmarks – absolutely del.icio.us

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3 Responses to “Advanced Tagging — Hierarchical And Ordered Tags”

  1. David Latapie Says:

    Excellent article! I’m looking for a tool to do so with WordPress (I’m using colon as a separator, like the Opera Desktop Team blog did).

    If you have any idea about how to implement it…

    • pubnotes Says:

      No don’t know a plugin for it and I would argue for tagging without separator: keep it as simple as possible. I’ve been using that strategy for many years now with an experimental bookmark manager written in Python. It is just fast and simple text search that does exactly what I want.

  2. Tweets that mention Advanced Tagging — Hierarchical And Ordered Tags « PubNotes -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jeff Wiegand, HN Firehose. HN Firehose said: Advanced Tagging — Hierarchical And Ordered Tags: http://bit.ly/eMIYZR […]

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