Monday, April 25, 2005

An efficient way to do the tagging: Searchfox

Have you looked at Searchfox? I just found it today and I must say, I'm pretty exited about more than one thing. But The one thing that draws my attention is the way you can add keywords/tags to your links: the system autofills it for you based on the tags other users have used. Hurray, for ones someone has got it right! Also, there are four levels of user roles (guest, user, editor and admin) you can assign to people in your groups. That's good, private and public aren't enough for permissions.

Searchfox, with their own words: "Our BETA product lets you tag web favorites with your own words so you can get back to them. It also lets you find what people you trust find useful, valuable, and interesting."

One of those tools again, to tag and share websites (I wonder when people are going to talk about interoperability between them? Soon we'll see stuff like "people who saved this link in Furl also saved xxx in Searchfox, and yyy in, and zzz in ...).

So back to the cool stuff. I think the whole thing about tags and folksonomies is great, but having worked for the last five years with metadata for learning resources, I can't just let go the power of controlled vocabularies. Look at what happened to me when I first created my profile in Elgg:

I put a keyword "e-portfolio" and the next thing is that I found out other people interested in the same thing. Great! However, as there is no convention on the way to type "e-portfolio" (let alone define it), it can be pretty random to fall on the right spelling (and no one takes the time to see all the tags provided, it's obvious). A quick tour in Elgg revealed that there are actually more people interested in the same topic, they just called it "portfolio", "portfolio learning", "Portfolio" or "e-portfolios". This is what makes me sad, we take the time to define what we are interested in, and even the "Automatic tag suggestion" doesn't get it right.

Here is what Searchfox did well: they used the automated fill-in feature to add personal keywords. Just like when you start typing a url in the location field in a browser, it offers you some urls that you've visited previously, and you can just select the one you want. In Searchfox the system offers keyword that other people have used in their tags, thus better chances to fall into the same spelling. Very simple and powerful. Would be interesting to see in the future whether the amount of keywords stays smaller and somewhat less messy than when everyone can call things the way they wish (mind you, they still could do that).

The power of this implementation is obvious to me and I wish to see it in many more places in the future. I don't care where the keywords come from, whether it was a controlled list done by librarians or other information architects or a folksonomy, as long as it serves the purpose it was created for!

A screenshot: Searchfox filling in tags:searchfox interface