A Case for ‘Sentence Tags’

Have you ever been so moved by a work of art or other amazing idea, person, or thing that you sat down and spent 2 hours trying to capture its magic in words so that you could share it with the rest of the world.

In Web 2.0 terms, sharing often occus via the tagging medium, aka social bookmarking, a sub-literary attention sharing medium wherein a tagging agent associates (presumably and hopefully) meaningful keywords with links to websites and thereby shares the content or significance of such with any person who subsequently searches on (or tags) that keyword.

Most inspired taggers, like most inspired writers, have a tendency to be verbose, compensating for a lack of precision with an overabundance of explication.

Most contemporary tagging services require that all tags be of a single word. (and thus and importantly, less discoverable by full-text search engines). In most cases, this limitation does not force the would be tagger to be any more verbose than they would otherwise be.

But in cases where the expression of deep and complex human emotion is involved, rarely can we reduce our thoughts to a couple or three concatenated words that can be easily discovered by, and subscribed to, by other people.

For example, "industrialart" is a tag of sufficient precision and established meaning that it is likely to be used by and therefore discovered by other tagging agents and casual search agents, people who know about and are interested in finding more resources about Industrial Art on the internet.

Indeed, in combination with tags like "charlessheeler" or "sheeler" or "charles_sheeler", a tag like "industrialart" can be quite valuable, insofar as it informs the would be searching agent that you (and perchance 53 other people) associate a guy named Charles Sheeler with the label Industrial Art. That's cool! That's achievable.

But if you wished to convince those same 53 tagging agents to agree upon a single tag (and thereby make more discoverable and credible) the notion that Charles Sheeler expressed something abstract and profound in his paintings such as: "paintingthatcapturesthespirituallongingoftheindustrialageinhispaintings", you're shit out of luck. Nobody's gonna re-use your tag. Nobody's gonna search for your tag. And nobody's gonna find the resource to which you applied your tag unless both you and they are very, very lucky (or personally and closely connected).

We need 'sentence tags'. Single word tags make life too difficult for both tagging agents and searching agents.

Until tonight, I was unconvinced that 'tag sentences' should be supported. I figured that combinations of tags (e.g., sheeler+industrialart) would suffice to handle most, if not all, tagging and discovery user experiences.

My Conversion

This is the true story of how I was converted to the "We should allow 'sentence tags'" argument.

This evening, I sat down in my apartment, alone. Rain pelted my windows. I considered returning to "work", which I never truly "leave". Instead, I turned on the television. Boyz n the Hood, a movie I have seen six or seven or eight times, had just begun.

It is a powerful, emotional, and yet understated movie. It is, in my humble opinion, high art: universally meaningul, emotionally evocative, and timeless.

Boyz in the Hood tells a story about the sometimes and seemingly arbitrary imposition of social and personal injustice. Its moral: restraint, self-control, perseverance, and pride are often the best and sometimes only way to free ourselves from a vicious cycle of hatred and violence (or hatred of self).

As I watched Boyz in the Hood tonight, I cried quietly and bitterly, as I have on every previous viewing. I cried as a human, for the real loss, real grief ,and real pain that the *American* community it depicts has and continues to experience. I cried as a white, well-educated, gainfully employed, politically well-connected father in Redmond, Washington who can and probably should be expressing more outrage (and acting upon my outrage) about the horrific and growing disparity of wealth and power in our great nation: the United States of America. And finally, I cried as Korby Parnell, a guy who would have to be a poet on the order of Walt Whitman or Pablo Neruda to really explain why I cry when I see this movie.

The closing credits for Boyz in the Hood are preceded by a call to action:

"Increase the Peace"

Like any born blogger, I instantly thought, 'I shall blog, damnit.' But then I thought, 'No, the potential risk of my blog (posted on a corporate blog site) being misinterpretated as overtly political is too great.' And perhaps it is?

So then I thought, 'I shall tag the IMDB page for Boyz n the Hood using del.icio.us so that all people, for all time, might have a chance to discover and experience this great movie, as I have.'

And then I thought, 'Whatever shall I tag it?'

I started up OneNote and began typing...

"Tags: movie, movies, cinematography, flix, flic, cinema, cine, film, life, lifechanging, great, powerful, awesome, inspiring, evocative, gripping, wealth, poverty, disparity, grief, violence, gangviolence, gangs, whitecop, blackcop, badcop, drivebyshooting, death, loss, frief, economicinjustice, viciouscycle, liberationtheology, conspiracytheory, injustice, crack, crackcocaine, losangeles, civilrights, gentrification, outrage, rage, fishburne, llcoolj, gangs, uscfootball, nfl, scholasticaptitudetest, culturalbias, blackbias, guns, teenagepregnancy, police, polizei, machtstadt, boyznthehood, moviesthatmademecry, moviesthat..."

"Tag pollution!", I thought. 'I need to reduce this to one or two tags.'

I typed, 'moviesthatchangedmylife'. It's universal. It's a common recommendation among friends... A quick search of del.icio.us uncovered the terrible truth: my tag does not exist and only ONE other user has tagged a single movie with any combination of these words (http://del.icio.us/tag/lifechanging+movie).

If del.icio.us were to enable the provision of space separated phrases as tags, it would allow their users (me, in this case) to much more easily discover and reuse such relatively complex but nevertheless condensed ideas, as tags and thereby enable other people (you, in this case) to disover the tags more easily. That's my theory. Pick it apart. <wince>

Comments (1)

  1. MSDNArchive says:

    i’ve not seen the movie, but i will now.

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