Bob Rebholz, our resident Group Product Manager and all-around sharp guy, just got back from the Web 2.0 conference. When he mentioned he was going down there, I had little idea about the magnitude of the conference. Silly me--it seems everyone was there and they all had their plans for how the new web was going to transform their businesses and all of our lives. From Bezos to Schmidt to Ozzie, everyone was espousing the future and their take on it. With the our beta release of a project we code-named "TagSpace" (a Microsoft.com tagging engine to support community tagging), it was kinda funny to hear Bob admit that tagging wasn't a hot topic at his conference. As fast as the web moves, so too moves the attention span of the "digerati". It's like blogs. I had a blog before 80% of the people I knew, but by the time I started mine, most of the people "in the know" had long since taken blogs for granted and moved to the magic of wikis. Before I could even grok the wiki, I watched as mash-ups became the rage. I think I intentionally avoid those conferences as I would likely incur the stares of those people who realize I am still "so last year".
Of course, the funny part is that as fast as the web moves, the general public will always take a little longer to embrace it--in fact, longer than me. The good news is that it isn't all about impressing the digerati (at least that's not what I get paid for 🙂 ). While Bob wasn't about to shock anyone with TagSpace (yet) at his conference, I separately attended a conference of marketing folks at Microsoft and, at times, I came off as a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. I was explaining all the powerful benefits of tagging & social bookmarking and their relation to the long tail. The good news was, where a year ago I would've gotten blank stares that would have reeked of "what's tagging?", this year I got a lot of people soaking in my words and grasping the significance of how something like TagSpace will change the way we not only find our content, but find one another. It was less about convinvcing people why anyone would tag and more about sharing new ideas on how to use tags to better serve the customer experience. So many experiences that the marketing folks wanted could be enabled by tagging to the point where I was worried they thought I believed tagging could cure world hunger.
I'm really proud of the team for delivering the tagging engine. It's not all there yet, but that's the beauty of it. Kick the tires. Poke around. Imagine the ways you can use this to better navigate the insane amount of information we provide on Microsoft.com. And then let us know how to enable it. Some goals are obvious (such as public APIs for mash-ups and integration with other applications on microsoft.com, MSDN, and TechNet) while others might not be. I highly recommend you keep an eye on that space. Frankly, I believe a few of the things we might be able to pull off are exactly the kinds of things that the Web 2.0 Conference people are going to be very interested in a year from now. Then, maybe I can finally go to those conferences and not feel like I am wearing my "Guns & Roses" T-shirt...
[ED. NOTE: For those uninitiated to tagging or who want additional info on TagSpace, go to this link: http://www.microsoft.com/communities/beta/MSTSintro.mspx ]