Carolyn Minor, a librarian at the University of Winnipeg, has put out a call for help on event tagging. She’s noted the difficulties in setting up effective tagging for event blogs, which is something I struggled with myself in setting up the event blog for the 2005 Online Deliberation conference.

The main problem I ran into is that I have yet to find an accessible and effective tool for tag-based searching of blogs. For a brief and beautiful moment I thought Feedster was capable of searching blogs based on a field, but no dice. And of course Technorati has yet to add RSS feeds to its tag pages, so that’s out. So the only currently viable approaches are:

  1. Keyword searching: Choose a tag that is a unique keyword — something not already in use on the net, like the OD2005 keyword we used for Online Deliberation — and ask people to use that keyword as their blog category for posts they want aggregated into the event blog. Then set up a keyword search in something like PubSub, and aggregate the resulting feed into the main event blog.
  2. Blog-specific aggregation: Ask event participants to use a specific category title for posts related to your event, and to submit the URLs for their existing blogs. Then subscribe to each individual blog’s RSS feed from within your event blog’s aggregator, but set it to only aggregate posts whose category matches your designated tag. (If you’re a WordPress user, you can do this using FeedWordPress.)
  3. Technorati yourself: If you just want a place where you can all find the photos and blog posts you’re tagging, you can tell people to visit the Technorati page for the tag you’ve chosen. It’s not a great solution if you’re trying to build a site and community, but it’s an ok approach if you’ve got a group of people who just want to keep vaguely on top of their shared interests.

Of course these options just address the technical challenge around tag aggregation. They don’t touch the more fundamental problem, which is that it’s awfully hard to get people to do collaborative tagging unless they already blog, know something about RSS, and know something about tagging.

My own solution to this dilemma is to treat event blogging as an opportunity to ease people into the world of blogging and RSS by encouraging them to set up accounts on the conference blog itself, so they can post from there. I also set up e-mail-based aggregation so that people can submit photos and blog posts by e-mailing them to specific e-mail addresses, which then get aggregated into the site. That gets them into the swing of things and perhaps gets them interested in setting up blogs of their own.

In other words, figure that outside (and maybe even inside) of events for bloggers in particular, you’re not going to be able to make a go of a tag-centred event blog. But you can build in a bunch of other aggregation options that let people participate in less-techie ways, and include tagging as an option for the tag-savvy few.