Debra Roby, one of the folks at our powerbloghers session, blogged & emailed with these questions:

  1. Tagging. why should I care? and how do I do it?
  2. Social bookmarking. same question.
  3. Setting up a wiki?? Where, why and most importantly how??

Let me tackle each one in turn:

Tagging. Why should I care? and how do I do it?

I can’t resist the urge to refer tagging newbies to my article for the Toronto Star, which was meant to give people an overview of the why and hows of tagging. But let me also try for an abridged version.

Tagging is the ability to assign topical keywords to a wide range of digital content, like photos, bookmarks (favourite web sites) and blog posts. It matters because:

  • Just like the Internet itself, it’s self-governing. Nobody’s choice of tag is the correct, authoritative tag for a given page or piece of content; everybody gets to choose for herself what word or words will help her find a piece of content again. Finally, information architecture that matches the structure and spirit of the Net!
  • Tags are non-hierarchical: unlike the frequently-seen system of nested categories or nested folders (for example, “animals” is a category and “dogs” is a subcategory), tagging treats all topics as equal — so you can have associations among different tags without having one be “above” the other. In a related point…
  • Tags are non-exclusive: you don’t have to choose which tag to use. So if you find a great piece of software to connect your Mac and your Treo (to take a hypothetical example) you can tag it “Mac” and “Treo” and “software”.
  • Tags enable collaboration. The same tag that helps you find that Treo software can help everybody else find it too. Cool, huh?
  • Tags make us into better human beings. Really. Because while I’m saving that Treo link it occurs to me that other people might think to look for it under “Palm”, so what the hell, I might as well save it with the tag “Palm”, too. How generous of me! Aren’t I nice person!

But that takes us to the “how” part. Basically the three most obvious ways to use tags are:

  1. To store, retrieve or share favourite web links (bookmarks). was the first service to offer tag-based bookmarking, but there are others — see my comments on social bookmarking, below.
  2. To organize, retrieve or share your photos. The big player in the photo-tagging world is Flickr.
  3. To organize or find blog posts. For now that pretty much relies on using Technorati to aggregate blog posts that share the same tag. For example, you can include the code:
    <a href=”” rel=”tag”>powerbloghers</a>
    to include a post on the Technorati page for powerbloghers.

That last point brings us to the BIG “so what” of tagging: it allows for the distribution and aggregation of content via RSS. If you think of RSS feeds as structured web traffic, then tags are the road signs. Tags tell RSS feeds where to appear on web pages that are structured around RSS — pages like our Blogher Advanced Tools page. There’s no “real” content on that page — nothing that was posted directly to the blog. There are just a bunch of road signs that say “woohoo! over here!” whenever the tag “powerblogher” passes by in an RSS feed.

For more insights into the Meaning of Tags, check out You’re It.

Social bookmarking. same question.

Bottom line: social bookmarking sytems help you organize the web sites you want to find again in a way that makes it easy for you to find them. Unlike the “favorites” folders built into your web browser, using a social bookmarking system means you’ll be able to access your favourite web links from any computer with an Internet connection. And the same effort lets you share your links with other people who share your interest, find resources that they have recommended, and even turn your bookmarks into a great source of constantly updated content on your web page or blog.

For a great list of social bookmarking services and related resources, see Marnie Webb’s social bookmarking H20 playlist (H20 Playlist is a kind of social bookmarking system itself).

Setting up a wiki?? Where, why and most importantly how??

Wikis are web pages that people can edit collaboratively. Some uses for wikis include:

  • Writing a document with a group of people or getting input/changes to a document you’ve written. Larry Lessig is revising a whole book this way.
  • Taking notes on an event as a group, so that everyone shares the job of creating minutes and an event record. That’s how the folks at Aspiration use PurpleWiki, one wiki software tool.
  • To organize your own notes in way that is easy, freeflowing and interlinked. Kris Krug put me onto TiddlyWiki, and a couple of comments on my recent blog post about switching from Entourage recommended VoodooPad, which I’m now trying out.

It seems like in the big world of social software there are Blog People and Wiki People. We may sometimes end up at the same conferences and we may even have interesting conversations about tagging, but if we mate we produce mutant offspring. (Nominees, anyone?)

I am afraid that I am a Blog Person — though I have great respect and affection for many Wiki People. So while I can tell you what I use for my own current, occasional wiki needs (Jotspot), I must defer wiki wisdom-seekers to people I know who are true WikiHeads.

If this were a wiki, WikiHeads would now be a hyperlink, waiting to be populated with an ever-growing list of fascinating Wiki People. But this is just a blog, so all I can do is encourage one of the Wiki People to start their own wiki of useful wiki links, and meanwhile point you towards Nancy White’s fabulous set of wiki resources.

I hope this is helpful to Debra and others — and that others will chime in with their own explanations and resources by using the powerbloghers tag.