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What is tagging and practical ways non-profits can use it

Lori Halley 15 March 2007 2 comments

What exactly are tags? Simply put, tags are keywords. In the same way you can stick labels on physical objects, you can use tags to label digital 'things' such as blog posts, photos, and web links. Once you assign one or more tags to a certain object, you can easily find it later by looking up everything tagged with a particular keyword. You can also assign multiple tags to the same object, and different people can assign different tags to the same resource. For a more detailed definition of tags, see the Wikipedia entry here.

Also known as "folksonomies", tags are "you-based", usually created by the website visitors, rather than site owners, and make many online services both accessible and useful. The free encyclopedia Wikipedia, defines folksonomies as a "neologism for a practice of collaborative categorization using freely chosen keywords."

Along with tags, come tag clouds. Tag clouds visualize the popularity of tags, here's an example of a tag cloud from our blog:

The more posts we have in a given category relative to others, the bigger it becomes. So as you can see the  'Non-profit technology' tag is much bigger than the 'Volunteers' tag, which means we have many more posts on the former topic. Other good examples are delicious' tag cloud and flickr's cloud.

The three most common examples of using tags are:

  1. del.icio.us: to store, retrieve or share your favorite web links
  2. Flickr: to organize, retrieve or share your photos
  3. Technorati: to organize or find blog posts

Tagging is the process of assigning keywords to online content. A practical example: Use a tag for all things related to a conference you are attending. (Organizers might recommend a particular tag to attendees so everyone can see what others have tagged on the web.) For example, if the conference tag is "wildapricot2006", individuals uploading photos on Flickr will use that tag to label all the pictures. Once the keywords are applied, entering the tag "wildapricot2006" into Flickr's search will find all the pictures associated with the tag.

One of the reasons tagging has gathered so much attention is that it is so simple and useful.  But tagging also has other benefits:

  • Tagging is highly social and the practice of sharing resources with others is quickly becoming a staple of web 2.0.  
  • Tagging makes it easier to organize and describe information in a manner that is personally meaningful.
  • Tags enhance our productivity and save us time. Rather than sending links by email, people can subscribe to your del.icio.us bookmarks.
  • Tags open up more possibilities for sharing and collaboration, by making it easy to share the interesting things we read/view with others or a community.

How can nonprofits use tags?

One way to get started is to use de.licio.us to collect things of interest for everyone at your organization. (Delicious is a website anyone can use for free to store their bookmarks - and access them from any computer they use). When your members or staff find a valuable resource, they can bookmark it and tag the link with the organization's designated tag - let's say, 'AIMS'. So now if you want to see all collected bookmarks, they will ask delicious to show them everyone's recent bookmarks, by going to http://del.icio.us/tag/AIMS. This makes it accessible and useful to everyone. (And each bookmark can be tagged with many other tags at the same time so you can drill down into AIMS+sponsorship or AIMS+Membership management etc.)

For nonprofits, another great way to use tags is for conferences. Conferences often assign certain tags so attendees can connect with others of shared interest. You can find out more about how to use Flickr here.

If your organization has a website and you don't have time to write your own news articles, you can use tags to find and automatically display relevant blog content by using a Technorati blog search engine. For example, if you run a Chiropractic association, you can use technorati to find all blog posts tagged with 'Chiropractic news'. You can also take this a step further by making the dynamic list of recent news appear right on your website. Copy the RSS feed link for your current selection and go to widgetbox. Create a widget based on this feed and it will automatically and dynamically display all blog posts from Technorati tagged with 'Chiropractic news':

Now you can stick this 'widget' into your website - and have latest Chiropractic news automatically displayed and updated - without you doing anything!

Finally, and something to look forward to, you will soon be able to use tags in the Wild Apricot software. This coming feature will give you the ability to better organize your member and contacts database. For instance, you could have a "prospective member" tag, to easily bring up all contacts who are prospective members or bring up a list of everyone who is tagged as a prospective member. Check our blog regularly for new release updates. Read about our latest product releases here.

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Thursday, 15 March 2007 at 6:35 AM


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