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June 23, 2010

Tags, Tags, Everywhere!

Filed under: Main — admin @ 12:01 am

One of the latest rages in our digital obsession over searching is the use of tags. Tags are text tidbits that help you find things — providing that you know how to put tags to work.

I don’t know exactly how the concept of tags came about, but the first place I noticed them was when I was creating and saving images in Windows Vista. One of the options for saving an image was to add a “tag.”

The tag is merely a word, a chunk of text that helps you describe the image. After all, the technology just isn’t there to use text to search for an image. I mean, unless the image file is named something like Billy at the beach in 2004 when we took our Florida vacation.jpg, odds are pretty good you won’t be able to find it using text.

Yeah, in reality, image files are given crappy names like IMG045122.JPG.

So to make searching for images easier, Windows (as well as other operating systems) allows you to add what’s called meta information to a file. The meta information is saved with other file attributes, such as the file’s size, name, date, and other boring items. Part of that meta information includes text, such as tags.

To make tags work effectively, you have to use single-words. Make the words descriptions that would help you match whatever it is that you’re tagging. For example, consider this image file:

The actual name of that file on my hard drive is Xmas_sc00008df3.tif. The tags I’ve applied are:

Christmas, Simon, Jonah, Presents, 1995

Not only do the tags help describe the picture, they help me to search for it. So, for example, if I want to find all pictures of Jonah, I simply search for the Jonah tag. Or if I want pictures of Simon at Christmas, I search for those two tags. That’s the way tags work.

The problem with tags is that they only work when you apply them. So you have to remember to tag your images as you import them, or as you preview them.

The tags you choose are up to you, but be brief! It’s tempting to write a whole paragraph description for a tag, but that’s not how they’re used. One-word, punchy descriptions work best. If you need to be more descriptive, then add more individual tags.

In addition to pictures, tags can be applied to other digital information. For example, this WordPress blog software lets me stick tags onto each post — though I admit that I don’t use that feature.

Someday there will be picture analysis technology that will make it easy to search and identify images. Until then, using tags is the next best thing.

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