Technorati and Del.icio.us Tagging: A Quick Comparison Study

In The Dark Side of Technorati Tags, Om Malik reports that Technorati tags are being gamed too much for his liking. Most importantly, Om brings up the point that should be brought up: who’s getting what benefit? For those new to tagging, Technorati tags are simply words that writers include in their posts that point […]

In The Dark Side of Technorati Tags, Om Malik reports that Technorati tags are being gamed too much for his liking. Most importantly, Om brings up the point that should be brought up: who’s getting what benefit?

For those new to tagging, Technorati tags are simply words that writers include in their posts that point to a tag set, on Technorati or elsewhere. A tag set is simply a set of all the web pages tagged with a particular word. Used correctly, the tags contain those words that are relevant to the content being posted. As an example, I’m going to include the tag “technorati” in this document.

The idea is that everyone benefits from this. The person whose post it is gets listed on Technorati’s page corresponding to that tag (the tag set). Technorati gets more people becoming aware of and using its service, and thus provides better search capability for incoming users.

That’s the theory, anyway. In practice, as Om points out, it takes very little work to get listed, over and over, on a Technorati tag page. All you have to do is write a few tags every few days and you’re on the page corresponding to that tag quite frequently. Om uses the example of real-estate sites flooding certain tags, which dilutes the value of the search results, and thus becomes a deterrent to tag anything with that word anymore.

Put simply, people can game the heck out of Technorati tags.

But that raises another point, why do some systems seem easier to game than others? I think this has to do with how the systems are set up. In Technorati’s case, adding tags to pages does not produce value for the writer or readers of that post in and of itself. Perhaps you as readers will click on the link I just created to Technorati-tags, but because the other end contains a tag set and not a specific, valuable resource, it serves a different purpose than does a normal hyperlink. It is not part of my content, only metadata for outside use. All potential value comes through usage of Technorati.

Compare that to services such as Del.icio.us, where people tag things for their own, personal benefit, mostly a way to refind things in the future. In this scheme the value is immediate to the tagger, and though del.icio.us provides further aggregatory benefit (like del.icio.us/popular), that benefit does not change the incentive with which we tag.

Also, there is something else going on here. (well, lots of things). In particular, though, notice that the way things are aggregated really makes a difference in how valuable it is. If we look at things that are tagged by multiple people, we get a lot of value, such as del.icio.us/popular and Technorati Popular. But individual tag spaces, on their own, don’t provide nearly as much value, as can be seen on del.icio.us/tag/web2.0 or technorati/tag/web2.0.

Over time, I wonder if systems like Del.icio.us will provide more value (tagging-wise) simply because of the architecture of the activity. People need an account to tag things, which is a small but nevertheless important barrier. More importantly, people have immediate benefit from it, regardless of what other systems to do aggregate it. That seems to me to be a powerful notion here, and one that might have a great deal to do with whether or not those who game these systems succeed.

Published: August 3rd, 2005

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