Web2Con: Emergent Tags

The following bit emerged out of the What’s in a Tag session at the Web 2.0 Conference. Closely related to the popularity decay idea is the idea of emergent tags. Emergent tags are those tags that become more popular over time. The interesting thing about emergent tags is that they’re rare, but hugely valuable. Why […]

The following bit emerged out of the What’s in a Tag session at the Web 2.0 Conference.

Closely related to the popularity decay idea is the idea of emergent tags. Emergent tags are those tags that become more popular over time.

The interesting thing about emergent tags is that they’re rare, but hugely valuable.

Why are they rare? Well, because human activity is slow to change: we do a lot of the same things that we’ve always done. Therefore, tags like “wedding” or “cameraphone” or “web” will be popular for a long time, because those tags represent certain ideas that are central to many people’s lives right now.

But take a tag like “Ajax”, which emerged over the last few months after Jesse James Garrett dreamt it up around the beginning of the year. This tag didn’t exist before that, or if did it meant something other than Asynchronous Javascript and XML.

Why are emergent tags valuable? Well, they’re valuable because they show trends of change. To give you an example of how useful this can be, Tim O’Reilly said in his opening talk that by watching the emergence of the Ajax tag they could predict that if O’Reilly published books about Ajax, readers would gobble them up. And judging by the number of people at this Conference who are building applications in Ajax, and the number of folks I’ve talked to who have shiny new Ajax books, this certainly is the case.

Published: October 6th, 2005

The What to Wear Daily Report. A simple daily email with clothing recommendations and other info based on the weather. Remarkably useful. It's free to sign up.