[Design] Fwd: Tags, hierarchies et al.
mimi at osafoundation.org
Tue Aug 30 12:54:30 PDT 2005
Rashmi's response to my wiki post.
Begin forwarded message:
> From: Rashmi Sinha <rashmi at uzanto.com>
> Date: August 30, 2005 9:36:41 AM PDT
> To: Mimi Yin <mimi at osafoundation.org>
> Subject: Re: Tags, hierarchies et al.
> At 12:40 PM 8/29/2005, Mimi Yin wrote:
>> Thanks for the pointer to the thread. I think Chandler's
>> interpretation of this whole debate is to get rid of the distinction
>> between TAGSs in Flickr and Delicious, labels in Gmail, Categories in
>> Outlook and Entourage, Smart playlists in iTunes AND FOLDERS in most
>> email clients, sets in Flickr and explicit playlists in iTuness.
>> Tags, Labels, Categories, Smart playlists, Folders, Sets and
>> Playlists are technology-centric. They focus on distinctions in
>> functionality and software behavior.
> I think that makes sense. Here is why. I have been thinking about
> what the cognitive difference between tags and categories is. As an
> input mechanism, tagging is just an association (it could be a
> descriptor, a category, or any other type of association). Its
> whatever comes to mind, without any editing.
> In contrast, a category, is the right group that the item belongs.
> Its a subset of what a tag is. Since the focus is on the "THE one
> right category", it can be a complex task sometimes (you have to
> reject all the other associations, and focus on one).
> When people talk about tagging, i notice that they emphasize that
> its easy, because there is no one right answer. The tags themselves
> still tend to be categories. When I look at tags on del.icio.us/
> flickr, a lot of times those are possible categories. So in
> practice, one difference between assigning tags or categories might
> simply be whether you assign one or more.
> Another difference: what happens to the item when you tag /
> categorize it. Assigning to one category generally implies I am
> done with the item. In contrast, assigning one tag does not imply
> that you are done with it. In del.icio.us / Flickr you can assign
> as many tags as you want. Once you are done, the item is at the top
> of the list - you can edit it anytime you want. But in a folder
> system, once you categorize an item its gone from your field of
> view, its hidden in a folder somewhere. I think this is important -
> people seem to want one or the other. Some people want the item to
> go away once you tag/categorize something, others want it to remain
> in field of view. One thing that we are trying in our sorting
> software is to always show the last three items you put in a category.
> There are other several other minor differences. But coming back to
> my original point - the differences in the system are not
> fundamental to tagging / categorization (meaning assigned tags
> often seem to be categories). For example, I can easily imagine a
> categorization system that allows multiple categories, and the item
> remains available. It is a question of UI affordances.
>> I guess the important distinction in my mind's eye is not so much
>> between a folder or a tag...but more between:
>> 1. Explicitly creating a group of items in a top-down manner (ie.
>> collecting them into a folder or playlist) versuss
>> 2. Implicitly creating a group of items in a bottom-up manner (ie.
>> tagging or labeling and then creating a smart playlist or smart
>> folder based on that tagging)
> The top-down, bottom-up distinction is important. I went back and
> read some of the cognitive anthropology work. In real life,
> categorization or learning categories is definitely made up of
> small, local decisions. Think of the way a child learns categories,
> say living versus non living. Her parents make small local
> observations about objects she encounters. Together this adds up -
> she gets the living-non living difference. Real life categorization
> is really small, local, independent observations (all the different
> associations that arise when we encounter an object). The
> categories arise out of that choas of small, local observations -
> our minds are able to the analysis and synthesis to find categories
> to organize those observations.
> Look forward to discussing more of this with you when you are in
> the South Bay. And feel free to post this to the Design list/ wiki.
>> This reduces the debate down to UI affordances (ie. drag and dropping
>> items into some grouping mechanism, be it a Gmail label or an Eudora
>> folder VERSUS labeling an item as belonging to some label or folder).
>> Consequently we could easily imagine a world in which there was some
>> functionality that collected items into some BUCKET, and users could
>> fill that bucket in a number of different ways: bottom-up or top-
>> down, but that they DIDN'T need to worry about what kind of bucket it
>> was (ie. tag or folder), unless it was a human-centered distinction
>> (ie. a Project bucket versus a Location bucket).
>> Anyway, looking forward to talking with you more about all of this!
>> (Would you mind if I posted this exchange to our Design list?)
>> Thanks, Mimi
>> On Aug 29, 2005, at 10:47 AM, Rashmi Sinha wrote:
>>> I came across your Virtuality presentation slides: http://
>>> Very interesting, though I am not sure I got everything. We should
>>> catch up sometime - I am fascinated by what Chandler is doing.
>>> This thread on my blog might be of interest: http://
>>> I am really curious about Gmail tags are really being used. Are
>>> people jerry-rigging folder systems (as the last comment suggests).
>>> Wonder if there is any data out there about this.
>>> Rashmi Sinha, Ph.D.
>>> Uzanto Consulting
>>> Co Program Chair - BayCHI
> Rashmi Sinha, Ph.D.
> Uzanto Consulting
> Co Program Chair - BayCHI
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the Design