Like Alice in Wonderland, I found myself plunged into a strange world. In my case, I entered the world of tagging cautiously, lest I wind up in the confusing company of a mad hatter. Unfortunately, very shortly into my tagging attempts, I got my figurative online head chopped off by the Reddit Queen of Hearts. I was banned from a library subreddit because I tagged resources, which was evidently a violation of their community’s posting policies. Nevertheless, I did observe some interesting tagging behavior within Reddit; for example, some users appear to be creating almost a form of tagging by using brackets in their submission titles and, from what I could tell, the Ask Science subreddit moderators sort questions by topic and apply tag flairs, which are then searchable by field. Perhaps tag flairs are the future of tagging in Reddit? Unless I’m forced to, I don’t plan on using Reddit again because I found the library-related subreddits to which I subscribed to be insular and somewhat discouraging due to the high volume of self-help questions being asked by members.
Despite the Reddit tagging debacle, I find myself now more aware of tagging. I actually realized that I’ve been tagging, or using tags within resources, for quite a long time without identifying my actions and usage as such. So, whereas tagging had been implicit for me, now it’s been made clear! For example, last summer I applied numerous tags to the Women and World War I LibGuide that I created for my Academic Libraries class, and thus I linked my LibGuide to many other related broader and narrower examples by tagging it as 20th century, gender, history, homefront, international, ls 531, memory, mourning, nursing, suffrage, world war I, and women. I may have actually known what I was doing when I tagged my LibGuide! Also, when I search for gluten-free recipes, I always click on the little box labeled “Gluten Free” at the bottom of my chosen recipe (see this example) to explore further recipes, so I’ve been using tags all along!
However, it wasn’t until I visited Home Depot over the weekend looking for plants that tagging “clicked” for me. Why do we need tags in the world of social media, or many other areas of life for that matter? Because we can’t learn and make decisions without information and context! If a plant label only reads “crepe myrtle” or “daylily,” that tag is virtually worthless to me as a gardener. I don’t know whether it’s a red crepe myrtle or a purple daylily, or a purple crepe myrtle and an orange daylily! However, more specific tagging, such as “Early Bird Lavender Crepe Myrtle,” gives me more information – it’s an early blooming, purple shrub. Tagging and tags are important because they are the application of context to a specific item, be it a hyperlink or a plant. I think I’ve learned to be more appreciative of tagging rather than skeptical and dismissive of it as a social media fad. As a future information professional, I should be grateful for the abundance of metadata that tagging supplies me for free!