Monday, November 26, 2007

What's a tag cloud?

Instead of just being listed alphabetically, varying tags have been "weighted" according to the number of times they have been used in a particular setting, in this case the Michigan State University library catalog. The more times a tag has been used, the larger and bolder it looks in the tag cloud.

I find tag clouds useful, simply because they offer various ways to search for something besides the search terms I used. Instead of wracking my brains for alternative ways to search, I can use tag clouds as a way of reaching materials I may not otherwise ever see.

Tag clouds are created from tags used by people to tag items of interest with terms they think useful. If I were to tag something in Michigan State University's catalog, that tag would probably show up if someone were to search on a related subject. This method, while it seems suspicious to the scholarly researcher, has proven to be quite useful. The odds are quite low that someone is going to take the time to maliciously apply erroneous tags to materials in the hopes of messing up someone's search--who has the time to go through the canon of Renaissance literature in some library's catalog and apply tags like "Fluffy_the_tiger" or "cotton_looms"?

Check out UK's new library catalog, and AADL's catalog for some more examples of tagging.

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