The Internet has provided opportunity for online information to be easily shared and archived on servers and web pages; however, the exponential growth of online information creates finding specific content a challenge. For this purpose, a system of markers or tags has been created to identify online objects with keywords for retrieval. Baym (1993) refers to a marking system as an important element for online content because it ensures that people are able to find the information that they are searching for. She argued that marking content “makes the quantity far more manageable” (p. 150). People can filter out the information they are not interested in and focus specifically on a given topic or trend.
Social media sites such as Delicious, YouTube, and Twitter use tagging systems to organize their online information for users to filter through. Halpin, Robu, and Shepherd (2007) identify tagging as a categorization process of keywords associated with objects that social media sites use “to facilitate retrieval both for the user and for other users” (p. 211). In the article, “XML and the Second-Generation Web” Bosak and Bray (1999) argue that an object tagging system is important because “tags say what the information is” (p. 1, Something Old, Something New section). Twitter, for example, uses a tagging system as a way of filtering the content where by a user can add a keyword (hash tag) to a post that identifies the post with a specific topic or event.
Content that has been tagged can provide information about popular topics and trends for social marketing companies to harvest. The content tags can also provide a quick way to filter out a topic for the details of a story. Shamma, Kennedy, and Churchill (2009) explained that current TV stations in 2008 collected all the tweets that pertained to the U.S. debate between John McCain and Barack Obama, and displayed those tweets in real-time during the broadcast. People were instructed “to annotate their tweet with the text: #current” so that their tweets could be filtered out and displayed with other tweets that also contained the #current tag associated with the debate (p. 4). Tagging objects such as videos, images and text with keywords creates an organized filing system where the mess of online content is neatly filtered and available for consumption.
Baym, N. K. (1993). Interpreting soap operas and creating community: Inside a computer-mediated fan culture. Journal of Folklore Research, 30(2/3), 143-176.
Bosak, J., & Bray, T. (1999, May). XML and the second-generation web. Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=xml-and-the-second-genera.
Halpin, H., Robu, V., & Shepherd, H. A. (2007). The complex dynamics of collaborative tagging. In Proceedings of the 16th international conference on World Wide Web, Banff, AB. 211-220.
Shamma, D. A., Kennedy, L., & Churchill, E. S. (2009). Tweet the debates: Understanding community annotation of uncollected sources. In Proceedings of the first SIGMM workshop on Social media, China, 3-10.