Posting, Subscribing, and Tagging
I have been blogging for almost two years now. That’s nothing compared to the veterans and icons of the blogging movement. But it’s been long enough to develop an understanding of what’s really going on.
I was copied on a long email thread between some really smart people this week talking about the various categories of blog and RSS services. It was a taxonomy to make a consultant proud. But it was overkill to me.
I like to keep things simple.
And to me blogging is about three things:
Posting, Subscribing, and Tagging.
These are the three essential and fundamental functions and they are the building blocks for all the different kinds of blogging.
Blogging is not limited to posting a short blast of text into Blogger, Typepad, Wordpress, or Live Journal.
Blogging is way bigger than that.
Podcasting is blogging.
Posting photos to flickr is blogging.
Building a link roll on del.icio.us is blogging.
Posting your cell phone videos of your cat on vimeo is blogging.
Building your personal page on MySpace.com is blogging.
Anytime a user posts their content on the web in a place they control for the world to consume, they are blogging.
The following activities are not blogging yet, but are very close and should soon be bloggable.
Writing a book or record review on Amazon.com.
Placing an item for sale on eBay.
Posting an event on evdb.com.
Writing a restaurant review on menupages.com.
Every time I talk to a person involved in “traditional media” who wants to understand the Internet, I tell them one thing – user generated content.
Until you get user generated content, you don’t get the Internet.
And blogging is the platform for user generated content.
And as I said before, blogging consists of posting, subscribing, and tagging.
Posting came first.
In my Blogging 1.0 post last year, I suggested that people have been blogging in some form since the advent of the Internet. Creating Geocities pages; Guides working for the Mining Company (About.com’s first name); and Jim Cramer’s hourly posts from his trading desk were all early forms of blogging.
But with the advent of blogging software and services, posting has become so easy that anyone can do it. And as a result we have north of 10 million bloggers and the number is growing so fast that nobody can keep up. And its way more than that when you define blogging as I did earlier in this post.
The thing about posting is that you can post pretty much anything that is digital. Text, music, videos, photos, etc. And links are a critical part of posting as well. In fact, posting links (to del.icio.us or other services) is the fasting growing posting activity there is right now.
Subscribing came next.
RSS is a big deal, but it’s a technology not a human behavior. It’s like TCP/IP or HTML. It’s an enabler.
But subscribing to RSS feeds is a human behavior and it’s fundamental to the whole blogging equation.
One of the things about blogging is that readers vote every day about what content they like and what they don’t. They do this by subscribing or unsubscribing to RSS feeds of the blogs they like.
Subscribing is what makes blogs so sticky.
Tagging is the third and final leg of the stool.
With 10 million or more bloggers posting a couple times a day, how do you keep track of all that user generated content?
You can’t in an absolute sense. I believe that classic Internet search (Google, Yahoo!, MSN, ASK, etc) is not up to the task and never will be. Technorati is proving that with its herculean but flailing efforts at providing blog search.
But you can establish a framework for user generated content and build on top of it. That’s where tagging comes in.
There are two kinds of tagging and they are not the same.
First there’s self tagging. That is when the person making the post contributes some descriptive tags to the post. That’s how most of the Flickr tags are created. That’s what Gawker is doing with its tags. That’s what Jeff Jarvis just added to Buzzmachine. That’s what O’Reilly has been doing for a while now. And that’s what Technorati is doing with its tags.
Self tagging is important for two reasons. First, it breaks the hierarchical straightjacket that categories and folders have had on organization schemes. Tags are fluid. You just add them whenever you feel like it. So the posts get described by their creator correctly instead of by least common denominator.
Second, when they are aggregated like Technorati does, they provide a much better way to search the blog world. It’s not surprising that Technorati is placing a lot more emphasis on its tag search and a lot less emphasis on its blog URL search.
The second kind of tagging is user tagging. That’s what del.icio.us and others offer. This is when the person consuming the content contributes a tag. In the del.icio.us world, its in connection with bookmarking the content so that it can be remembered and shared.
But there are other reasons for user tagging that are developing quickly. One that I like to talk about is tagging mp3s that are available on the Internet so that they are delivered to your friend’s iPod.
Or tagging a recipe that I find on the Internet so that they are delivered to the Gotham Gal’s MyYahoo page in hopes that she’ll make it for dinner.
Tagging describes the content so it can be found, shared, delivered, and consumed.
Tagging extends the notion of subscribing because in addition to subscribing to a blog, you can subscribe to a tag.
When the posts get categorized via tags (whether self tagged or user tagged), the tags themselves become RSS feeds. That’s how I get the mp3s delivered to my friend’s iPod.
I believe that together posting, subscribing, and tagging will profoundly change the worlds of media, entertainment, commerce, and communication.
We are five years into the posting revolution, two to three years into the subscribing revolution, and maybe one year into the tagging revolution. We are just looking at the tip of the iceberg in terms of what can be done with these techniques.
So join the blogging revolution and get busy posting, subscribing, and tagging.