I’m terrible at tagging. How about you?

Tags in Kyoto

I don’t know about you, but when i look at my Flickr and Del.icio.us tags and even the categories for my blog, it makes me realise that folksonomies are not so simple.

Particularly my Del.icio.us account is now so completely out of control that I frequently can’t find things that I *know* I saved and tagged… and I’m supposed to know a thing or two about how to label things!

Where are the main problems? Plurals and abbreviations are my biggest foes. Sometimes I pluralise, sometimes I don’t. Generally I use the full word or term, but occasionally I’ll use an abbreviation, or both! If a term has two words to it, the way that I join the words to make a term varies.

It’s a complete mess.

Why did this happen? Because I didn’t make any rules when I first started, and my ‘rules’ have evolved over time as I see different ways that other people use tags, and as I succumb to using ‘suggested tags’ that break my ‘rules’.

Not only that, but usually I tag in haste, often times because I want to come back and look at the page/site at leisure but I don’t want to lose the link. I’m not really thinking too much about whatever my latest tagging rules might be, and there’s nothing to remind me of what rules I’d decided on.

And, most of all. The system doesn’t care how I tag and doesn’t keep me in line!

it drives me crazy. I feel like a plumber with a dripping tap. But will I ever go back and tidy it up? Probably not. I have a whole lot of links there now – it would take a serious investment of time to tidy up now… and what’s to stop it from ending up in the same state of disrepair in six months time?

If I’m having these kinds of troubles with tagging, then surely others are having even more troubles. And the value of the tagging must surely be diminished because other people are getting less rich results due to my haphazard tagging.

I do love the freedom and flexibility of tagging… but more and more I find myself wanting some rules, and some compulsion to stick to the rules or knowingly break them. And I want a smarter system that realises I’m being silly when I randomly choose to make a tag a plural for no good reason at all.

I want some structure to my tagging.

Do you? Or do you think I’m taking all the fun out of folksonomy?

Photo Credit: AnnDeeScraps @ Flickr

when to use drag & drop (some informal research results)

One of the great challenges of Interaction Design these days is that we now have a plethora of new ways to design interaction on the web than we did just a few short years ago. Drag and drop is probably one of the best – creating a sense of empowerment over the interface that can sometimes result in an almost joyful user experience.

Despite the fact that we’ve been designing with drag and drop for a while now, it’s taken this long for me to have the opportunity to do some good solid user testing with users comparing drag and drop with more traditional interaction styles. That is … clicking :)

In the test that were we performing we were (amongst other things) examining the use of drag and drop and clicking to perform two types of tasks: to select objects and place them onto a stage, and to manipulate objects on a stage.

One interface used drag and drop for both tasks. One interface used click to select and drag and drop to manipulate.

When users were interacting with the prototype that used drag and drop for both functions it was common for them to make unsolicited comments about the interface – generally expressions of delight at the responsiveness of the interface and the novelty of the interaction method. Of course, drag and drop is not really so novel – many users are accustomed to this method, and we found that no users (of the 15 we tested) were unfamiliar with the drag and drop method or had any difficulties understanding how they were expected to achieve their task using drag and drop. (The interface did include a small instruction to drag and drop onto the stage).

Some of the tasks, such as removing objects from the stage and understanding how many objects could be dragged onto the stage were not immediately obvious, but through brief experimentation the users were rapidly able to achieve these tasks and exhibited no difficulty. In fact, in many cases they were saying ‘I wonder if I drag this back here will it delete the object’, as they performed the task and were pleased to discover that it worked exactly as they had expected it might.

When users were interacting with the ‘click to select’ interface, there were no such expressions of delight with the interaction, however they also had no difficulty achieving all of the tasks involved in the test.

Later, we asked the users to compare the two interaction experiences and talk about which they preferred and why. Without exception, we found that our test participants preferred the click to select interface over the drag and drop interface – despite the feedback they had given at the time of testing.

They agreed that drag and drop felt ‘fun’, and ‘creative’, but overwhelmingly stated that it was unnecessarily complicated, and that it was just as easy, or easier, to click. ‘Dragging was a drag’ was one of my favourite quotes. :)

On the other hand, users unanimously agreed that drag and drop was an ideal way to manipulate objects in relation to each other (particularly, to change the position of objects in relation to one another).

Based on the results of this testing, the logical findings seem to be that drag and drop is ideal for manipulating the position of objects on a stage, but that when ‘selecting’ objects, simply using click to select is preferable. Even considering that we may be wishing to create an interface that is fun and creative (which was why the full drag and drop approach was originally considered), the inefficiency of this method detracts from the user performing their task. Selecting the objects was considered a preliminary task, and the ‘fun’ part started when users got to manipulating the content.

When thinking of the best examples of drag and drop interfaces (and I think that moving around maps is a great example of this), it is once again the manipulation of objects on a stage and not object selection, that seems to be common.

Of course, it is also important to note that choosing a drag and drop interface also significantly compromises your ability to deliver an accessible interface. This should always be an important consideration when selecting an interaction method.

Designing a drag and drop interface? You could do much worse than refer to the Yahoo! Design Pattern Library where they’ve spent a lot of time thinking about all of the components of the interaction and what you’ll need to consider.

Have you done any testing with drag and drop interfaces? I’d be really interested to hear what you’ve found.

Is building an Australian blog search engine (or index) like building a better mousetrap?

Gnoos

Is blogging a patriotic sport? Do you blog for your countrymen? Do you hunt down your countryman’s blogs? Are other countries experiencing a small explosion of search engines and indexes that help them find blogs of their country in the same way that we are here in Australia?

I don’t know… it all just seems a little strange and redundant to me… (sorry Ben!)

I guess I think of myself as an Australian blogger… (although, that’s going to get a bit more complex in the next few weeks). I don’t think of my blog as an Australian blog though.

I’ve enjoyed some of the blogs I’ve happened upon via Gnoos (still in beta I believe) and the newly launched News 2.0 … but I feel no compulsion to re-visit them frequently, in the same way that I do Technorati, and, of course, Google.

When I’m looking for a blog, most of the time it’s because I’m looking for a topic, a subject. I’m looking to see what others are saying. I’m very rarely interested in where the writers are located. If the topic I’m searching on has an Australian flavour, I assume that my search will turn up Australian writers naturally. And by and large that’s worked quite well.

What I find when I visit sites like Gnoos and News 2.0 are lots of Australian sites on topics that I’m not *really* interested in. It’s nice for a visit to find that people are writing about the current series of Big Brother or a restaurant they went to on the weekend. These aren’t sites I’m likely to subscribe to though.

There’s something about these sites that makes me feel as though they’re quietly waiting for News or Fairfax to buy them out… Other than that, I just don’t see the point.

Not that I think we should completely write off either of these sites (or the other Australian Blog related sites). They both add something interesting to the land of blog.

Jon Yau of News 2.0 describes his service this way:

I hope people would use it as a sacrificial news aggregator – ie. allowing them to check out Australian blogs before subscribing to the ones they like. I’ve added a tagcloud to help determine ‘What is the Australian blogosphere talking about TODAY?’

I like the idea of this – and I don’t think that anyone has quite got that idea to work properly yet. Case in point – on News 2.0 this very moment some of the highlighted tags include; utilitarianism, squirrel, stakeholders, norms, leviticus, graham.

This is what the Australian blogosphere is talking about today? You bunch of weirdos! (disclaimer: I deliberately left out a whole bunch of much more predictable tags for the purpose of illustrating the point). Which of you Australian bloggers were blogging about Leviticus? Come on. Own up. And who’s blogging about Graham? :)

Yes, of course. It’s sample size, and Jon also says that his site is still just in working prototype mode… but the problem is always going to be sample size.

Over on Gnoos, they’re tracking the hot searches in Australian blogging. Currently the number one search is “Gnoos“. Now, that’s odd… you get to Gnoos and then search for the site that you’re already on? Could be some beta testing and bug squashing and algorithmic refining (then more testing) is skewing the results. It doesn’t get much better though with Big Brother and AFL also featuring in the top five.

See… you wonder why I use Technorati. Their top tags this hour include blog-tools, web 2.0, wordpress, SEO and, of course, sex.
But, enough of that, and more of what is interesting. The search results interface for Gnoos. (You can only see this if you have a beta invite, but I’m sure if you email the guys they’ll happily let you in to play!).

There are a few interesting things about the Gnoos search results… It’s bit of a mix of a search engine, Digg, and an RSS Reader. See, once you have your search results – you really don’t need to go to the blog at all (except if you wanted to subscribe to it, I guess. Or comment *on* the blog.) The search results have a bunch of inbuilt features including:

  • comments: this is a digg-like feature. I can see it’s place on Digg, where people can debate whether or not a post is digg-worthy perhaps, but wouldn’t it be more productive for everyone to go comment on the blog post?!;
  • ranking: you can vote a post up or down… not sure exactly how this works or how it will work in the future. Presumably the search algorithm is based on relevance and timeliness… is there some ‘ranking’ factor built in there as well or are there other plans for aggregating popularly voted posts?;
  • tags: you, and others, can tag posts. You can see how others have tagged posts (not that there’s a lot of tagging action going on there). Again, not sure how this comes out at the other end, presumably it’s also integrated into how the posts are searched. Although I think it’s a kind of cute idea, it seems kind of odd at the same time. Like the search engine needs me to tell it how to find this post. Potential for exploiting this functionality could also be interesting…
  • read the post in the search engine (the more button): here’s the one that I think is probably most interested in. Click on the More button and you don’t get taken to the blog post in question, the page slides open to reveal the blog post, IN the search engine. If you’re compulsive about your blog stats or are feeding your kids with your Adsense revenue, you’d better hope this doesn’t take off… the incentive for people to actually hit your blog is rapidly diminishing. It kind of takes RSS to a whole new level.

Personally I’m not too fussed about this. I was never planning to make a motza via advertising on my blog and I suspect that a significant proportion of people read my posts via RSS already. If this keeps up I’ll never have to worry about finally re-designing my blog ;) It also seems like a natural way for content to be used… to be independent and freely available, and re-usable where ever it is wanted.

At the same time… when I submitted my blog to Gnoos, I didn’t know they were going to do this. When I first saw it, I was torn between thinking it was cool and feeling like they’d ripped me off.

I’m still kind of vexed, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

So, don’t let it be said that these new entrants to the blog searching world are insignificant. They’re not at all.

I’m just not sure what they’re doing, and whether I ever really need to search for Australian blogs.

But you tell me:

Am I being unAustralian? Have I completely missed the point? Is this going on in Spain as well?

image credit: FrankArr @ Flickr

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