Everyone is linking to this—but, come on! This is in my dept…
Ok, wow—this feels good. This link is not a search engine, not a hashtag database—but an old school type web directory! (See—Brad, Joe, here we go!) A rising one, with a nomination at the Hugo Awards and coverage in a recent Wired article by Gretchen McCulloch:
On AO3 [Archive of Our Own], users can put in whatever tags they want. (Autocomplete is there to help, but they don’t have to use it.) Then behind the scenes, human volunteers look up any new tags that no one else has used before and match them with any applicable existing tags, a process known as tag wrangling. Wrangling means that you don’t need to know whether the most popular tag for your new fanfic featuring Sherlock Holmes and John Watson is Johnlock or Sherwatson or John/Sherlock or Sherlock/John or Holmes/Watson or anything else. And you definitely don’t need to tag your fic with all of them just in case. Instead, you pick whichever one you like, the tag wranglers do their work behind the scenes, and readers looking for any of these synonyms will still be able to find you.
My God—web directory + human curation! This is my dream. The article is fantastic: interviews with tag wranglers and greater detail on what goes into it. They’ve actually figured out how to do a centralized database (like Yahoo! or DMOZ) and keep it orderly, useful, current.
To see for yourself exactly how this plays out, there is this spot in a YouTube video that shows how the categorization works. It does lean heavily on autocomplete and rigid selections—but you can always just type in whatever you like. But, jeez, it is astonishing the depth of categorization!
This is not a new thing, of course—so I may look ignorant to the AO3 users who may encounter this post. The @ao3_wranglers Twitter account has been around since 2011—and the site began its beta in 2009—but I think we can say that this method is now proven and can be used elsewhere.
Anyway, I recently made an attempt to describe a curation role just like this:
But I think we also need a librarian ethic somewhere among these groups. Maybe there are moderators out there who have this kind of commission. You are dealing with a community of writers, who are all filling the community up with their verbose output—this is all data that needs to be grappled with.
So, think of a librarian at work: putting books back under the proper heading, referring readers to specific titles, borrowing books from the outside—in fact, I wish communities were better about knowing what other communities are in the topical vicinity—to help everyone find themselves a home.
Cool, ‘tag wranglers’ it is! I sincerely hope this becomes more of a wider trend.
Of course, this doesn’t change anything when it comes to tiny directories—except that perhaps there is now a window for innovation in this neglected department. If you are building your own directory, you wrangle your own tags.
On the other hand, perhaps communities of tiny directories could come up with a common classification system for their group. I personally wouldn’t do this for href.cool—because I want its categories to be somewhat nonsensical and unfamiliar.
But I could see Indieweb.xyz using some tag wrangling! Basically, if you have people posting to /en/games and /en/video-games—perhaps you could just redirect the second to the first. Collapse redundant tags into a single spot.
Ok, going to stop talking—I’ve posted way too much today. Apologies, the arrival of summer is leaving me at the keyboard a bit more.