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Into the 'Tagosphere'
by
Posted On January 1, 2006
I recently went to check out Yet Another Search Engine that had just launched (I call it the YASE phenomenon). But this one had a new twist and some intriguing language. Here's what is posted at the site (http://www.wink.com): "Warning: This isn't your Dad's search engine… Wink lets you search across the Tagosphere. If you're using services like Digg, Furl, Slashdot, or Yahoo! MyWeb, this is your search engine. Find the latest links that people like you think are great. Enjoy!"

Now, you may just be feeling good that you understand the term "blogosphere," and here we're thrown a new term, "tagosphere." While I'd been following the popular use of Web tags, I was introduced to social tagging firsthand when I helped blog several ITI conferences. Readers were able to easily locate blog posts about the Internet Librarian 2005 event because those of us involved agreed to use "IL05" as the way to identify posts about this conference. Tags seem to work best for close-knit social communities.

For an interesting discussion on the pros and cons of tagging, see Mary Ellen Bates' Online Spotlight column, "Tag—You're It!" in the Jan/Feb 2006 issue of ONLINE. She rightly points out: "Right now, tagging in the general Web is no more useful than metadata was; you miss too much and you find too many irrelevant items." But, she did point out the usefulness of tagging for finding our own information sources, using the "MyWeb" services. For this, a social tagging-driven search engine like Wink could prove useful.

Wink searches and integrates tag results from multiple sources such as del.icio.us, digg, Furl, SlashDot, and Yahoo! MyWeb. The site promises to add more. The tag results are served up along with Web results provided by Google—since "tag coverage is still thin in some areas," according to Wink. It also includes user-contributed content that you'll find under the Wink Answers tab, and it populates many of the Answer concepts with content from Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.org). Users can also choose to click on a star to rate a search result.

You can also tag your results directly in Wink and annotate any link with words that you associate with that link. For instance, if you tagged http://www.kodak.com, you could notate it with the terms "camera," "photography," and "film." Your tags are stored in your "My Page," so if you want to then go look at all the sites you use for photography, http://www.kodak.com and any others that you have tagged will be there.

Other ideas for how to use Wink are in the Field Guide (http://www.wink.com/Wink:field_guide). For example, "Have you just spent hours researching your next vacation or next weeks term paper? …Wink lets you create Collections from all of your tags, classify them and share them with others. You can create, publish and modify your Collections from your My Page." Users can also choose to subscribe to Collections.

Wink is still in open beta. If you do try it out, be sure to provide feedback so the site can improve. There's also a Wink blog (http://blog.wink.com). Wink Technologies, Inc. is a venture-backed startup in Mountain View, Calif. It has a team of "search and stats people from Inktomi, Excite, SGI, and Verity." Om Malik noted in his blog that "Wink is backed by some serious heavy weights: Scott Kurnit of About.com; Ron Conway; Reid Hoffman, Marc Andressen along with Venky Harinarayan (of Cambrian ventures) and David Sze (of Greylock)."

Wink has been fairly well-received, considering how new it is. Some see the new site as solidly part of the Web 2.0 wave of social networking and folksonomies. Some pointed out the inherent weaknesses in tagging while others pointed out the difficulty of gaining visibility as a startup and potential spamming problems.

In SearchEngineWatchBlog, search engine expert Danny Sullivan commented: "Overall, I like the idea of meta tag searching because it can be a useful way to find the latest stuff being bookmarked on popular topics across various tagging communities." For Wink to succeed, he suggested that it clearly identify the source community in the results—sometimes the URL gives a clue, but not always. He'd also like to see the ability to custom select the communities to include.


Paula J. Hane is a freelance writer and editor covering the library and information industries. She was formerly Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks.


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