How social media gets users to do cataloging for them

Hi Everyone,

With social media websites like Facebook, YouTube & Flickr gaining ever more popularity online, taking a look at how they organize and keep track of all their data is of special interest to us as Web Developers.  One of the key methods these social media sites use to keep track of their content is with tagging.  Tags represent the key terms that users search for when they search for a video or an image or any piece of content online.  However, with social media sites it is not tagging in traditional sense, because the content is generated by the users themselves, they are also the ones asked the assign their own tags.  So why do social media websites use these kinds of tagging mechanisms?  Why is it important to allow self-generated tags on user content?

Well the answers to websites run into two basic issues one of practicality and that user participation or control over the content they add to a website.  From a practical standpoint the simple fact is that a user creating and uploading their own content will have a much better idea of the kinds of tags that will be relevant to their content.  Once users create the first several tags it then becomes possible for the service to begin suggesting additional tags that it has identified as being somewhat related to those the user initially entered, which helps their content appear under a broader range of searches than it would have otherwise appeared under.

However for all it’s cost effectiveness and opportunities for user engage a folksonomy does poses several weaknesses, as highlighted in this New York Times piece, “grass-roots categorization, by its very nature, is idiosyncratic rather than systematic. [It] sacrifices taxonomic perfection but lowers the barrier to entry. Nobody needs a degree in library science to participate.”*  It’s because of these low entry barriers that the average user will be willing to add their own tags to content.  It makes sense for a social media sites such as YouTube to be willing to accept less accurately user-generated tags on uploaded content because forcing great accuracy would likely mean a more cumbersome user experience when uploading a video; which would probably dissuade large numbers of people from tagging their uploads at all.

So one of the chief weaknesses of using this type of tagging that users generally are pretty lazy when it comes to organizing their information.  This has the possibility of leaving user generate content not adequately tagged so that people will be able to easily find it.  Worse still it also opens up the possibility of completely false and misleading tags being added to content.  This was especially true for a phenomenon that became popularly known as a ‘Rick Roll.’  Where users would be directed to a video on YouTube after being told either by the tags or thumbnail image that the video was about one topic only to be treated in reality to a video of Rick Astley singing Never Gonna Give you Up instead.

* Link to Times Article quoted:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/11/magazine/11ideas1-21.html?_r=0

How to Make SEO work for you & your client’s sites

Happy Monday morning everyone,

As a part of continuation of my post from several weeks ago on using social media to help land yourself an interview and a job; I want to talk today about how to properly use SEO to increase the visibility of websites you build for both yourself and your clients.

What the heck is SEO?

So SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and much like what the term implies the idea here is to improve your websites ranking in search results provided by the major search engines.  While the exact ‘secret sauce’ each of the major search engines Google, Yahoo, & Bing use to generate their rankings are closely guarded secrets, there are a few basic improvements we can make as developers that most commentators on the subject agree compose a sizeable portion of the rankings pie.

Update Update Update

The first recommended way to keep your rankings high are to update your site’s content on a regular basis, weekly is a pretty good place, but the more often you can do the better.  Regular updates are crucial here because the indexing software the search engines use are continuously looking for fresh and relevant content for any given set of search terms and the more recently any content you’ve created was posted the more likely it will be to rise to the top.  Now the key thing to remember whilst you’re doing all of this is that while this might seem like a duel of wits between you and some algorithm it’s not.  What’s really making all the difference here is that your content is relevant to what your visitors want to know and eventually they’ll be seeking out your site specifically because you’ve built a reputation for high quality content.

Titles & Tagging

Thing to consider when developing your sites are your page titles & meta tags.  Now your page title is just as you would imagine it to be is that title any given page on your site.  So while it might be tempting to call it something simple like home, contact or posts the title will be the text visitors click on when visiting your site from a search result.  So with that in mind the title will need to communicate a bit more about what your site is all about.  For example: “Bob’s Used Bookstore | finest used books serving xyz area since 1997.”  Once you’ve come up with a title your happy with the next thing to consider are meta tags, now these are the actual terms that your site will appear under when someone is conducting a search.  So take your time to choose the most relevant ones as your site will be penalized if you try to spam a cloud of terms and more to the point visitors you do receive won’t be as likely to be interested in what you have to say.