Tag – You’re It!

Tagging on Ohloh has long been less than ideal. The user interface for tagging a project, and for searching or browsing by tags is not exactly intuitive. Allowing an unlimited number of tags per project encourages people to add lots of tags in an effort to get their projects to show up in search results. So we end up with some (beloved) projects that are tagged like this:

Which doesn’t distinguish or selectively associate projects, and doesn’t help people browsing projects find what they’re really looking for. We’d love to encourage the evolution of a folksonomy of tags on Ohloh, but we don’t want to make things too complex, or impose too much structure. So, we’re thinking of changing Ohloh tagging as follows:

  • Allow only 13 tags per project. So you’ll have to pick and choose – which is good! Why 13? Because we are not superstitious!
  • Help you select tags that will differentiate projects from one another by encouraging you to pick existing tags that are not in common with other projects.
  • Simplifying the user interface so it is straightforward to edit the tags on a project, and browse projects by tags.
Here is a proposed design for the tag editing feature:

In this design, we’d show you projects with similar tag sets, as a guide. You can add or remove tags from a project to either differentiate it from these similar ones, or more closely associate it with them. But with a limit of 13 tags, you’ll have to give some thought to what would really help people find this project.

When you add a new tag, we’ll auto-complete a list of matching existing tags below the box. While you can add a new tag not yet in Ohloh, we’ll be strongly encouraging you in the UI to pick from the existing set, to help minimize “tag proliferation”.

So, what to do about those projects that have more than 13 tags today? We could grandfather in their tags and require that the number be 13 or fewer after an edit. Or we could analyze their current tags and pick the 13 that most differentiate that project from the rest of the projects in Ohloh. If we did this automatic tag reduction, we’d only do the analysis and de-tagging after you’ve had plenty of time to edit your tags down yourself.

What do you think of this idea? Any suggestions for improving the concept, or the interface? Should we just grandfather existing tags or, should we de-tag those with more than 13 according to some method? Any other techniques we should consider to manage this collaborative tag hierarchy? Think this could work in nudging the Ohloh community to build that folksonomy?

About Rich Sands

I’m the Principal and Founder of RSands Consulting, a developer/FOSS strategy, product management, and marketing consultancy. Formerly Ohloh’s PM, Black Duck is now a client of mine.

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