May 7, 2005

Tag Clouds: A Dissent

Tag clouds and folksonomies were popularized by Flikr and Technorati. They're cool. Zeldman argues, in essence, that tag clouds are fundamentally anti-intellectual:

Tag clouds remove the guidance and artistry from our side of the equation, offloading all the work to our users. What’s popular? What’s important? Users decide. This might be okay if the process did not create a false intellectual equivalence between high- and low-level topics, and if it did not skew toward popularity at the expense of findability.

Valuing popularity over excellence is a growing problem in our Web world. Zeldman over-values hierarchy -- it's not that Detroit needs to be subordinated to City, it's that Detroit needs to be connected to City, and to Chicago, and to the Tigers, and to MoTown. But flattening everything into twenty Nouns Of The Day isn't much of a solution.