Tags January 17, 2013 5:49 AM   Subscribe

I'm curious about how people make use of tags on MetaFilter. Is there any data on it? I only ever find myself using them while searching to avoid double-posting, but I wonder if people use them to find content and threads? I know one way to use them is through the MyMeFi page. Is there any data on how many people primarily read MetaFilter that way?
posted by OmieWise to MetaFilter-Related at 5:49 AM (45 comments total)

I think the way you use them sounds like a pretty popular way to use them. The way I find myself using them most often, since I don't create posts very often, is when I've read an interesting post and that makes me think about looking for something related to read. Sometimes I'll remember a related post and click the tags as a shortcut rather than trying to find it through manual searches.

I've also checked out the tag cloud a few times and clicked ones I thought looked interesting.
posted by empyrean at 6:06 AM on January 17, 2013

As a single data point: I use them as an alternative to search sometimes when I know I've seen a post before but can't remember details. And I use them on Ask quite a bit instead of searching because it cuts down the results to relevant questions more quickly.
posted by dismas at 6:07 AM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I use them mostly in AskMe when I want to research something, usually an upcoming purchase. A recent example was I wanted to buy a good USB hub so I went to ask.metafilter.com/tags/usb+hub and started looking through threads. Another time I wanted to see what people had to say about the Dremel Multi-Max, so I went looking in ask.metafilter.com/tags/dremel.

AskMe is big enough now that I almost always find something when I look for a particular tag.
posted by bondcliff at 6:12 AM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Like empyrean, I use tags mainly to find other posts related to the topic of a post that I'm interested in.

This is why I'd love to see tags on the mobile interface. I understand the desire not to make the mobile page more cluttered, but, for me, tag links would be especially useful on my phone, because it's so much more of a pain to manually edit URLs. And my phone is where I am most likely to be poking around in old threads and trying to find similar ones to kill time while I'm riding the bus or whatever.
posted by enn at 6:18 AM on January 17, 2013

I actually used tags yesterday! When working on a presentation about the law and Facebook - I knew I'd seen a few interesting things about Fbook here. A search of the front page gets far too many false positives due to things being done on Fbook, but tags work perfectly.

Generally that's what I'm using them for, to find things I vaguely remember.
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:21 AM on January 17, 2013

Like bondcliff, I like to use them as a starting point for research -- "Tell me everything AskMe knows about learning Mandarin Chinese!"
posted by Jeanne at 6:35 AM on January 17, 2013

I mostly use them to look up specific posts that I can't remember the specifics on. More recently, though, I've been using them to browse. If a post I like has some tags, I'll follow them through and see what else we've dug up on the subject.
posted by Jilder at 6:45 AM on January 17, 2013

I have ask.metafilter.com/tags bookmarked on my phone, and append tags to it manually. I use this all the time. I usually use it when I want to read ALL THE THINGS about a general subject (like all the posts tagged with boardgames, for example).
posted by ocherdraco at 6:53 AM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

In addition to the research purposes mentioned by others, I also subscribe to the AskMe tag feed for my location, so I don't miss any posts about it.
posted by grouse at 7:01 AM on January 17, 2013

I use it when I'm having tech support problems or more often when I'm telling a friend with a problem "Oh I read that on AskMe somewhere....." The tag results on the search page are often helpful and with a lot of the things that I post, one quick tag search (if people are using tags well which they usually are) will let me know if I am in danger of posting a double or not.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:02 AM on January 17, 2013

I use them for searching as others have mentioned above. Particularly when doing research on AskMe on a particular subject.
posted by arcticseal at 7:02 AM on January 17, 2013

I use them for searching on AskMe quite frequently.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:43 AM on January 17, 2013

Oh, and like ocherdraco, I also use tags to read all the posts about a particular subject (for either edification or entertainment). Again, this is in Ask.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:45 AM on January 17, 2013

I find it really helpful for filtering threads - it's better than searching, in some situations.

The tags "travel" and "Europe" only pull up questions about people travelling to Europe and looking for recommendations about where to say and what to do.

If I used the same words in a search, it might pull up a thread from the human relations category about family drama and the OP just happened to mention the fact that the drama happened on a vacation to Europe.
posted by cranberrymonger at 8:06 AM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I also use 'em for searching AskMeFi, a place I post to seldom. Occasionally I'll use them on MeFi proper though I find doing a site search via Google usually gives me a better result. And sometimes I'll just use them to browse a topic, but that's pretty unusual.
posted by Mister_A at 8:06 AM on January 17, 2013

I'm curious about which posts have the most tags
posted by Blasdelb at 8:19 AM on January 17, 2013

My usage is primarily of the "I remember a post about..." variety. But then I have pretty much lifetime participation on the site. There've been a LOT of posts!
posted by dhartung at 8:26 AM on January 17, 2013

I use them to find content and threads. It's difficult though, because as this thread shows, MetaFilter's culture doesn't have a uniform attitude toward tags. So when I use tags to find content, I'm tripped up by things like inconsistent tagging (eg, people who brainstorm new tags without looking to see what others have done), blizzard tagging (FPPs that have several dozen tags), or jokey tagging.

None of those three things are bad per se. I don't mean to knock anybody who does them. If you use tags for "lulz," that's your prerogative here. But those things make it difficult for other people to use tags in a different way.
posted by cribcage at 8:35 AM on January 17, 2013

There's totally a limit to the number of tags you can put on something, Blasdelb. Or at least, a character limit in the tag entry box.

And seconding (possibly infiniting) cribcage re: the tagging culture around here. Very, very, very frustrating for me.
posted by SMPA at 9:03 AM on January 17, 2013

I know one way to use them is through the MyMeFi page. Is there any data on how many people primarily read MetaFilter that way?

We don't track things closely enough to know how many people use that view as their primary view. We do know that as of this moment, 584 members have a My MeFi profile set up. (There are 2,711 set up for My Ask MeFi.) Looking at traffic stats, the My MeFi page gets a few thousand views each month, while the front page gets hundreds of thousands of views from members.
posted by pb (staff) at 9:15 AM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I use tags to create "Previously on MeFi" links in my posts, to confirm I'm not about to post a double on the Blue and for searching both AskMe and Metafilter for posts on various subjects.
posted by zarq at 9:28 AM on January 17, 2013

This has actually been on my to-do list as a research project, as part of my dissertation involved examining whether and how people made use of tags during search, and I used AskMe as the test collection (but the study subjects were not MetaFilter users, and none of the features available to logged in users were examined). A study of how MeFi users themselves use tags would be a natural follow-up study.
posted by research monkey at 9:52 AM on January 17, 2013

I use them a lot when searching AskMe as well. I forgot to include that personal use.
posted by OmieWise at 9:55 AM on January 17, 2013

I use them when searching AskMe, and have also put the feed for a few tags in my RSS reader (e.g. 'horror', 'game of thrones', 'nexus7' etc) so I don't miss out on threads that might be of particular interest to me.
posted by hot soup girl at 10:54 AM on January 17, 2013

I use google site: searches for keywords 99% of the time because of the fact that tags lack authority control so different people might tag the same topic 10 different ways. And some people use hilariously bad/nondescriptive tags. So just using tags, if you're looking for something specific, is not a reliable way to find ALL THE QUESTIONS about a thing.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:55 AM on January 17, 2013

I search tags a lot. If I am interested in something I frequently use the search box to see what shows up as in some ways Mefi is better than say google in giving context and content. Unfortunately this also leads to me frequently falling down a rabbit hole.
As per cribcage I would like it if people took a little more care with their tags so that they might actually be useful to others. Unlike many I hardly use askme at all, giving it a cursory glimpse every day and answering if I think I can contribute something worthwhile.
posted by adamvasco at 11:16 AM on January 17, 2013

I use tags a lot. Like, there'll be something I'm curious about, and want to see if there's a question about it before I ask one. Or I'll have just finished a TV series/movie, and want to see if someone asked a question about it or made a post about it. Or I want to see if there's a discussion about x thing that isn't populated by representatives from the greater internet brainus. Or whatever.

I search for key words in tags and read through those results before I bother googling, and, like, 90% of the time I'll find what I'm looking for.
posted by phunniemee at 11:29 AM on January 17, 2013

"There's totally a limit to the number of tags you can put on something, Blasdelb. Or at least, a character limit in the tag entry box."

pb has mentioned before that there is not, once you run out of characters you can then just add more tags in a second go. If you don't believe me, this one has 140.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:30 AM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

I use RSS feeds for both My Ask Mefi and My Mefi even though I rarely use those tabs when I'm actually on the site.
posted by juv3nal at 12:06 PM on January 17, 2013

I have a dozen or so RSS feeds based on tags that I subscribe to. Comes in handy since it will often surface posts or questions that I might have missed otherwise.
posted by mmascolino at 12:19 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I use the tags mostly on Askmefi.

I usually go to askmefi with a question in mind. Then I think about what tags I would use for it. Then I look all of them up individually. So far I haven't had to ask my own question.
posted by tkappleton at 1:00 PM on January 17, 2013

Blasdelb: "this one has 140."

Suddenly I don't feel quite so obsessive.
posted by zarq at 1:20 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

The most used tag: brokenlink, thanks to the backtagging project.
posted by unliteral at 4:21 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

There are several tags that I have saved on my phone and read all the posts in for entertainment value over dinner when I have to eat alone. These are usually relationship filter related tags, like break up, dating, relationships, etc, etc. I enjoy reading about how Mefites deal with their dating and relationship situations. For awhile, I went on a work and money kick, and surfed those tags instead. And then on a pets and animals kick. Whenever I am interested in a subject, I will look it up on Metafilter and read ALL the posts in a tag over a period of days to weeks.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 9:03 PM on January 17, 2013

I was just going to add a feature request that tags be made part of search scope of the site search.
posted by clarknova at 9:55 PM on January 17, 2013

I have not found any use for tags. The only reason I'm conscious of them at all is that I get annoyed when I have to tag an Ask. And it's always a surprise, because I don't Ask very often. I don't think I've ever actually abandoned a question over it (them?) but I came close once.
posted by Bruce H. at 10:06 PM on January 17, 2013

I use them to check out previous posts on subjects all the time. They're pretty handy to link to if you want an all encompassing "previously" link as well.
posted by Artw at 12:03 AM on January 18, 2013

I use a large set of tags to tailor what shows up in my MyMefi and MyAskMefi.

Those aren't the only ways that I read Mefi, I generally skim the normal front pages as well. But they are very useful for making sure I don't miss the interesting stuff amongst the general deluge, esp when I haven't been on for a while and it's accumulated.

Btw I generated my long list of tags from the ones I use on Pinboard, which makes it a pretty accurate list of things I care about.
posted by philipy at 4:54 AM on January 18, 2013

Have we ever discussed the possibility of doing something like a collaborative tag cleanup? It would be fraught with peril, since we'd have to decide on stuff like recipe/recipes, the use of the underscore, etc., so it would require a lot more coordination than the backtagging, but it might be nice.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 7:15 AM on January 18, 2013

We've talked about it. I am in favor of it conceptually but it would be a lot of work for what might be very little return. It's one of those "save it for a rainy day" projects that I think would be neat to tackle someday but seems to not rise to the top of the To Do pile.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:41 AM on January 18, 2013

Yeah, it's one of those things where compared to the significant-but-accomplished effort of the initial back-tagging, where we managed to go from like 10% to 90% goodness over a relatively self-directed collaborative months-long effort, trying to close the gap from 90% to 98% would probably take more effort and coordination for a lot less total return. Worth thinking about and we chew on related ideas now and then but just not really something that's felt like the thing to do.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:56 AM on January 18, 2013

You're probably right. One way I think it could be done is to have a form of "patch system", where tag-gardeners could propose a change that would be reviewed by another gardener and finally approved by a mod before going live. With a good set of guidelines, I think you might be able to clean-up incrementally without requiring tons of effort.

It would, however, require a good bit of tooling, with something like a "tag explorer" tool that would be used to write the patches.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 8:42 AM on January 18, 2013

You could maybe do a quiet survey of the backtaggers and see who would be up for this as well as canvassing for new people.
By keeping the number of people involved relatively small, or in groups splitting tags say alphabetically; group 1 does A - E etc. the project could be more easily controlled and a worthwhile conclusion thus achieved. 2 cents.
posted by adamvasco at 9:55 AM on January 18, 2013

I use tags to search for past posts, to make sure I'm not about to write a post about something that has been previously covered well before, when searches for the topic either return too many results or surprisingly few. I also look at the tags from other related posts and copy them over to my new post, to keep things tied together in a fashion. If nothing else, my new post then serves to bridge between posts who are related, but the authors chose different tags.

And sometimes when random browsing on MetaFilter isn't enough, I'll see what else was posted under a given tag, and whittle away time that way.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:55 AM on January 18, 2013

Regarding re-tagging: if this were to happen, I don't think you should divide groups alphabetically, because of the way some tags could get re-formatted and cross alphabetical groupings, if some word was preferred over another. I'd suggest breaking up into chunks of posts, chronologically.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:57 AM on January 18, 2013

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