I really should be working, but last night, I found myself staring at the ceiling as I thought about how social free tagging is inverting the standard tagging behavior.
Typically when you tag, you assess some object for it’s attributes, and tag it with those attributes. Those tags are invariably metadata — information ABOUT that object/thing. The tags are derived from the nature of the object themselves.
What we’re seeing on Flickr with tags like “sometaithurts” or Technorati’s “10placesofmycity” is less about metadata then it is about… community? group-forming? art projects? I don’t quite know. But what I do know is that we have an inversion. Instead of people tagging an item based on the qualities of that item, they’re instead generating content based on the qualities of the tag.
Whether the tag or the content comes first might seem like a subtle distinction, but I think it’s a crucial and important one. These tags are no longer simply keywords that describe something about the content, but instead are the reason for that content to be.