Tagging in the corporate environment, part 2


JP was kind enough to comment on my last post about tagging in the corporate environment. He said:

Dom, I think I agree. I can understand the need for the locus of operation of a search engine to be all the way from worldwide through behind-the-firewall to desk level. Not a problem, but the software remains the same in essence, does it not? All we are doing is changing how big a flashlight or how small.

Similarly shouldn’t we try and have the tag free of institutional corruption? It can mean the same thing across the firewall. Sometimes it doesn’t. But so what?

If JP is not sure whether he agrees then he is probably being polite. Or I am not being clear. Either way some clarification is probably called for.

Perhaps JP is asking why differentiate between the general tagosphere and the corporate one? Why create a separate collection inside the firewall? If the “meaning” of the tag is local to the organization then so what? It’s all grist to the mill of the magical algorithms that turn tags into a useful resource.

If so then let’s try a reductio ad absurbum exercise. Consider an organisation with a rich intranet and a user population that actively tags things using an external resource such as (for example) del.icio.us. The users have del.icio.us accounts that do not identify them as belonging to any particular organization. Is this a useful resource for them? Is it more useful than a locally-implemented tag repository? Does it comply with externally-imposed regulatory rules and internally-driven commercial sensitivity?

Here are some examples of the way these hypothetical users might use this resource:

1. A user tags http://www.desktoplinux.com/ with the tags “linux” and “desktop strategy”. This is the most straightforward use of del.icio.us: the user simply wants to bookmark the site because he or she would like to find it again in a particular context. Somebody inspecting that user’s tags might infer that his organization was considering a Linux desktop strategy, but since the user is called “Phlebotomist” then nobody knows which organization that is. There is value here for Phlebotomist and anybody else looking for Linux desktop links but no real opportunity for commercial espionage.

2. A user tags the intranet page http://intranet.phlebotomy.net/cockups.html with the tag “potential lawsuits”. Ah. This is useful for Phlebotomist as a reminder to him or herself. It is not useful to anybody outside the organization because it refers to an intranet page. On the other hand, it identifies the organization quite easily and makes it clear there are commercial issues that the organization might want to remain private. Score 1 for the internal tag repository.

3. A user tags the HR document \\hr.phlebotomy.net\guidelines\ergonomic_guidelines.doc with the tag…well actually he doesn’t because del.icio.us can only tag a few specific internet formats. An internal tag repository could be made to allow tagging of heterogeneous resources in any format. Score 1 more for the internal repository.

4. The chairman tags the web site http://www.veinsonline.org/ with the tag “potential takeover target” thus alerting all shareholders of the other organization of the potential bid, costing his own organization millions of dollars and getting himself struck off for breach of exchange rules. Own goal for the universal repository.

Alright, silly examples. But enough to demonstrate that a single universal repository won’t work for corporate tags.

It’s more likely, I think, that JP means that corporate tagging is no different in nature from public tagging and that the same software “in essence” can be used for both. Here I definitely agree, but I would argue that the public tagging software should behave more like my specification for corporate tagging.

There are resources on the internet that are not able to be tagged by del.icio.us (I haven’t done a survey of all the other systems). If you try to tag an unusual resource on del.icio.us it says: “only http, https, news, and ftp schema urls are allowed right now. if you have a really good reason i should allow another one, please email support@del.icio.us” (to see this try tagging your own email address in the format mailto:x.y@z) Of course, del.icio.us could be enhanced but if it is then it is moving in the direction of my corporate tagging specification.

Additionally, I claim that the visibility of the tag is a real concern for corporate taggers. In an investment banking environment we are not allowed even to list the transactions that the advisory teams are working on because that knowledge is market-sensitive. A tag could easily give the game away.

Perhaps it is this that will ultimately distinguish the corporate tagging system from the public ones because I am struggling to think of an example where this might be useful in the public realm. Maybe, as with many internet innovations, “adult” desires will drive this. I might not want everybody to see the list of .jpgs I have tagged…

In conclusion, I also think I agree. I hope this fills in some gaps in my meaning.

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