3 things is all it takes to find your way

In this dynamic and ever changing world of "social tagging" (explanations here, here and here with articles here and examples at my Flickr and del.icio.us sites) I've noticed that we need only 3 tags to get close enough to browse for an item. The three items are:
  • Time - "2002", "Christmas", "birthday"
  • Place/group - "Wellington", "workplace", "lads", "project x"
  • Event - "party", "rugby", "meeting"
  • Project X, Meeting, 11-Mar-1967
  • Lads, Rugby, March
  • Family, Christmas, 2005
As far as I can tell it works on anything.

What I'm doing is pin-pointing an entity in the dimensions we all exist within. The obvious one is time, which places the item into our lifetime existence - ever asked someone to find those meeting minutes for the "A Project"; first question is, "When was the meeting?"

I have put items such as Christmas and Birthday in 'time' as I believe we use them as shortcuts to time periods.

The second item, "place/group" could be possibly expanded into 2 separate items but they're not always needs ('or' not always 'and') so I'll leave them as one. This places the community/relationship attribute onto the item - a specific place or grouping. Looking for minutes on the 11-March-1967 might be enough if you can assume only one place/group but if you've attended more than one meeting you'll need more.

And finally, the event -let's continue with the "meeting" example. Asking for notes on 11-Mar-1967 works well if you the "event" on a meeting is unspokeningly known but usually it's not.

As far as I can see, placing these three tags, 'time', 'spacial/relationship' and 'event' onto any item will get us close enough to limit the items found. It is, probably, a rare case that this will give you the exact item (depends upon the granularity of your tags) but will cut away the chaff enough to get it onto one or two screens over which you can browse.

Of course I generally use more than three tags but I suspect they're merely short cuts to very particular things and I could do without them if I wanted. For instance having the tag "adam" gets me to photo's that I could find+browse quite quickly using "friends", 'event', 'time' - but why trundle through all the friends when I want only find the one.

Finally there's granularity of tags - the more granular I want (I the more specific) then the more I have to have AND I have to remember that I have used months later when I come to find the item. SO I generally don't bother and use a "get me close enough and I'll browse from here"


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