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Dreaming of Tags
Shortly before waking up one morning, while camping in the Austrian Alps in the past weeks (as seen above) I had a dream about tags. Or rather I dreamt that my brother in law had created a database in which each data item was treated and useable as a tag as well. In my dream I was very enthusiastic about this idea. When I woke up Elmine asked me ‘what does that mean, that everything is a tag?’. We kept coming back to the topic, and at the end of the day had a conversation around it over a couple of Weizen beers.

Tags do Double Duty
Tags serve two functions. First they are descriptors, and in that sense subservient to the piece of data they describe. But they are also pivots, i.e. turning points in your path through data. A pivot allows you to see the same set of data, or a different set of data which overlaps the current one, in a different view.

If you go to the picture above and follow the tag ‘huben’ on the right, you are presented with a number of pictures that are also tagged ‘huben’, so you can navigate to a different photo within the context of ‘huben’ and so on. Pivots are the forks in the road of your surfing.
When everything is a tag as in my dream, then everything is a pivot as well. This reminds me of the view on data-items the people of Mediamatic have: everything is a thing. So a thing can be a tag, but also a list of tags, or the entire Flickr-database, or any part thereof. In my dream everything was a tag, a pivot.

Pivots in Social Software Triangles
My description of social software as triangles, which got quite a good response at the time, put tags as pivots in the center view: social applications allow you to navigate from one app to another through their tags as pivot points.

From a Flickr photo to a point on a Yahoo or Google map, to a location in Plazes, or to photo’s taken geographically nearby. The thing is, I cannot directly jump from a Flickr photo to the corresponding location in Plazes. I could if the Plaze itself was the tag. In my 2006 posting I already indicated that where now usually a tag is in the triangle, there basically could be anything. As long as the other two points are a person and a object of sociality. So you could theoretically jump directly from a picture to an event to a place to a review to the author back to the picture again. If tags could be more than just a descriptive word they would be better pivots.

Flickr and Plazes Mashed
(image from the triangle posting last year)

Need More Pivots!
Hence I concluded that my dream was basically a call for more pivot points in social media. So that we can navigate our web apps better, and build better personal information strategies.
Question remains who has the rights to the concept of a database where everything is tags: me because it was my dream, or my brother in law as he came up with it in my dream and showed me a working prototype 🙂