Will Tagging+Attention Make 2008 the year of Smart Agents?


I have been noodling on what 2008 might bring for the wonderful web world in which we live and I think I finally hit on it this morning after reading Marshall Kirkpatrick’s excellent post called Five Ways You Can Fall in Love With Tagging Again. His five (and a half) ways are:

1. Re-enforce your learning at the end of year
2. Build a collaborative tag stream for a community of practice
3. Create a shared items feed and put it on your web page
4. Tag into a mobile reader
5. Tag your microblog posts
5 1/2 The future

I am very glad he has brought this important topic back into the spotlight as we enter the new year. The lull in uptake of tagging, particularly in some new applications I have seen lately has actually troubled me. It is a feature that can provide so much added value for the people who use it (and those who will casually benefit from those who contribute to it) that I think it can be the difference between a success and a failure.

In reflecting on the adoption (or lack thereof) of tagging systems, I believe we won’t see a real rise in usage until we see the next generation of apps. Yes Twine is one potential member of this class of apps, but real knowledge management folks don’t trust systems to do classification for them (yet). I think Marshall’s point 5 1/2 is heading in the right direction which he describes as:

In a future that leverage our Attention Data, we’ll be able to tag things in order to influence our Attention Profiles. What does that mean? It means that once you’ve exposed your Ma.gnolia APML (Attention Profile Markup Language) to your Bloglines RSS reader – then you’ll be able to influence the feeds that Bloglines recommends to you by tagging certain things in Ma.gnolia.

The future Marshall references as point 5 1/2 is a very important one to consider – one that I think is indicative of a broader vision. It is, I believe deeply, the goal we should all be moving towards, especially in 2008. What we really need is smarter systems that do more for regular people automagically, tools that will recommend and deliver useful information, resources and services to us when we need it most without having to express more then our intentions, learning from everyone’s attention and explicit descriptions.

If 2007 was the year of the widget, I hope that 2008 is finally the year of smart agents…

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4 comments
shel israel
shel israel

I think you and Marshall hit good and valid points. It's jus that the term "Smart Agent," always reminds me of Maxwell Smart and Agent 99. I still crave a shoe that is also a "Smart Phone." You may now resume the regularly scheduled portion of your conversation.

Chris Heuer
Chris Heuer

The old gang is all here! Thanks Marshall, hanging out with you at (and after) TagCamp was great fun, and very insightful. It is one of my better early Web 2.0 memories... Beth, we need to do more of those panels again in the year ahead - am sure we will have plenty more opportunities, particularly in looking at the state of things today compared to where we thought it should be. When so much is happening, the complexity of it all makes it hard to really focus on pushing one boulder up hill, its more like carrying a bag of small rocks. For instance, in trying to evangelize the social media press release I found the misunderstanding of tags/tagging particularly perplexing. We are however, moving the needle, and hopefully giving some good ideas to the people who will be building the next generation of apps. Maybe one day they may even be kind enough to give us some thanks and credit too :)

Beth Kanter
Beth Kanter

Weren't we all on a tagging panel two years ago? :-)