Strategies for Tagging in Multiple Languages

Tara asks (via Scoble): why do we tag?  Bernie has explained that tagging is aggregating, and I’ve looked it as a way of getting a handle on “the wisdom of crowds“.

But as I’ve outlined in a comment on Tara’s post, I believe tagging also has a role to play in supporting diversity, niche interests, and minority languages.

Put simply: a traditional media organisation which is considering featuring minority interest material faces two problems:

  • “This isn’t going to interest our audience.”
  • “The people who are interested don’t read/watch/listen to our paper/show.”

 If the content is accessed sequentially, such as in traditional radio and TV, there is a further problem:

  • “Our regular audience will switch while this is on”

Traditional media is constrained by narrow channels: by printing deadlines, logistics, broadcast spectrum.  That’s why you don’t see knitting shows on radio and TV, and yet Yarn Harlot is one of the top rated podcasts.

And it’s also why, in spite of a market for Irish language content (well said Michal), and with the honourable exception of The Irish Times, Irish publishing and broadacasting is confined almost exclusively to a ghetto of state-subsidised, resource-starved organisations.

Of course, this is one of the reasons some of us are so excited about the possibilities of the new technology.  (You can hear me go on – at length 😉 about this in a two part interview Seámas Ó Neachtain is podcasting this week at Cumann Carad na Gaeilge)  Blogging and podcasting certainly overcome the narrow sequential constraints of traditional channels.  Now we can find an audience for anything, and we can all access any content we want and consume it whenever, wherever, however we please.  But how do we find it?

Tagging offers an advantage over traditional search in that the content has been specifically tagged by the producer as being relevant to a particular subject, as opposed to the possibly random occurrence of a keyword.  Unfortunately, popular tags can be targets for spammers, but, ironically, spam avoidance is one area where minority languages have an advantage!

So how should we tag for a minority language community?  Here’s my current strategy:

  • Pretty much everything gets the tag “gaeilge”, whether it’s in Irish, or about the language.
  • I’m also using “irishblogs”.  Some Irish bloggers consider that a special tag and use it as a catch-all aggregator of national blogging.  Naturally, posts in the both national languages should be included!
  • After that, the rule is simple:  I use tags in Irish for content in Irish and tags in English for content in English.  There’s no point tagging something “computing” if most English speakers can’t read it.  Conversely, using tags such as “ríomhaireacht” encourages tagging, as well as watching of tags, in the Irish language.   But that’s not all.   “Ríomhaireacht” is more than just a translation of the word “computing”.  “Ríomhaireacht” implies: “computing, as viewed by Irish speakers”, and that unique intersection is elegantly encapsulated in a single tag.
  • The exception?  Pictures.  I write my titles and descriptions in Irish, and so I use the “gaeilge” tag on flickr.  But the pictures have meaning which transcends language, so the rest of the tags are done with an international audience in mind, in English.

What do you think?

Related Links from An tImeall:
#85: So, Should I Blog in English?
#88: Réiteach?

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Explore posts in the same categories: blogging, gaeilge, irishblogs, language, media, minority, niche, podcasting, tagging

9 Comments on “Strategies for Tagging in Multiple Languages”


  1. If you lived in the US and experienced the wonders of American cable, you’d know that there are actually TV shows dedicated to knitting, crocheting, and plenty of other pastimes I’ll be taking up when I enter the old age home. 🙂

    There are a few larger issues at play here. Many casual readers of blogs have no clue about what tags are, what technorati is, etc. (or at least that’s my impression). Ditto for most beginning bloggers.

    And tagging using technorati isn’t obvious, especially for someone starting out blogging. (And if you’re using tags in the Irish language, chances are you’re going to be the first person using that tag, so a beginner wouldn’t get the instant gratification of going to the technorati page and seeing other things tagged with that word — they’ll still come to the page that says “There are no posts tagged with that yet” and have to wait hours for technorati to hear the ping…)

    When I think of tags, I think technorati, but not all blogs update technorati (Slugger O’Toole comes to mind immediately — and that’s frustrating if all I want to read are the Irish-language posts).

    Which isn’t to say tagging isn’t important, but I think there’s a huge learning curve for many people. Were I to just rely on how people tag posts, I wouldn’t have found many Irish language blogs.


  2. Hey Nicole – welcome to my new “crannóg ghaotaireachta” (I love that phrase!)

    Actually – you’ve highlighted the reason for the name of this new blog. And by engaging me on this point you demonstrate I’m not the only “Edge Case” around here either! 🙂

    “Edge Case” is derived from translation of “An tImeall” – but it also conveys some of the same connotations I had in mind when I originally named the Irish blog. But in actual fact, I hadn’t really heard the english term until Robert Scoble had it applied to him a few weeks back.

    My point is, I agree with Scoble’s answer on this: “today’s edge case is tomorrow’s mainstream user”.

    Personally speaking, I’ve never understood what people see in the film “Field of Dreams”. (I think it’s because we don’t have baseball here!) But when I see the nascent Irish language tags in use I can’t help thinking: “If you build it they will come!”

    🙂 I’m laughing out loud now – but do you know what I mean?

    Points well taken Nicole – but I think it’s early days for tagging yet. And yes, doing Technorati tags from Blogger.com is a pain in the neck. And they don’t always show up – whether you manually ping or not. But guess what I’ve just discovered? Tagging in wordpress.com is a breeze! You just create “categories” on your blog – and they get aggregated into wordpress tags (look: gaeilge!), and also get picked up by Technorati. Plus other aggregators like irishblogs.ie also pick up the tags and categories from Technorati, WordPress.com etc.

    By the way – well done on pulling the Irish language blogs together on kinja.com/user/gaeilge. Since so few people tag, it’s really down to a lot of manual work on your part to find them. How many are there now?

  3. maca Says:

    A Chonn
    On tagging – I rarely use tags and when it do it’s almost always when I write a post about the Irish language. In those cases I usually tag the post as “gaeilge” & “Irish” no matter what language the post is in (almost always English, ar an drochuair.

    Good luck with the new blog!

  4. Cionaodh Says:

    Conn, you’re spot on that it’s early days for tagging; I can count the number of blogs with “Gaeilge” tags on the toes of one foot. I recently started using them on Aduaidh because I’ve seen you use them . . . and because my wife (who’s always a step ahead of me) knows what the hell they’re all about and can explain them to her senile husband. 😉

    Now I find it fun to occasionally visit Technorati and search for blogs with that tag, to see what shows up. Like playing a poor man’s lotto.

    Hopefully a few of your regulars who also have blogs of their own will stumble over here, see the discussion, and perhaps consider using tags themselves.


  5. Conn,

    I was going to create a long, rambling post about how edge cases are really the beta testers for the average users: they’re finding what works, what doesn’t, what would make life easier, etc. But then I saw that my husband actually said something nice about me and was temporarily blinded.

    First, about the number of blogs: There are about 30 blogs/podcasts/video blogs/feeds in my list. It’s really unfortunate that there’s no easy way to tag in Blogger — I’ve used Movable Type and, like WordPress, it’s extremely easy to tag in it. So, in order to find new Irish language blogs, I’m reduced to doing technorati searches for ‘gaeilge’ and a few common words in Irish every couple of days.

    I’ve been thinking of ways to encourage the Irish-language bloggers especially to use tags. (Again, considering the length of time it’s been since I posted, I really shouldn’t talk, but…) I like that you mentioned Flickr because I think — in some ways — Flickr is much more conducive to tagging and to creating Flickr groups (self-portrait Tuesday, the corners of my house, etc.) that people then link to on their blogs.

    Eventually, I’d like to hear your thoughts on whether some other ideas from the English-language blogging world (memes, ‘themed’ days) have any place in the Irish-language blogging world.

    N


  6. I suppose I should add to my last comments. I think you’ve done a good job of integrating some aspects of English-language podcasting into your podcast (Frappr map, audio feedback, etc.)

    So, do we need the equivalents in Irish-language blogging?


  7. […] UPDATE:  Bernie very kindly suggests that The Post missed out by not covering Ireland’s only daily podcast, An tImeall.  They must have felt that the Irish language wasn’t “business” enough.  And it’s true that it’s hard to support a business model for Irish content in the world of “old-media”.  But then that’s just the point, isn’t it?  Irish is a perfect example of the kind of niche market which wasn’t economical to serve in the days before the “Long Tail”. […]


  8. Nicole, I think a lot of the aspects you mention rely on a certain minimum critical mass we haven’t reached yet. As regards tagging, I really think the tag “gaeilge” is a special case, which actually helps uus to overcome the small numbers of gaelbloggers. I’m not really targetting the gaelbloggers to use it – what I’d love to see is Irish bloggers who normally blog in English adopt the convention whereby they would occassionally use their “cúpla focal” and post in Irish, and tag it “gaeilge” to ensure that it would be seen by an audience who would appreciate it.

  9. Nic Dafis Says:

    I blog in Welsh, and have been slowly changing all my categories into tag-like single words, for Technorati‘s benefit – all are in Welsh except for “language”, which gets used when the source of the post is in English. On Flickr I try to include bilingual tags. On deli.cio.us I put both if the site I’m bookmarking is in English, Welsh only if it’s in Welsh.


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