Tagsurf: Tagged Hyperforum


So a few weeks ago Anthony Eden pings me via IM and says something like "I never seem to have any good ideas" to which I respond something like, "All I have is ideas, but I never seem to follow through on any of them." And Anthony came back by challenging me, "Like what?" to which I responded with some thoughts I was having since I had recently really grokked tags. And Anthony said, "I can do that." And he did. Six hours later he had written and launched a preliminary version of Tagsurf, a tagging enabled hyper-forum. (He's a coding machine).

It's very cool.

The core of the idea which Anthony implemented and expanded upon was this: Del.icio.us introduced (or at least popularized) the concept of tagging as a way of organizing links. Tags in my mind are flat-namespace meta data that can help identify a piece of content in an almost democratic fashion. Flickr took the concept and applied it to photos, so that people could organize photos based on this simple meta data. I didn't grok this at first, until I had created a new flickr user called MobileMonday and blogged that people should send me their photos of the event and I would post them under that name. That's when Mike Rowehl responded and said, more or less "hey moron, everyone can post under their *own* name and just tag them 'mobilemonday' instead." And that's when a little light went on over my head about tags.

So I thought, what happens if you apply tags to messages as well? "Messages" being things like comments and blog posts, but in a forum-like structure, where you could follow threads in x dimensions. Add in Alerts (IM, email, etc.) and RSS and it becomes really useful as a discussion tool. Once we started working on that idea we expanded on it, and added URLs and user names to the tag namespace, now I can include URLs, but not just as way of sharing that link but of *commenting* on it. Then as a publisher, I can watch different tags, URLs and if someone responds my posts or puts my name in the tag, I get notified of those messages.

In addition there's just lots of cool geeky stuff as well: Anthony created a bookmarklet for commenting on random web pages, tag definition pages, a nice XML-over-HTTP API, and added niceties like a Google Suggest-like UI to the tag names (sooooo cool). Basically for almost three weeks now, I've been waking up to new features, as well as throwing ideas over the wall and watching Anthony implement them usually with 24 hours. It's been great. In fact, within a short time, the system bootstrapped itself as a development tool, and you can see from the site that early users (around 150 so far) have been helping with user-testing and debugging, which is very cool.

Now, I've already added "Tagsurf It" links to this blog, so if you want to tag and share your comments universally, you can. I've also got the bookmarklet on my toolbar, so I can start annotating the web - when I click on it, I don't just see a form where I can tag it, I actually see other comments on that same page as well. I can also add alerts so that I can get notified if someone comments on my page as well.

It's a work in progress, but it's gotten to the point where we decided to throw it out there and see what people thought. It may not be as clean or viral as del.icio.us or flickr, but it's been fun to see what you could do with tagging once you expanded the content to arbitary blog-like posts.

Try it out!


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