Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Flickr machine tags

Much of the Web 2.0 world is flooded with tags to describe all sorts of objects. While tags are great, they are limited in that they are just keywords. In library catalogs and databases, we're used to searching by different fields (title, author, etc.). Tags aren't really equipped to fit this model, unless the search field is always 'keyword'.

Enter Flickr machine tags, which Flickr unveiled in January of 2007. A machine tag has the following syntax:

(example: ceramics:artist="Ted Vogel")

Not only does this allow 'field/value' relationships, but it also lets projects (like ours) group relationships together by using a namespace. In a nutshell, developers can use Flickr machine tags to create interfaces which allow users to search or browse by metadata fields.

When an artist catalogs an image for accessCeramics, machine tags are automatically generated for the image on Flickr, based upon the field values he/she enters. The creation of all these machine tags for each image lays the groundwork for the development of interfaces to search and browse by field.

As of this post, we're still developing our full searching/browsing user interfaces, though we have some elements in place. For example, a user looking at Lisa Conway's Peachy might notice that she used the Electric Oxidation glazing technique. A simple click on Electric Oxidation will reveal other pieces in the collection that used the same glazing technique.

We're hoping that the interfaces we create around images described by machine tags will help to elevate the use of Flickr within the academic and library communities.

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