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TagThis- Taming the Digital Jungle with Keywords & Colorful Clouds

1 November 2010
A hand holding a tablet with a cloud

The term "tag" denotes a keyword or concept affixed to an information item, such as a document, image, or audio/video file, to describe it and facilitate precise search results, particularly beneficial for non-textual files. Another advantage is the swift retrieval of information outside of hierarchical structures. There are three primary methods for creating tags:

  1. Adding tags based on a predefined keyword list.

  2. Users independently add tags, a common practice on Web2 websites called "folksonomics." This user-driven tagging enhances accessibility but may introduce noise if not performed accurately.

  3. Automatic tagging, wherein the system tags content using an algorithmic mechanism.


A popular approach for utilizing tags is via a tag cloud, consisting of tags pertinent to a particular repository or website. Certain words in the cloud are displayed in bold and larger font, facilitating the identification of key topics within the repository. Clicking on a tag within the cloud redirects us to all pertinent content linked with that tag.


There are three primary types of tag clouds:

  1. Popularity-based Cloud: Font size indicates the popularity of tag usage, with larger fonts representing more popular tags.

  2. Content-related Cloud: Font size reflects the number of content items associated with the tag; larger fonts indicate more content.

  3. Category Cloud: Tags represent categories, and the font size indicates the number of subcategories or contents within each category.


Perceptions regarding tag cloud displays indicate that users tend to scan tags rather than read them. Larger fonts, especially those positioned in the center, draw more attention. Tags situated in the upper right side also garner more attention. Tags can be arranged alphabetically, randomly, or by proximity.


Tag clouds not only represent site topics but also refine search results. Organizations increasingly utilize tagging and tag clouds to locate information faster and more accurately. However, decisions must be made regarding free-language tagging and user permissions for tagging documents.

In conclusion, whether user-driven or structured, tagging facilitates efficient information retrieval, even amidst unorganized content. Tag clouds visually navigate topics and assist in focusing on desired items, benefiting both organizational and open internet users.

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