Saturday, June 16, 2007

Tagging Comes to FictionDB

Awhile back I blogged about the times changing for FictionDB. Well, today we release a major change to the way you interact with the site.

In the past, all of the data on the site passed through the FictionDB staff. We certainly welcomed your input and will continue to do so, but now you can make changes to the information on the site directly through the use of tags.

Tagging (the process of attaching words or phrases to an object to give it meaning) has become very popular on the Internet because no two people see the world in the same way. I may tag a book "Reformed Rake" and you might tag it "Bad Boy". Both are valid. We just see things a little differently.

There are sites that provide a lot of structure to book information (top-down) and sites that are almost completely created by their visitors (bottom-up). We've been wrestling with the issue of how to create a hybrid. While looking at other people's tags is fun for awhile, I still need to know that I can find the complete Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris in order. So how do we blend the use of tags into FictionDB? Hopefully we've done it in such a way that those who don't want to take advantage of tags will still see the same FictionDB. For those who do want to use tags with their existing bookshelves, we hope we've created a seamless transition. There are probably even some of you who have never used FictionDB's book cataloguing functions, but might use tags to accomplish the task.

There are certainly lots of choices if you're interested in social networking sites for books -- LibraryThing being the best example. The initial rollout of tags at FictionDB doesn't include any social networking features. Maybe down the road it would be fun to compare our bookshelves but we're not quite there yet :)

So how will tagging work? Links to the page for adding tags can be found on any Book Detail page throughout the site. You don't even have to have a book on your bookshelf to tag it. Two types of tags are going to be available -- Public and Private.

Public tags are for adding data that all visitors can see. I would add my "Reformed Rake" tag as a public tag, since others might be interested in knowing this. Other types of information that might be of interest would be theme, location, plot points, time-period, characters, etc.

A Private tag is for your eyes alone. These tags are for information not directly related to a book's themes. You might want to classify your awful reads as "Wallbangers". While this is of interest to you, it's not the sort of information we'd like to see in Public tags. You can certainly still use our existing rating/comment system to let people know your feelings about a book. Private tags also allow you to create your own cataloguing system. You may want to classify your books as "tbr", "loaned", and "to be bought" rather than using FictionDB's system. However you want to use the private tags is up to you.

We've also added Quick Tags at the bottom of the tagging page. Just click on a tag and the book will automatically be updated with a tag you've already used -- this really cuts down on the typing!

Once you've had some fun tagging a few books, you can look at your results by clicking on the My Tags link at the top of every page. We've moved the My Bookstore link to the My Account page and the My Tags link has taken its place.

So are you going to be the one who adds the very first tag to FictionDB? Well, no. We've already added over 400,000 tags. Remember all that data we've been collecting but haven't had a way to show until now? We'll be adding information to books the same way we always have, but now we have another way too. For example, the demon subgenre has been picking up steam lately. Instead of adding a new official subgenre to FictionDB, we'll be adding this information through tags.

So get out there and have some fun tagging your books!