Social Tagging and PLM – Can It Work Together?

You can tag almost everything these days – products on Amazon, Photos on Flikr, Facebook friends… However, would you think tagging mechanism can help you to find Part to re-use or maybe tagging will be useful to find top priority ECO or Drawing to work on today? Social tagging became very popular since the first launch of Del.ici.ous in 2003. What I want to analyze is this popular option will be beneficial and can be used for PLM systems. The ultimate problem social tagging system is trying to resolve is findability. Tagging provides an easy and simple way to organize things. You don’t need to run into complicate structures of PLM taxonomies – classes, subclasses and structures.

Social Tagging on the Web
Tagging on the web emerged as a solution for individuals to control over findability on things in the infinite collection of web resources. Tagging came as an alternative to bookmark’s organization.Tagging provided an easy and cheap way to find your resources. One of the most important characteristics of tagging is the ability to support multiple views. You can tag something as a Restaurant, but at the same time somebody else can tag it as Food and this is making a perfect sense. This ability to tag things differently is the main point of “social tagging”. You tag as you want.

Difference with Enterprise and PLM
Now, let me take the following approach to the enterprise and PLM, specifically. How the situation will be different in the enterprise organization. I can identify three major difference that potentially can prevent social tagging to become as a powerful and reliable mechanism in the enterprise: 1/Type of content; 2/People; 3/Tagging quality.

1. Content. The main difference between internet and PLM is the content. On the internet content is infinite set of information without the specific contextual mean. In case of PLM, content has a specific structure, authority and contextual meaning (task, people, etc.). The findability of resources in the enterprise need to be more precised and support specific tasks and users.

2. People. With huge popularity of social tagging on the internet, there is the only small fraction of people that successfully applies this practice in their everyday life. My guess is about 15-20% of people. What is acceptable on the Internet won’t be acceptable to the enterprise organization. You cannot provide a solution to the 20% of the people in your organization…

3. Quality and consistency. One of the main advantages of social tagging is the ability to support multiple views. However, this is also the disadvantage. The consistency of tagging and as a result, quality of tagging system can be under the level of acceptance for enterprise organization.

What is my conclusion today? Social tagging is a very interesting approach. I do think it will find they way to be used in enterprise systems and specifically in Product Lifecycle Management. However, the way to implement it probably will be different. It can include some automatic tag generation and mixed approaches to apply taxonomies together with tagging (folksonomies) on the same content. What vendors need to learn is wide acceptance of tagging solution as a very usable user experience by many customers. So, this is a point to think about…

Best, Oleg

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  • Just to make sure this is not a group grope, let me take the opposite position. Where do you / how do you justify your 15%-20%? I think you are way off with this number but I know I am just giving a gut feel. My guess is this is more like 1%-3%. Tagging, although interesting provides no value when you do it so most just do not do it. Beside in almost all cases you are tagging for someone’s value, not yours. Well unless you are a blogger and you want more people to find your content… Look at SolidWorks and MS Windows. You have been able to tag SolidWorks files from within SolidWorks and I believe you can even tag features. No one does it. Same is true for all the files on our disk. How many of your files are tagged and how many specific tag names do you have and why is this better than indexing?

    There is no doubt that tagging is an interesting technology, but it is just that, technology. So why will I use it. If I am working on a part why will I tag it? People only do things when they great a value in return, for them, not for someone else later in time. This is a main reason why PLM struggles. What is the value for me? I know where my files are, right on my disk.

    As I said I wanted to take the counter point.

  • Chris, I think your point is valid. Tagging is a great technology. However, there is one problem. You want somebody else to do tagging work for you. And then, you’ll be able to use it very efficiently. The problem is that people don’t see a high value as opposite to painful process. On the other side, auto-tagging can be an interesting approach to solve this conflict partially. Personally, I’m not tagging files, but I’m tagging bookmarks on the web. It doesn’t take a lot of time and this is efficient for re-use. Best, Oleg

  • How do you tag bookmarks? Are you doing this in IE?

  • Chris, I’m using Google Bookmarks. You can tag and search after. And you can import your IE (or whatever else) bookmarks. In addition, you can install bookmark button in your browser (I use it in Safari and Chrome). Once you did it, you’ll love it. Best, Oleg

  • Its great thing we have to do.