An experiment in social tagging using EPA documents

[Post author: Scott Butner]

Social tagging (also known as social bookmarking) is a practice that has been gaining some steam over recent years — it relies on the actions of a large crowd of users to assign topical categories (“tags”) to documents or other information objects (photos, videos, etc may also be tagged) in order to help categorize their meaning.

Some popular web sites, like Flickr,, even Facebook — make use of tags, as do most blogging applications.  The basic idea is one that has sometimes been called “folksonomy” — creating controlled vocabularies by consensus and from the bottom up.

This is the sort of thing that gives librarians bad dreams at night, or so I’ve been led to believe.  So it’s somewhat ironic that a group of library science types has launched a pilot project to improve the accessibility of EPA documents by opening them up for tagging via the popular web site.

Now, it’s not clear to me what this group is expecting to accomplish.  I’m not even sure it’s clear to them.  But it seems to revolve around the issue of “findability” of EPA data — an important issue, as Wikipedia and other social media continue to gain ground on more authoritative sources of information about regulations.

I’ll continue to monitor this experiment, and report back if anything interesting happens.

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