I remember when I came across those weird looking different size word aggregations on websites and wondered what were they? When I read about tagging and tag clouds I was first skeptical about it and asked myself what is the benefit of them?
Nowadays I am fascinated, how tags can solve or at least improve how we sort information and make relevance between different tags. Through the wisdom of crowd one can extract very precisely the connections of themes and show the pattern of a community. To me classical hierarchical folder structure is only two dimensional, whereas tags are three dimensional, as long as the semantic web has not been implemented.
With social bookmarking through de.icio.us a single tag can be used to share links collaboratively. Peter Ballantyne had the idea of using collaborative tagging for the knowledge management for development network back in 2005. Next week another KM4DEV workshop will take place in Holland where I will prepare some visualization of the efforts throughout the last two years for the nonprofit knowledge management for development (NPK4DEV) tag.
Tagging seems so superficial in terms of knowledge creation, it is more a flow of information. Can we say there is learning going on or is it just sharing information more rapidly? If people start tagging can we all that a community of practice?
In my opinion this tag cloud shows quite impressively what people associate with knowledge management for development in methods, countries, organizations and themes. It is a great way to share certain kind of information. In this regard it might be a passive community of practice keeping each other updated about new and interesting documents or new approaches such as vlogging. Furthermore it connects you to the people behind it.
However to deepen the effect of sharing and to have a broader learning effect, further steps would be necessary. For example Beth Kanter summarizes in her posts all links for the nptech tag, which is very useful. The communication between each other over delicious is close to zero, and one does not know whether the information behind the link is useful or valuable to his or her background. Commenting is rarely used and rating is not possible, and only bloggers involved reflect transparently the shared information.
Lastly, it is interesting to see how you can analyze tags, in this timeline. In the picture you can see the recent tags. Thanks to the blogger from www.unthinkingly.com, who did this timeline very nice with the nptech tag.