Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tagonomy for Advertizers

Wherein I break down: we all consume content; we are all content; how we can all get paid for our content of likes and tags, and how this could make for an interesting new web and mobile business landscape.

What we've been doing for years is selling our tags, albeit more anonymously than we do now. When you buy a magazine, say "Dwell," you are giving up some of your time, and maybe something you value, like enjoyment or aesthetics. (My project defines a user-managed rating of posts called AdNasty, where you get to rate how much the "Ad-ness" nasties you out. So you can share your aesthetic judgement of the content relating to advertising. The idea in that user-generated-content system, everyone is pitching something, and you want to rate how nasty and obvious the pitch is.) Some of the content you will see will be observed as "ads." Some of this is paid for, some indirectly paid for. What you get in return is a lower cost for your purchase. For $US 6.00 you can buy this magazine from the rack, and it comes on nice paper, has about two good shoots, totalling maybe 30 pages of content you paid to see. But the fact is that we are also subscribers to the content known as "advertizing" because the advertizers have been subsidizing the newstand price. And this coupling of adspace and very targeted content means the tag "Dwell Magazine" is monetized.

Recent news item: Facebook performing data mining on "Likes." Duh.

We are all content now. ("Content" in the last sentence is a noun.) We sell our content in exchange for information (content) or for reduced prices on real-world things. But most of what we do online is information. You are using the web to find the bookstore that will sell you a book, a shipper that will take the book from the store to you, and the middlemen to get your order from San Francisco to Peabody, Indiana, and get your book back from there to you. Sitting in the middle of this information trade in one transaction might be Amazon, and UPS. So brokering, connections, availability, and trust are monetized. When the book itself is digital, the nature of the transaction is even more stark.

I'm suggesting that we create a means for people to categorize everything they wish to store and retrieve using a system of hierarchical tags. The premise is that these people would "garden" their tags a bit, because the tags help them remember and find things. And this system would provide a nice context-sensitive gui for tagging in place, with recall of recent tags, autosuggest as you type, etc. Because the system supports hierarchical tagging, and the ability to store lists in this tree, it supports how people think: tree, tabular, or flat. Emphasis is placed on keeping the system simple, so graphs are not directly supported (you can still have links). The idea is a system of tagging and recalling tags throughout your web/mobile experience, where the system supports everything from a simple list of commonly used tags, to trees of tags in a hierarchy such as a mid-level or power user would use.

The collection of tags becomes like a signagure of a person. Especially if the usage and application of tags is used as a learning network. If these signatures could be normalized, then they can be mined, and then they are monetizeable. So a consortium could entice users to use the tagging system by offering to pay them a portion of CPI (Cost Per Impression, typically quoted in dollars per 1000 impressions or "views" of an ad). In other words, sign up for these really, really targetted ads, and don't get any others from the ad servers. Now these really realy targetted ads are really really interesting, and they are, effectively, "content." In fact, they won't look like ads at all, they will look like offers of content that the user wants.

As an advertizer, the value, in terms of real CPI, of these users is high. Intuitively to me it seems to be an order of magnitude better in terms of response rates, when compared to ads that may be selected from keywords in my eMails. I have gardened my tags, so the tags I use most frequently have meaning to me, and characterize me better.

To normalize tags, I'm proposing a system that stores trees of tags, like a taxonomy.

I'd allow aliases (soft links) from nodes to the same tree (by ID), or external trees (HREF or XLINK).

Similarly, allow the importing and aliasing of external trees, especially from other users. Even better, encourage and promote the idea of importing well-known taxonomies. Allow there to be multiple taxonomies, but become good and correlating them, partly by encouraging linkage. The fact that there are different camps of taggers that can talk to each other, agreeing on their disagreements, is a good thing.

When a tag is used, its canonical location is referred to, along with a qualifier between 0 and 1, or between 0% and 100%. This qualifier species how true this tag is for the given application, 1% being "I kinda think there's a bit of /likes/movies/Avatar/ in this blog post, but just barely." As a user, if I qualified this blog post with the amount of each tag, then tags for this article would be:

  • 90% "/work/"
  • 100% "/projects/"
  • 100 % "/projects/blog/my-entries/"
  • 50% "/projects/tagonomy/"
Here 90% "/work/" implies that this is a project for the /work/ portion of my life, but I wouldn't want to exclude a future search from looking for interesting writing I had done under "/play/". The "/projects/tagonomy/" tag applies because the ideas here are based on my "tagonomy" project. But the tag doesn't really apply 100%, because this article goes on to talk about advertising. The percentages are the amount of a given tag that you want to sprinkle on this document. 100% means that when you are searching later, that this tag is spot-on. In the other direction, I think it may prove better to figure out which tags define "/work/" by inference and link counting. Alternatively, a user could have two sliders: 1) for how much this tag ("/work/") is "so true" for this item, and 2) how much is this item "exactly what I'm talking about" when I say "work". Either way, the system needs to calculate back-links to defintions. Using this information, and the information gleaned from links, multiple trees can be correlated into camps of thought. I was surprised, once, after using a bookmark sharing and correlating site, that when it compared my tag cloud with other users, it found matches, that showed that other people existed who not only shared interests with me, they also shared a lot of interests with me. And these were in such a tight pattern, that by judging on their links, they were just me. Guys interested in Delphi programming, bicycling, guitars, pro-tool recording gear, spanish language learning, and musical note notation software. OK, that is probably 2 million people in the U.S. But even walking into party of geeks, or a Meetup wouldn't guarantee that I'd meet any of them.

Further, there will be an algorithm for various combinations on trees. This is where things get interesting. If a product of two trees, through some inferences by using the aliases and imports defined above, could produce an affinity or correlation, then this information is fungible.

In order for a system like this to work, there must be a central or well-know way into the cloud of tagonomies. If app vendors all had immediate access to storing user tags, for example, then the tags would appear in lots of apps, be useful, and highly available. People would then begin to expect them in apps. And other portals into this highly prized data could be provided to users as part of a tag/link management service:

  • We'll help you manage your tags,
  • centralize your search
  • store pointers to your data in the cloud
  • do it securely
  • and enable you to sell this to content providers.

The fungible information posessed by users can then be brokered through to content providers (remembering that catalogs are content). I've been bothered by ads, but I have never been bothered by a catalog. Similarly, content providers always want more targeted and receptive subscribers.

As consumers of content containing ads, we are subscribers to ads. It would be really interesting to get paid to be a consumer. What I'm suggesting is that as content consumers, we have something to sell back: our tagonomies. And as a company, it would be really nice to broker that transaction.