The Dark Side of Technorati Tags

Tags are the new black. Everyone seems to be doing it. People are investing in them, companies are promoting them. They even have their own event,Tag Tuesday. So when I finally got around to upgrading Ecto to its latest release, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to insert tags into the posts. Except for one little catch – the tags were linked to the Technorati site. Technorati is one of those new open media start-ups that is always making news, for its ground breaking work, or for some not so great reasons.

I liked the idea of tags, essentially dynamic categories crossed with keywords. Except it bothered me that all the tags I embedded in my post were linking back to Technorati site. Given that very little traffic flows my way from them, I loathe the idea of sending traffic their way. Still, I thought, greater community good and all that jazz. I started poking around. But something did not sit right, and here is why.

I discovered that if the tag was “mortgage” it took me to special tagged page. However, most of the links on the tagged page essentially were some sort of a spam-blog, which basically was set-up for the express purpose of extracting money from Google. Never mind, Technorati gets money from AdSense. I checked out other tags like VoIP, Broadband, DSL, Cable, Vioxx and what not. (I did not check all the popular tags, but I hope you do!) The entries were highly dominated by spam links. Interestingly, the page ranks of these tagged pages were pretty high.

So this is where I lose the plot – I tag my post, Technorati benefits, and despite all that, my tags help spammers who clog my RSS readers gain more readers. That’s absolutely rotten! So essentially the spammers can write a script, generate tags, stay high on the Technorati listings and fool people into visiting their sites. By tagging I am helping this scumbags, the RSS-link blog spammers. This is clearly not going to help Technorati (or infact anyone’s reputation) as a good search tool.

A few months ago when I got to see Yahoo’s new My Web 2.0 Beta, I had the same feeling. As a consumer, Yahoo and Technorati (and others) wanted me to tag stuff, because it would help their products get better, which means they can monetize those products better. (Of course, the argument is that you are getting better search. Not sure I am, but that’s the line.) I think this expectation stemmed from the early adopter enthusiasm for tags.

Also driving this “thought” is Flickr. Many forget that Flickr is a photo site, needs a finite amount of meta data, and can be tagged because there are a few hundred thousand ways to tag information. A puppy is a puppy is a puppy. Rather a bat is a bat even if its flat. What works for photos doesn’t work for words. I think a lot of people, infact most people would disagree with my assertion. Time will tell if I am wrong or right, but meanwhile, I am not sure I am tagging the blog fantastic anytime soon.

Update: More stuff emailed by Shelly which highlights her own post, Rebecca Blood’s writings, Consuming Experience and Blog Business Summit. These are counter arguments to what I had to say. Dave Taylor wrote, Technorati Tags – Good Idea, bad Implementation, back in March 2005. This one is a must read.