TAG, YOU'RE IT!...
You knew it was only a matter of time, after the mini-frenzy building around companies that tag: Flickr (Yahoo!), Technorati, de.icio.us (I still can't spell this URL from memory, and adding www and .com by habit doesn't get you the site), Furl, and many others. There are even new sites like evdb that use tags for specific applications like event and venue sharing.
Well, someone had to go out and build a dating/social networking site using tags and Consumating.com (beta, of course), is interesting in that regard. Check out the tags (aka "characteristics") in the blue box on the home page...different, huh?
I like how they're using user-generated quirky questions to generate and display responses from other users. Sets up a new way to "discover" people in how they think and respond to questions, almost like in a beauty pageant. A different approach than how other sites like Answerology are employing user-generated questions.
I also like the way they've made the tags pretty understandable and accessible from a mainstream, user-interface perspective. Specifically, they've built on the single word tags that most sites use, and with Ajax technologies, allow users to filter and fuse tag words to create some pretty individualized ways to tag and search.
This is good, because since this is a dating/networking site, people have to put their best foot forward, and be a little more creative to stand out. Thus the tags and tag sets they've created so far anecdotally seem to be more complex than the ones found at traditional tagging sites.
And as a result, you get some pretty individualized, user-generated tags like burningman, alfredhitchcock and minicoopers. You can then keep clicking on other tags like "tall", "short", etc. and keep filtering until you get something like "short" "brunettes" who like "minicoopers", as an example.
And the multiple tag filtering mechanism differentiates the discovery process vs. other tagging sites.
Finally, given that the tags themselves change organically in real-time driven by users interacting with other users' tags, the system is differentiated from a static top-down database structure with multiple administrator-defined search variables....e.g., this query page in Friendster with the "interest" field "extremely funny movies".
The business model for Consumating at this stage, seems to be based on buying "points" to contact other users, rather than subscription fees, and paid-search ads.
My one suggestion off the bat would be the ability to search for tags right on the home page. It's too easy right now to see an interesting tag at first glance, and not be able to find it again.
To be fair to Consumating, most tagging companies are guilty of not putting in a search box on the home page in this Tagging 1.0 stage. For example, try to search for a tag off the home page on del.icio.us, or Flickr, or most of the others...go ahead, I dare you). The best you can do on all these sites is to find a list under lame tags like "popular", etc. Some like Technorati and Furl do give you a search box on the home page, but they're not specific just to tags, but index and web results from their sites in general.
(Caution: GENERAL RANT ALERT) Imagine a search engine where all you can see are the actual searches being performed by users around the world, but NOT BEING ABLE TO PUT YOUR OWN SEARCH IN! Sure, that's cool to see on a plasma in Google's lobby in the early days, but frustrating when you're actually trying to figure out how to use this new way to find things.
By the way, if you want to see what others are searching for on the web, check out search engine Icerocket's IceSpy...now imagine if you can't search for anything yourself. Icerocket is the search engine backed by Mark Cuban.
Also, and this is another major rant/gripe for all tagging companies as a whole, why does everyone just put these tags in one mass jumble? Almost all the tagging companies do this...here's Technorati's version and here's del.icio.us, just to pick a couple. We need Steve Jobs to re-think better ways to do user-interfaces for tags in general.
These rants aside, user-generated tags can be pretty useful over time, especially as they go beyond text, and evolve to include audio and video information on the web. They'll be especially important in an Internet that's migrating FROM static, html pages TO constant streams of changing information from both humans, corporations, and machines, across every conceivable type of device.
They're potentially as important an Internet development as HTML and RSS (over-simplifying and generalizing here, but think of it as static and streaming respectively). Much like those technologies, although tags are at an early stage now, and almost a plaything of techno-geek/philosophers and early adopters, they're rapidly on their way to mainstream use. And with new sites like Consumating.com, it's interesting and exciting to see the new ways tags are being put to use.
Tag, it's not just for kids anymore...