Join the Conversation

Join the Conversation

Sign up today to hear about books and authors from an independent bookstore near you.

Interest Tags Outta Control!

I've noticed that the Interest Tags system is not really clicking as well as it should here on A lot of users don't seem to understand what it's for, or how to use it. Bottom line: I don't blame anyone but me. If this isn't working, it's because it's not clear what it's for, or because it's not organized well enough. Back to the drawing board...

The concept behind the Interests/Specialties tagging system is to create pages and lists that group together users and stores who are all interested in something. "used books" is a fine interest. So are "gardening", "mysteries", or "cookbooks".

But these tags are only doing their job if they match up across similar stores and across similar people.

Sometimes users don't enter commas to separate terms, or use something else, so we get interests like "art and gardening books; fiction and non-fiction; and children's books". Also, users add "and," which, while grammatically correct for humans, is not grammatically correct for computers. "and used books" is NOT the same term as "used books".

Other users just use it to enter a sentence-long description of the store.

Another major problem is the proliferation of synonyms. For example, we have "vegan," "vegan cooking," "vegan food," and "vegan shoes." Each of these tags, when you click it, will take you to a page that shows stores and users who share this interest and only this interest. For example, if someone is interested in "vegan food," they would not show up on the "vegan cooking" page unless they also listed that interest. There is a nice little Javascript autocomplete on the field where you enter Interest tags, but it takes a second to kick in, so I don't think most users notice it. I probably wouldn't. And adding a line like "please wait to see if the Autocomplete finds a match for your term before adding a new one" wouldn't be likely to help, because who would read such a thing? (I wouldn't...)

So I'm exploring a number of options. One very promising one is Taxonomy Super Select, which creates nice little hierarchically-sorted collapsible menus of checkboxes for hierarchically categorized terms. Our terms are not yet hierarchically categorized, but I can easily do that by creating general categories like "books" with subcategories like "mysteries", "science fiction", etc. The problem with the TSS module is that out of the box, it lists all 1,175 terms in the system (including all the useless ones), which is a lot to sort through, and makes the "Add a Store" page take nearly 10 seconds to render.

What I think I need to do here is:

1) Make it clearer what the tagging system is FOR in the instructions.
2) Implement a system like Taxonomy Super Select to suggest ONLY recommended terms (not all terms), organized by category.
3) Leave a free tagging box up for users to add new terms as they please
4) Consolidate redundant terms.
5) Delete harmful or meaningless terms like "and" or "<a href"
6) Leave all other terms in place.

I'm also playing with new, sortable, table-based views for interest tags. If these work out well, I may expand this to city/state views as well.