Steam Tags – crowdsourcing the shopping taxonomy

Steam have just launched a beta option for ‘steam tags’ a way for their community (75m users) to apply bespoke categorization on titles in their vast store.  Tags used regularly by users will find their way to becoming ‘Popular Tags’ that can be used by others to discover content via browse and new filtering options.

This will all sound familiar to organizations and institutions who have opened up intranets, library/learning management systems and other platforms to such crowd sourcing methods. Indeed it is not dissimilar to the ‘categories’ approach of this and other WordPress sites.

The FAQs resolve a number of the questions that always crop up with such approaches, such as “what about swear words?”, what about “different languages?” and if the content/game owner can alter the tags.  In all three cases the answers are predictable; swear words will be filtered out (Steam having plenty of experience of hosting complex user discussion boards), you will see tags from users of the same language group as you and customers’ tags will appear no matter what the designer/publisher thinks.  The latter is interesting in that it could show a disconnect and one might expect it opens up some publishers to looking elsewhere, for example, Ubisoft might find lots of “Excessive DRM” tags which they probably will not like and there is room for blatant hate campaigns.  As for the language point, it seems a little disappointing that the expense has not been spared on some kind of automatic translation, yes it might not work well but, at least it would break down some of the cultural/geographic barriers.  Overall, this is another community tool for a platform which, of course, has big plans.

I love the tag idea, thinking about it from my education perspective, I wonder how many organizations would genuinely open their Learning Management Systems to such tagging?  We’ve seen ratings (5-star) approaches for a while and so often see the extreme 1 or 5 star feedback scores, as tends to be the case in the Apple and Google stores too.  This more qualitative approach could be a big help toward sorting through vast content as systems grow and discoverability does seem to be the driving force.

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