Google Suggest does type-ahead for Google Index in near real-time

Go try Google Suggest now, if you haven't. Google Suggest shows the feasibility of using type ahead with very large collections of terms, like tags in a folksonomy.

Now, one of the drawbacks of using ad hoc tags in social classification is the lack of vocabulary control - people use different tags to mean the same thing. This is fine for organizing personal information architectures, but the lack of consistency, while reducing the cognitive cost of classification, actually increases effort in finding information.

To deal with the issue, there needs to be a feedback loop. Flickr has the most popular tags float to the top, 43 Things and others use type size to show more popular tags. There's an argument for that kind of subtle feedback. However, to really bridge between levels of classification, to move from a distributed folksonomy to a controlled vocabulary and then to a formal thesaurus, we need more than implicit incentive in using a particular tag. Using type ahead to show other tags is one way of doing that, as James Spahr illustrates so well. But I've always wondered about how scalable this approach would be with a massive tagset. With Google Suggest, instead of wondering how type ahead would scale, I'm wondering how we can implement a similar scale system for tags...

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Google Suggest

The web is abuzz with word of Google's new "Suggest" feature. I'm, quite frankly, amazed they can do this as the speed they're doing it. Very impressive. One of the more interesting blog posts comes from IA Slash, where Jess McMullin talks about implications of the Google tool for controlled vocabulary situations. One of the links Jess points to is an interesting look at some good uses for heirarchical CVs on designweenie....

Google: Suggest

As you type into the search box, Google Suggest guesses what you're typing and offers suggestions in real time. This is similar to Google's "Did you mean?" feature that offers alternative spellings for your query after you search, except that it works

reflection of pre-existing tags

google auto-suggest is one way.

another is to simply present the list of already used tags for that particular URL being bookmarked. (follow the "and xx other people" link to see "common tags")

hmm ... different effects can occur ... reflection of pre-existing tags would cause preferred terms for that URL to float to the top, while google auto-suggest would facilitate new terms (for this URL, but used elsewhere) being added.

Would google auto-suggest be drawing from the entire population of terms, or would it limit itself to a subset defined by the network cluster?

Note that for almost obvious reasons this 'pre-emptive reflection' feedback only works with del.icio.us, and not with flickr.