How to use tagging to make connections in the nonprofit web

A tag cloud with terms related to Web 2.

Image via Wikipedia

Probably one of the best innovations of the whole Web 2.0 phenomenon is tagging. A tag is “a non-hierarchical keyword or term assigned to a piece of information” (source). Tags can be used to identify blog posts, bookmarks, photos, videos, presentations, events, etc., and are supported by pretty much every Web 2.0 tool. Tags are generally assigned informally and without regard to a structure of categories; they are more like annotations and are often assigned in addition to categories, such as on blog posts.

The genius of tagging is that it organically builds connections over time between seemingly unconnected content. If my blog post and your video and his bookmark and her photograph all have the same tag, then we can start to see how they are related in some way. This leads to a bottoms-up classification system for web content that is often called a folksonomy.

The problem is that tags are arbitrarily decided on by the content creator, and with language being what it is, one tag can mean many different things to many different people. Take the word development, for instance. In my own little industry, it can refer to the process of creating software or giving aid to low-resource countries. In other contexts, it might refer to child development or personal development or a large and ugly subdivision.

The nonprofit field has bypassed this limitation by coming up with some unique tags to identify our content. If we use these tags consistently, we can easily locate a wealth of content in our particular niches. Here are some of the most useful tags I’ve come across:

nptech: Short for “nonprofit technology,” this tag refers to nonprofits’ use of technology, mostly internally rather than as part of the program offerings.


ict4d: Stands for “Information and Communication Technologies for Development.” Refers to groups that are using technology in their development programs, usually international development.


web4dev: Using Web technologies, mostly Web 2.0, for supporting international aid and development.


km4dev: Stands for “Knowledge Management for Development.” Using knowledge management tools and techniques to support international development.


m4dev or m4d: Using mobile technology to support internatonal development.


I’m sure I haven’t discovered all of the tags being used by nonprofits using technology, especially in international development. If you know of any other good ones, please leave a comment.

4 responses to “How to use tagging to make connections in the nonprofit web”

  1. […] 2.0 world Result 1 Discovered October 1, 2008 at 7:00 pm Do you use tags? If not take a look at Shannon Turlington blog post on The power of tagging to make connections in the nonprofit web.  It’s a 101 about tagging and […]

  2. Thanks Shannon, this is great. I am developing a virtual library in WordPress for a non-profit client of mine and I have been brainstorming how to make the tags feature more relevant to outside viewers, not just those in the organization. I’ll be using a few of these!

  3. […] so you can bookmark as you surf. Get in the habit of bookmarking the sites that interest you and tagging them in meaningful […]

  4. […] The power of tagging to make connections in the nonprofit web Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)ICT4D… in South AsiaShedding “AKOMISMO” and sharpening my professional focusAfrican course: Information and Communications Technology for Development […]

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