All About Tags

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Tags perform a variety of functions on SoFurry, from helping a person find works that they may be interesting in to preventing certain types of works from appearing. This section of the Wiki deals with what tags are, how to use them and what tags to use whether your using the search engine or submitting new content to SoFurry.

You can hardly go anywhere anymore on the Internet without seeing tag clouds, tag filters, tag searches, tag lines, and dog tags everywhere. On top of that it seems every site has their own way of using them.

First let's talk about what tags are. Basically tags are the most specific words or phrases that describe a work. I like to think of them as collection of phrases that taken together describe something. In our context tags are what subject headings are for a library catalog.

Imagine you tell someone on the phone that you have a ball. Whomever you told now knows you have a ball but it doesn't tell the person anything about the ball. It could be anything; a ping pong ball, a beach ball, a tennis ball and so on. So the person your conversing with asks what kind and you reply that it is a foot ball, but that still doesn't help the person your conversing with because they may not be from your part of the world! An American would think of a oblong brown thing you toss around while a person from the British Isles (and most of the rest of the world for that matter!) would think of a round white ball with hexagonal squares on it that you kick.

This is where tags come in. Tags let you say what kind of ball you have in greater detail without having to write a book to describe it. Lets take our ball as an example. Lets suppose I gave you this list to describe it: Hard, Egg sized, white, dimpled. Now you probably have a fairly good idea I'm talking about a golf ball. This is what tags do for submissions on SoFurry!

Generally tags are entered on SoFurry on a single line with each tag separated by a comma. Let's suppose I drew a picture of Toumal holding the ball I talked about above and submitted it to SoFurry. (Boring I know but it gets the point across :)

I'm going to add Toumal right off the bat because he is a character in my picture. Toumal is an orca so I would add that as a tag. Toumal is male so I would add that tag. Since this picture isn't adult in nature I would tag it clean. I'll also add the other component, golf ball. The background of the image shows Toumal on a beach so I'll add beach. I drew my picture using a pencil so I'll add traditional media and pencil. I might toss the tags sketch and black & white on it as well because I haven't colored the sky or the sea. So when I enter in my tags to submit my image I would type the following on the tag line.

Clean, Toumal, Orca, Male, Golf Ball, Beach, Pencil, Traditional Media, Black & White, Sketch

Notice how many of the tags are single words but some are short phrases like Traditional Media, Golf Ball and Black & White. This is important because it means if someone searches for say just ball my picture will come up, but if someone searches for golf ball they wouldn't have images for soccer balls or basket balls to sort through. The more precise the term you search for, the more precise the results will be.

The same thing could be said if someone wanted to search for pencil works, traditional media, or just pictures of Toumal. Or perhaps pictures of Toumal with a Golf Ball. (Toumal, Golf Ball)

Some tags can have ambiguous meanings such as Mouse or Scar. If I say I have a mouse I could be referring to a small rodent or a input device for a computer. The most common thing most people will think of when you say the word mouse is a small rodent so If that is what you are referring to you should just add the tag Mouse. However if your referring to a computer mouse you should add the qualifier Computer to the tag in parenthesis so that the tag appears as Mouse (Computer). We only use qualifiers if the word is a homonym. A great example of this is the Disney character Scar from the Lion King. If your picture or story included that character, you would use the character qualifier (Scar (Character)), but if one of your characters in the work simply had a scar on their face you would add the Scar tag.

^.^
The Tag Tree

Their are a few things I should mention about tags at this point. If you look over at the image to the right titled The Tag Tree you will see an except of the structure of tags on SoFurry. In particular notice the Cetacean branch. I didn't add the tags dolphin or cetacean to the tag list because an orca is a more specific form of a cetacean and dolphin!

Also of note is the Cervine branch of the tree. You will notice that the tags doe and buck are listed as UF: +female and +male respectively. What this means is that the term buck should be replaced with two tags, deer and male. The same thing would apply to dragons for example. If the dragon was a female you would add the tag dragon and female rather than the term dragoness. The reason for this system of tagging is to reduce the number of gender specific tags such as lioness.

Some terms are just plain slang. That of course is not to say those words are poor or shouldn't be used at all, but they should be avoided when using tags if they are not well established in the fandom. A good rule of thumb here is to look up your tags in the online Webster's Dictionary. If you don't find the term or the use you intended is listed as slang or vulgar you should probably pick a different term. The tags Loo, John, Can or Restroom should use the tag term Bathroom; Beemer should be Automobile (BMW) and probably the most obvious slang term Cock, should actually be Penis for example.

Another important point is you should avoid plural expressions. In the example I have above with Toumal and the golf ball, if their were two golf balls in the image I would still use the singular tag golf ball.

So what kind of tags should you add to your submissions? People tend to either search for things that they are in the mood for or specific works. Here are a few suggestions put forth by Carlos_Penguin, Tyvara_Panther and others:

  • Name of character(s) and or artist.
  • Gender of the character(s).
  • Sexual? Clean, Adult or Extreme.
  • Location? Beach, Forest, Laboratory, Space Station, etc. (Note: Particularly with an image as they usually depict a single location.)
  • Genres? Fantasy, Horror, Contemporary, Fan-fiction, Comedy, Science Fiction, Romance, etc.
  • Sexual nature: straight, gay. Then narrow that to characters: M/M, M/M/F, interspecies, etc.
  • Fetish?: BBW, skinny, bondage, watersports, etc.
  • Type of characters: alien, dragon, wolf, fox, horse, robot, etc.
  • What is going on? crime, school, friendship, marriage, breakup, etc.
  • Is this a series? progression, climax, epilogue, [name of series]. (This one may seem esoteric, but a lot of writers breakup their stories into parts.)

Remember that your tags should be relevant to the main subject matter of the work. In the image I used as an example the sea may have some waves or perhaps a rock in it, but I didn't add tags for those elements as they are not significant to the work.

For another example, if I were to post a story about a knight fighting a fearsome dragon I certainly would tag the work with knight and dragon, but I would only add land voyage and forest to the tag list if those elements were vital to the story. (If say the knight had to make a long voyage in the forest to reach the dragon and a significant part of the story involved the knight's travels.)

Protip!: Pay attention to the numbers next to the tags after a work is submitted. If the tag is common, there will be a large number after it (to show how many other submissions use that tag). Generally speaking, if there are no numbers (or hardly any, like 2) it's an unused tag, and needs to be replaced with a more appropriate one. Sometimes it's a spelling issue, or a matter of adding a space or removing a dash.

Lastly I'll leave you with a little check list to go over when your reviewing your tag submissions:

  • Is the tag [ ambiguous]?
  • Is the tag precise enough?
  • Is it an official tag?
  • Is the element important enough to be added as tag?

Have I included a tag to describe:

  • The genders included?
  • The media?
  • The genre?
  • The sexual nature if present (mature level, fetishes etc.)? (Clean or No Yiff if not.)
  • The main topic of the described, or depicted scene, text or song?

If relevant:

  • The era or century?
  • The location?
  • The phase of the work (Progression, Climax, Epilogue etc.)