Social tagging systems

I just discovered 43 things and immediately fell in love with it. It’s such a brilliant idea: I’ve got so many abstract goals floating around in my mind, getting them down on paper (even if it is electronic paper) was both a great exercise for my personal development plus a wonderful insight into other people’s lives.

It’s systems like this — systems I like to call ’social tagging systems’ — that are making the web a whole new place. I’m not talking about technology-level developments (read: Ajax) here; social systems are changing the web. It’s a given that having a community has always made a website more popular. In the past this has taken the form of mailing lists, forums (bulletin boards) and most recently, weblogs. This new breed of site is just another natural step in the community direction.

What makes a system like 43 things truly social, in my mind, is the small bit of text that tells you how many other people have that specific goal in mind, too. It’s nice to know you’re not alone in the world, that there’s 243 other people in the (internet-connected) world that want to learn german.

This spreads to other systems too, noticably del.icio.us. It’s a very connected feeling you get when you look at a link you’ve just posted and realise that 302 other people liked that that adaptive path article.

It’s just a strangely addictive experience to know that in some small way you’re connected to some foreign stranger. This is why social software, online communities and so on succeed. After all, the web is all about people.