People Tagging in Product Development


What I learned this week … was sparked by some recent social networking announcements on people tagging. SocialTaggingPuzzleThe most recent was that Facebook plans to offer tagging very similar to what Twitter offers. This follows other announcements around geo-tagging, but I am really most interested in how tagging people can help in product development (and overall in product innovation).

Tag – You are It!

Most people that use social networks are getting used to tagging, particularly those that use Twitter. In Facebook, people are used to seeing tagging on uploaded photos. So what is tagging? Tagging (for our purposes here) is just associated a person with content. There are other forms of tagging as well, such as the “#” tagging or “hashcodes” in Twitter than help associate content with events or topics, keyword tagging, etc. But what I am talking about is simply including an individual’s identification along with the content. But I am not talking about their name, I am talking about tagging their online presence. Tagging isn’t just letting people know who is involved. The power of people tagging comes when associating the person to the context allows the tag to be followed to see or learn more about the person tagged.

Quick Example

OK, you are reading a blog on social networking so you probably already know this, but just in case I will provide a quick personal example:

I attended a conference, and one of the people I follow on Twitter mentioned that they were going to the bar with two other individuals. Not that interesting, right? Except that they were at the same conference that I was and my contact tagged the two people by including their “@” codes, or their Twitter identities. That meant that anybody that followed any of the three would now know they were getting together for a drink. So what? I recognized one of the names as somebody I wanted to meet. The second name I didn’t recognize, but I followed the link to the profile and found out it was another blogger that I would like to meet. In short, my network expanded by two new people that day because one friend tagged the other two. And, I got a free drink out of it too.

Can We Get Back to Product Development Please?

Thanks for your patience with the aside, I try not to assume everybody knows about things like tagging. So how does this apply to product development? Let’s take a quick example of status reports. If a status report mentions that @Engineer is working on a problem, I might read that status report and have something to offer. I could instantly click and connect with the tagged person (hopefully with some security settings in place) and offer my advice. Or, perhaps it is a year later and I am facing that same problem. I might search on the issue and find this old status report. Then, I see that @Engineer faced this problem a year ago. I could follow the link and find additional content related to the tagged individual that might help me with my problem, or connect to ask for advice.

Implications for Manufacturers

It’s Monday, I will keep this short. Tagging is a very important part of social computing, and highly applicable to PLM because product development is fundamentally a people-driven process. This is just one more reason that social computing in PLM makes so much sense to me.

Thinking of tagging in product development also ties strongly into past discussions such as Oleg’s PLM, don’t fight processes – focus on people! and other related discussions in the PLM community of late. It is also very important when considering the importance of social discovery and how social computing drives innovation.

So I believe tagging people in social computing will be helpful to product developers, I hope you found it interesting. Who knew? I didn’t, if you did let us know about it.