Stemming tags, and one website to the tune of another

January 30th, 2005  |  Published in web  |  5 Comments is still giving me food for thought. Here are two toys I’ve made recently: a tag stemming tool that helps you tidy up your tagging using the Porter algorithm, and a (Flash) screen-recorded demo of seamlessly embedded in the BBC Radio 3 website.

(Maximize your browser window! Apologies for the slow playback speed of the movie; although you’re welcome to browse the javascript, it’s something of a pain to get it running on your own browser. I’m looking at how I can turn it into a reusable and configurable Firefox extension, but for now it’s just a demo built with Greasemonkey.)

UPDATE: I had to demo this to a mixed audience at the BBC this afternoon, so I put together some quick slides to help me explain the step-by-step process that goes on behind the scenes. Perhaps someone else will find them useful too.

So, what are you seeing in this movie? It’s nothing more than a bit of DHTML trickery that imports a subset of functionality into an existing website. I chose BBC Radio 3 because it has a wealth of content with plenty of potential for horizontal navigation, and because it has a clearly-defined canonical URL per programme and thereby gains the maximum benefit from being tagged. By creating a symbiotic relationship between the two sites in your browser, you gain an overlaid cross-site navigation that doesn’t exist in the site as it currently stands, and users see your tagging of Radio 3 pages in the wider context.

There are several things that I enjoy in this demo. In no particular order:

  • I like the immediate feedback that you can get from adding a tag to a programme. Decide that ‘cello’ is relevant, and within seconds you see a bunch of other cello programmes. It’s common for content management systems to demand ‘metadata’ or ‘keywords’ of you when you file content, but rare that there’s an easy way to get a feel for what value you’ve added by doing so.
  • This was my first real attempt to wrangle the XMLHTTPRequest system, and it was a satisfying one. I did learn one or two things, including some problems with asynchronous and synchronous modes of operation.
  • Looking beyond the specific application (tagging) used here, notice the two-way benefit that came from the mashup of one site’s service with another’s content. I like the idea that domain-specific use on Radio 3 leads to general usefulness on

There are many more possibilities to explore. The demo uses a single user on for all tagging. Imagine instead being able to select between different tag sets to overlay – one to guide newcomers to classical music, another designed for experts and old hands, a third to explore the history of a particular instrument or musical movement.


  1. The Obvious? says:

    January 31st, 2005 at 11:04 pm (#)

    The joys of tagging

    As David Weinberger celebrates the joys of user generated tags Matt Biddulf shows off some of the cool things you can do with them!

  2. Joho the Blog says:

    January 31st, 2005 at 11:14 pm (#)

    Best D’oh! of the year so far

    Matt Biddulf has an animated screen capture of what would look like embedded in the BBC 3’s page. It’s an eye-popper all right: So elegant it seems obvious. Brilliant. (Thanks to The Obvious for the link.) [Technorati tag: taxonomy]…

  3. Many-to-Many says:

    January 31st, 2005 at 11:18 pm (#)

    Embedded – Tagging’s future illustrated

    Matt Biddulf has an animated screen capture of what would look like embedded in the BBC 3’s page. It’s an eye-popper all right. (This follows on the heels of Matt’s introduction of a tag stemmer.) (Thanks to The Obvious…

  4. netbib weblog says:

    February 1st, 2005 at 9:04 am (#)

    Stemming tags, and one website to the tune of another

    Der BBC-Softwareentwickler Matt Biddulph hat am Wochenende in seinem Weblog hackdiary zwei wundervolle und h

  5. Then each went to his own home says:

    February 1st, 2005 at 11:46 am (#)


    In a recent entry I thought a bit about crosslinking in a website. Now, Matt Biddulph did something quite astonishing, you can see the crosslinking in a action in a flash movie he created. Now this made me think to…