I've been at Web2Expo the last couple of days and at a session on Designing Tag based Navigation I got involved in a discussion about multi-word tags and how they should be input.
There are many sites out there, Flikr,tag cloud shown below, being a prime example, where they only support multi-word tags if you enclose in double quotes. Surely this is just poor design. It's a requirement enforced by a development decision rather than actually giving thought to how a user thinks.
Tags are used to categorise artificts, be they pictures, blog posts, documents or whatever. When you want to categorise something, often a phrase is best, eg: New York, New Years Party 2007, or Dan's Birthday.
Amazingly, to me anyway, people in the audience thought it was perfectly reasonable for the user to be required to either remove the spaces: NewYearsParty2007; or use double quotes: "News Years Party 2007". You'll notice above New and York appear has separate tags while some people have adapted their entry to remove the spaces for newyork.
To the first one I say there is no such word as NewYearsParty2007 and to the second one I'm not quoting anyone. We forcing the users to adapt their natural behaviour to fit a system that could just be designed better.
When we write lists, in English at any rate, we delineate with commas. What's wrong with doing that when inputing tags? Even better make it culture specifc.
I've posted previously about Normobs, I wonder if we need the concept of Norwebs (Normal Web Users). For those in the UK, I know it's also the name of a utility company but I don't think there's a trademark collision.
While it's easy to get excited about the possibilities of the latest web applications for them to realise their true potentional, we must remember the Norweb, for they are many and they are right ;-)