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User-contributed tags have shown promise as a means of indexing multimedia collections by harnessing the combined efforts and enthusiasm of online communities. But tags are only one way of describing multimedia items. In this study, the author compares the characteristics of public tags with other forms of descriptive metadata - titles and narrative captions - that users have assigned to a collection of very similar images gathered from the photo-sharing service Flickr. The study shows that tags converge on different descriptions than the other forms of metadata do, and that narrative metadata may be more effective than tags for capturing certain aspects of images that may influence their subsequent retrieval and use.
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