Evil Features: I like ’em.

I quite liked the idea of Smart Tags. Unlike "Smart Tags Are Evil" Scoble.

I like the way Smart Tags work in Word documents, and I wish they'd been included in IE. Perhaps not in the "sponsored" format that was mooted (links to MSN/Google properties, etc), but in a more fundamental user-configurable sense, I like the idea.

It'd be so useful to have a content recognition engine, and to let users plug in an array of tools that they want. For example, if I see a support incident ID on a web page (SRXblahblahblah) and it doesn't have a hyperlink, why shouldn't I be able to define that item as being hyperlinkable to the site of my choice? Why not take one of a set of actions I define based on that content? Dial a phone number with Skype? IM someone by email alias? Look up someone's location on a map? If it saves me a useless start-other-application-then-copy-and-paste some information, then why not?

Further: what if the website I'm using is internal? Why should a web page developer (or content author) support my desire for an internal hyperlink, when they can't even see or test the result?

Back in 2001, Smart Tags might have saved me a bunch of time spend developing interop code for web applications that wouldn't have needed it if a simple client-side tag could have been implemented.

So actual technology: very useful. Intended purpose is at issue. Guess I'm just a "glass is half full" type of person.


Comments (12)

  1. Anonymous says:

    Trixie good.

  2. Charles Oppermann says:

    I agree entirely. I wish IE6 had at least kept the SmartTag functionality as an option. It surprises me that there are so few recognizers available. Certainly Microsoft has made the development tools available and made it easier to create new recognizers.

  3. . says:

    Smart tags are an ANNOYANCE and a HIDERANCE as bad as popovers when browsing.

    I for one will NEVER support them.

  4. Tristank says:

    To . – what smart tags are you talking about?

    And if there were no default tags, you wouldn’t notice them (because they wouldn’t find any matching content) and so shouldn’t be annoyed or hindered by them.

    I can understand people being annoyed with a "self serving" set of links/recognizers being provided by default (in much the same way that software installers that "offer" to set my home page annoy me), but when a company is providing the basic technology, should they really be expected not to offer some default items?

  5. Addy Santo says:

    I think that the majority agree that:

    A. A user-centric, friendly and simple-to-use smart tag implementation would be a GOOD thing

    B. (A) will never happen, simply because the potential for abuse is too great. Kind of like SPAM, SPIM and pop-up adds all rolled into one.

    I for one welcome our new pointy-bracketed overlords 😉

  6. Tristank says:

    Hi Addy,

    Maybe – I see B more as a possible outcome of allowing someone untrusted to install recognizers and tags, and at least in the current MS implementation, they’re hardly in the same category as popups (User action causes smart tags to appear on user demand).

    Essentially, is a multi-dimensional pop-up link requiring user action with (say, mandated) text and an optional icon really in the same category as a popup or spam?

    And then: even if the top link points to MSN? 🙂

    BTW, when’s the new BlogWave due out!? 🙂

  7. G says:

    <a href="http://www.pontomidia.com.br/ricardo/colinks/program_en/view_text.php?id_texto=6">Co-link</a&gt; is a non-IE specific implementation
    of the same idea. Looks kinda nifty, but I’m dubious about the real world spam to usefullness ratio.

  8. Tristank says:

    Thanks G – interesting implementation, as long as I didn’t have to share my links with everyone else (the test page is looking a bit crowded for my liking).

    Republishing link without the A bits:


  9. Jeff Atwood says:

    > I for one will NEVER support them.

    I don’t mean to blow your mind, but advertisers are ALREADY USING THEM.

    To wit, http://itxt.vibrantmedia.com/whatisIntelliTXT.asp?ipid=415&cc=us

    See it in action on places like AnandTech:


    and, like a creeping rash, it’s spreading..

  10. Tristank says:

    They ain’t Smart Tags. They’re server-side constructions that use client-side script to create DHTML popups. Still 100% controlled by the content author.

    This is the future without Smart Tags, and personally, I preferred the Smart Taggy past. Gimme rich controls (**THAT I INSTALLED**, none of this "we think you should look at this stuff" crud) from a context menu over DHTML any day.

  11. Jeff Atwood says:

    I guess my point is that the IntelliTXT of the present is already so hideously bad that I really can’t imagine it being any worse. So we agree.

    IntelliTXT doesn’t work in Firefox.. yet. So enjoy that while it lasts.

    The question you have to ask yourself is, "do I really want to bring children into a dystopian future full of evil smart tags?"

  12. Tristank says:

    Er, no, I’d rather bring children into a dystopian future filled with large spinning knives (and possibly some special powerups hidden in mushrooms).

    Evil Self Serving Smart Tags That Aren’t Extensible are evil. Given.

    Extensible smart tags… I’d still want ’em. Looks like I get to write my own smart tag engine. Cue peals of laughter.

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