Brutal Death Metal is an extreme form of death metal filled death growls  (Cookie Monster vocals),  gore-filled lyrics and  down-tuned, hyper-fast guitars. Brutal Death Metal bands have names like  Disgorge, Deeds of Flesh, Devourment, Disavowed, Krisiun, Nile, Skinless, Suffocation, Vile, Wormed, and Cannibal Corpse.  This video of Krisiun captures the essence of brutal death metal:

At, there are hundreds of band that have been tagged with 'brutal death metal'.  They tend to have rather grim names like  Cryptopsy, Aborted, Dying Fetus, Decapitated.  However, there is one artist that has been tagged with 'brutal death metal' more than any other artist. This artist is the king of the brutal death metal hill, being tagged with 'brutal death metal'  a hundred times more than the #2  Brutal Death Metal Band.   This  artist is none other than Paris Hilton.   Here are the tags for Brutal Death Metal:

Paris Hilton is keeping strange company, perhaps she's trying to toughen up her image before she heads to prison. (And Barney the Dinosaur  is not too shabby at #18 in the list).

We all know that no matter what we may think of Paris Hilton, she is not a Brutal Death Metal artist.  What we are seeing here is the result of social tagging vandalism.  I can imagine some 14 year old kid getting a laugh tagging Paris Hilton with Brutal Death Metal, knowing that sooner or later someone will be listening to's Paris Hilton radio and be surprised and shocked to hear Cryptopsy. Of course, this goes the other way too.  If you listen to Brutal Death Metal tag radio, you are very likely to hear Paris Hilton (ouch!).  (Go ahead, give it a try)

Social tagging vandalism is the Web 2.0 equivalent of writing graffiti on the bathroom wall - its a way for the meek to lash out while hiding behind the veil of anonymity.  But social tagging vandalism does have a real impact.  Tagging vandalism, if unchecked, can devalue the entire set of tags.   Of course you can expect noise in your tags, there will always be the off-topic tags such as lazy eye, but when the errant tags dominate (such as we see here with Paris Hilton)  all of the other tags applied to Paris Hilton mean less.  Sites like that let you do all sorts of interesting things with tags (such as listen to tag radio), have to protect their data otherwise the value of the tags will be lost.   Just like we need to occasionally paint the bathroom walls, tagging sites need to occasionally clean up their tags.


Paul, that's a problem I've been working on about 2 months ago. If you check Paris Hilton page, you'll find out that in her tag cloud "brute death metal" is much smaller than "pop", even if the first has been used about twice as much. The same is applied to tag radio, this is why it surprises me a little that Paris Hilton pops up *that* frequently (we are taking into consideration vandalism, but we don't want to censor anything!) in the radio, since in terms of the tags re-weighting process her name should be at the bottom of the list. That's clearly different from what is showed in the tag's charts, but that's something we did intentionally: we wanted to make sure the users see their vote in that page, instead of an (apparently) arbitrary number.

Posted by Norman on May 24, 2007 at 07:49 AM EDT #

Norman: I did indeed notice that on the Paris Hilton page that Pop was bigger the BrutalDM. I'm curious as to how you do this. Is it an ad hoc method, or is it algorithmic. It seems like some are slipping through. For instance, take a look at the tag cloud for Barney. I imagine that Barney is particularly difficult. It looks like poor Barney's tags are completely out of control.

Posted by Paul on May 24, 2007 at 08:13 AM EDT #

I've been using a recent paper from Stanford (, that I extended to include listening habits and specialized for radio and clouds by adding and changing "stuff".. ;)

Posted by Norman on May 24, 2007 at 10:08 AM EDT #

Poor Barney has not chance unfortunately, unless we start censoring. But this is definitely something we don't want to do.

Posted by Norman on May 24, 2007 at 10:09 AM EDT #

[Trackback] Yeah. Social Tagging Vandalism. via. Popularity: unranked...

Posted by Web Adventures on May 24, 2007 at 05:20 PM EDT #

Anonymous tags provide scant value, even when you apply fancy algorithms to them. Pseudonymous tags would allow people to tag other people as abusers or as value-adders. I say pseudonymous because you still don't need to collect any real-life information about users.

Posted by Chris Quenelle on May 28, 2007 at 12:22 AM EDT #

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