Purpose The purpose of this paper is two-fold: to examine three models of subject indexing (i.e. expert-led indexing, author-generated indexing, and user-orientated indexing); and to compare and contrast two user-orientated indexing approaches (i.e. the theoretically-based Democratic Indexing project, and Flickr, a working system for describing photographs). Design/methodology/approach The approach to examining Flickr and Democratic Indexing is evaluative. The limitations of Flickr are described and examples are provided. The Democratic Indexing approach, which the authors believe offers a method of marshalling a free user-indexed archive to provide useful retrieval functions, is described. Findings The examination of both Flickr and the Democratic Indexing approach suggests that, despite Shirky's claim of philosophical paradigm shifting for social tagging, there is a residing doubt amongst information professionals that self-organising systems can work without there being some element of control and some form of representative authority. Originality/value This paper contributes to the literature of user-based indexing and social tagging.
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