iTaggit: Where Collectibles Meet Social Networking
By Julia Wilkinson
As sellers on eBay and other online marketplaces, we often have a lot of stuff cluttering up our homes that is not necessarily in beautiful order. Now there are more and more tools to help us organize things online, at least, if not in the real world. One of the latest of these, iTaggit, lets you catalog your items online, but also helps you value them, export them as listings to eBay, import data from Amazon.com, and more (http://www.itaggit.com).
iTaggit is a growing community of collectors who are posting photo galleries and detailed information about their collections, and helping other folks value theirs. It came into being when its founder, David Altounian, and his wife were sorting the boxes left by his late mother-in-law. "We had no idea what some of the stuff was or the value it held," he said.
One of the items was an autographed Tom Wolfe book with a personal inscription, and Altounian was left with many questions. Was it worth anything? Did the personal inscription hurt or help? Did the state of the book from being in a box with other junk affect the value?
"We weren't looking at selling it; we were more interested in just finding out more about it and protecting it (and in our case, documenting it for our kids)," he said. They eventually put the item in iTaggit's "Appraise this Item" feature, and were able to get a value. You can see the book on the site (http://tinyurl.com/34r7se), where you can view pictures, click on a Book Appraisal link (which brings up a PDF file), and read the appraiser's comments. (For the record, it's given a fair market value of $100, with a replacement cost of $300.)
In the Gallery area, members of the iTaggit community help folks identify what they have and determine what it's worth. I went to the "What's My Item Worth?" Gallery and tried uploading a few photos of an antique doll I haven't yet been able to identify, although it has a faint maker's mark on the back. The only thing I found disconcerting was that the system asked you for a value of the item after you upload your pictures, which seemed odd to me as the whole point of uploading your item there, I thought, was to get a value. However, some people may have a general idea of what their item is worth, so it makes sense in some cases.
After you add your photo and a value to the Gallery, you are then asked to check a box as to what type of item it is - Your Wish List, What's My Item Worth, Your Collection, etc., so you can accomplish multiple things with one posting.
Some of the best value in the site, I think, is in the strength and quality of the community in commenting on what others' treasures are worth. Where they don't know, they often offer web sites or other resources for finding out. For example, for a posted photo of a Joan Miro painting, "Expert Eric" suggested the site http://www.soho-art.com/Joan-Miro.shtml, writing, "This site has a lot of Joan Miro paintings, but it does not have yours. It could give you an idea of what your painting might be worth. The value of your painting will depend on a lot of other factors though."
Another member who posted a photo of an old fishing lure was directed to the site http://www.mrlurebox.com/Creek.htm "You might want to contact this site, they have a lot of info on Creek Chub Bait Co." Not every item has a comment associated with it, however; most likely as the community grows, the feedback about the posted items will grow.
But beyond the gallery, the site has worked hard to integrate all kinds of functionality with other sites and social networking tools.
"What we quickly found out was that users don't want to put an item into a software package or web site and just "store it." If they do want that, then just videotaping what they have is sufficient and we don't add much value," said Altounian. "What we find is that users want an asset management site with "social networking tools" as opposed to a pure "storage site" or "social networking site.""
One of the hottest things in social networking now is Facebook. iTaggit's Facebook integration lets you either post an item in your collection to your Facebook profile, or send a message with the item to another Facebook user. It would be nice to also see an iTaggit widget so your items could be more visible on your Facebook page.
I found the "Import from Amazon.com" tool very useful in creating my main collection on the site: signed first edition books. I was able to find the hardback edition of "Blonde" by Joyce Carol Oates, which I had signed by the author at a writer's event.
"One of the biggest hurdles for users in any online content site is getting the content into the site. We put in the "Import from amazon" feature as a tool to simplify the initial upload of items into the site," said Altounian. He said a side benefit is that it automatically generates a "Buy from Amazon" link so that if another user sees an item and wants something similar, they can try to locate it there.
I then used iTaggit's "Sell Item on eBay" tool to plunk it onto the auction site, and iTaggit walked me through the listing process very quickly and simply. iTaggit gives you the option to go back and edit the listing after you initially create it, too, which I thought was nice. The next thing I'd like to see there is a "Sell on Amazon" link, so a user could potentially export an item to both Amazon.com and eBay. You can also use iTaggit's "Publish This Item" feature to generate code to post the item to classifieds site Craigslist (part owned by eBay).
The iTaggit interface walks you through the creation of items and other actions very well, with intuitively named buttons that don't leave you scratching your head like some other sites or computer operating systems. Integration with other sites and the ability to publish to various selling sites is obviously very important to iTaggit. According to Altounian, this gives you the ability to have a very rich electronic record of an item (photos, media files, documents, and links) which provides a backend capability to auction listings. "Our goal is to enrich the auction experience for whatever site a user chooses instead of trying to compete with the large number of sites that are out there. We want to "feed" the auction ecosystem with richer item data, not compete with them."
Another bonus to making all these online records is that search engines index them. When I typed in "Jade Dragon Paperweight" into Google, for example, the number 1 result was an iTaggit item from "squarecircle118," a member based in Malaysia with a beautiful jade collection. "We are finding that more collectors and dealers beginning to post items with links to their sites to drive traffic and connect," said Altounian.
You can even create a "wish list," which works with the Amazon import feature. If you're lucky, one of the other iTaggiters will see it and buy it for you.
In the future, iTaggit will be working on improving usability, according to Altounian. "We still have more choppiness in our links between some of the services than we like and we are working on this very hard. We hear about this from our users and are working to improve it. This needs to be a fun, pleasant experience for our users - especially since a significant number are not tech savvy and can get frustrated very easily."
And they will work on other ways to make the site "personally tunable" for users so that their default views are the things that they care about, while retaining the ability to visit and browse other areas.
In the meantime, iTaggit users are enjoying browsing the site. "Coming upon iTaggit was such a treat because of all the different things people have and collect," said Alison, who joined to see if anyone knew what her china was worth. "When I have the time, I like to see the collections and imagine what the people are like. It is a good surfing spot."
iTaggit will have to compete for the mindshare of people like Alison. But with all its functional muscle, if it continues to grow and expand its interoperability with other sites, it can become a valuable part of any online seller or collector's routine.
About the author:
Julia Wilkinson is the author of "The eBay Price Guide" (No Starch Press, 2006) and "eBay Top 100 Simplified Tips & Tricks" (Wiley, 2004-6). Her free "Yard Salers" newsletter is at available at YardSalers.net where you will also find her latest ebook, Flip It Again.
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