Upon a bit of further investigation, it appears that Drupal will support the "freetag" system as of release 4.7. The story is here.
There are a few solutions that are used for earlier releases: the folksonomy module (which I linked in the previous post) and awTags.
It is not totally clear why I am obsessed about tags. They're trendy, but maybe if we made the right taxonomy entries we would be okay. I don't think the current "distro list" works so well, though -- there are other categories we might want. Maybe I am looking for a purpose -- "tips", "life", "howto", "work", "meeting", etc?