Friday, January 18, 2013

Blog tags

Tags are used to group posts.  If you want to see all of my postings related to, say, "death", just click on the "death" tag and you'll see the list.

I like tags.  It is better than a hierarchical system of organization since a particular item may be associated with multiple points in the hierarchy.  E.g. I might have a post tagged as "coding" and "rants", if I have a rant about some aspect of coding.

[Aside - email clients traditionally use a hierarchical folders.  But gmail (at least the web interface) gives you true tagging.  I like that, but ironically don't use it.]

One complication of tags as an organizational model is that the tags themselves must be organized, especially if the number of tags gets large.  THAT strikes me as something which could be organize into a hierarchy.  I might have a rants tag and a technical tag.  The technical tag might be sub-divided into science and software.  Software might be further subdivided into coding and debugging.  My rant about coding would show up in both the "rants" tag and the "coding" tag.

Alas, this blogging system does not allow for organizing tags hierarchically ... at least not that I know of.  It gives you two views:
  • Alphabetical
  • Tag cloud

The "tag cloud" is interesting.  It uses different font sizes for the tags, depending on the relative number of postings given that tag.  So rants might be big because I do a lot of ranting, while science might be small because I don't do much blogging about general science.  The tag cloud gives an interesting view into my head even without clicking on any of them since they suggest which topics I feel passionate about (or at least chatty about).

That said, I'm thinking it is more of a novelty than a useful organizational model.  (It's a novelty that I like, which is why I enabled it on this blog.  But it will suffer from the same unwieldiness if I create a lot of tags.)  For large numbers of tags, I'm still leaning towards hierarchical.

Since blogger doesn't support hierarchical, I guess I'll just muddle along for now.  If my number of tags gets unwieldy, I can look at maybe leveraging the alphabetizing model to represent the hierarchy.  For example:

rants
technical
technical-science
technical-software
technical-software-coding

I don't like that much, partly because the important part of the tag name becomes the last part, whereas the eye is drawn to the first part, obscuring the intent.  Also, what if I want rants to be last?  I guess I could do this instead:

01-technical
02---software
03-----coding
04---science
05-rants

That lets me order them any way I want to.  But wow, what a pain if I want to insert a new tag, like say, software design.  I'll have to renumber all the tags below it.  I guess I could do the old BASIC trick of numbering them by 10s...  (Who me?  Program in BASIC?  How old do you think I am, anyway?)

Another thought: assuming that each tag is simply a fixed URL, I could create a wiki page of the tag links and organize them any way I want to.  I could then simply have a pointer to that page on the blog.

Ah well, enough thinking about this.  Like I said, I'll just leave it a hodge-podge for now.

Update (21-Jan-2013): I've created a wiki page to describe and organize the tags.

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