After spending a year considering how easy it would be to add tags to this journal software, I spent about 90 minutes actually adding tags to this journal software. See taglinks below.
It’s a pretty basic implementation; the editing interface allows me to add any number of keywords to each journal item. At the moment, the tags are rendered as links to Technorati, allowing readers to discover other blogs covering the same topic. In a couple weeks, or, honestly, about 14 months, I’ll add a local tag-search feature that allows easy browsing of all items with a particular tag (or tags).
In terms of functionality, there’s a bit of a collision with the existing categorization scheme I’ve been using for years. But this is a classic case of ontology vs. folksonomy — of top-down, prescriptive categorization versus free-form, infinite-number-of-buckets tagging. Smart money says the latter is superior for organizing large corpora.
My old categorization scheme isn’t exclusive — every journal item could appear in multiple categories. Categories are tags, really, although in my case not very interesting or descriptive ones (e.g. auto, misc, travel). Who would go to Technorati, search for blogs about “auto,” and click through to debris.com? According to my server logs, exactly nobody, despite my creative and occasionally insightful writing about the automotive industry.
So I can imagine one day replacing my categorization system, which by the way took a couple days’ worth of coding, what with the nested and hierarchical display and fancy editing interface that I’ve used all of about seven times. Once I’ve built a browse-by-tag feature, the categories will be pretty much useless. Such is evolution… that long list of category links in the right column is basically a digital appendix. Or, maybe, a male nipple.
Why now? Why add tags when I’m not even writing that often?
A couple reasons: One, because I’d like to join the distributed community Derek Powazek spoke about at Etech. Tighter integration with Technorati is a solid first step. Two, because I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the atomicity of information, and how to best collect and present many bits of related information in multiple contexts, and I needed more firsthand experience with tags. More on this later, but probably in another context.