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Blog : Posts tagged with 'tagging'

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Development

In which we anticipate the new design


Incidentally, the Grand Redesign plans, as mentioned here several times previously, are still trundling along at their own pace. Parts, indeed, have already been finished and are up on the server; although, as they’ve not been linked-to, nobody can get to them yet.

The slowest part, though, has been: backtracking through the entire post history and editing every post to conform to the new type: proper tags, proper excerpts, and so on. It’s a long slog, given that there are 3 1/2 years’ worth of posts,* and rereading them all has been hard work. It’s been a strange experience, too, because in many cases I’d forgotten an event, and reading all the posts jogged my memory in unexpected ways.**

The end is in sight now, though; so it won’t be long before I can check everything over, finish tidying up the new design, and put it all live. Fingers crossed that when it does go live, it’s all going to work.

* about 750ish, following the long hiatus last summer

** In some cases I’ve completely forgotten events – there are some posts where, if someone had showed them to me, I wouldn’t even have realised that I’d written them myself. And there are plenty of “guarded posts” where, now, a few years later, I’ve forgotten exactly what events I was describing

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Classification

In which we discuss tagging and filksonomies


Another design point that’s come up as part of the Grand Redesign I keep promising you: tagging. The little bundle of links at the bottom of each post that I didn’t really think did very much.

I was a latecomer to tagging. When this site first started, it didn’t have any for the first month or so. After a while I started adding them, pointing them to Technorati. Back then, WordPress was still on version 1.5.something, and it didn’t have any built-in tagging support. I don’t like to have too many plugins, and I didn’t think that tag management* mattered that much; so I wrote all the tags manually. Like this:

<small>Keyword noise: <a class=”tag” rel=”tag” href=”…”>tag</a></small>

Which worked, quite well; there was a visually distinct “tag” class, because I wanted tag links – which all led to Technorati – to be visually distinct from the rest, which would go to something more topically relevant.

Things move on, though, and WordPress has since gained built-in tagging functionality. Given that I’m redesigning the whole site, and putting in new built-from-scratch layout templates, I thought I may as well switch to using a more organising tagging system. For one thing, it means less typing each time I write a post. All that code up above is replaced by one little chunk in the template:

<p id=”thetags”><small><?php the_tags(‘Keyword noise: ‘, ‘, ‘ ,”);?></small></p>

I know all those commas and quotes look a bit confusing; but really they’re not that bad. And the point is: that bit of code there only has to be written once; the previous chunk had to be typed out every time. The most awkward part is that WordPress isn’t flexible enough to let you set the class of each link individually, hence the <p class=”…”> at the start.** The big change this leads to, though, is that the tag links no longer point to Technorati. Now, they point back to the site itself: you get a page containing every post with that tag on. And, already, that’s shown that people do indeed click on the tags. People, particularly people coming from searches, do seem to use them. Whether they find them useful or not is another matter, of course;*** but they do get used.

Doing it this way means that I put more tags on each post, simply because there’s much less typing to do. Conversion, though, is going to be a bit of a job. There are 760-odd posts on this site, all of which I’m having to reread and re-tag. It’s going to take a while, but hopefully the majority of it will be done by the time the new design is finished.**** The only problem with this transitional phase is that: the current template is, because of its age, completely unaware of tags. So it doesn’t really know what a tag-based archive page is; so when you click on a tag, there’s no explanation as to what you’re looking at. I’m not sure if this is going to be a problem for you readers or not; and, hopefully, it’s only going to be a short-lived situation.

The word “folksonomy” has often been used to describe this sort of tagging system. I’m not sure it’s an ideal term for what I’m doing, though. “Filksonomy” might be more relevant: a bit like a folksonomy, but rather more whimsical and silly.

* as opposed to tagging itself.

** it has also buggered about with the quote marks in that fragment of code. Whatever you do, don’t copy and paste it – if you want to use it, retype it!

*** particularly now they point back within the site rather than outwards to see what other people have said on the topic.

**** In any case, there are other parts of the new design that also need each post checking and editing.

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More on tagging

In which we re-cover the mechanics of tagging and folksonomies


Technorati have written back following up Sunday’s post on tagging. They agree that making your tags invisible – though it would work – is indeed a dirty and underhand way of doing things. So, it looks as if that option is best avoided. The email-writer included a link to a blog post written by their Chief Technologist, Tantek Celik, back in March (or possibly June), in which he discovered he was accidentally putting hidden tags on his posts too. The point being: visible data is better than invisible, and people will treat it as more reliable.

Plus, I’ve also been finding that the tag paragraph can be an easy way to add extra information or a new angle to a post, one that a regular reader isn’t going to find until they get to the end. It’s a way to confirm: yes, this was what I was thinking, even though I didn’t spell it out explicitly. Monday’s post is an example of that, not a very good one, but the best example so far.

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You’re It

In which we consider the mechanics of tagging


Feeling at a loose end, I’ve been experimenting with possible ways of adding to the posts here, without making them unreadable. There are three ideas I’m trying:

a) using a different class of link for links that identify tags
b) additionally, confining tags to a footnote-like section at the bottom of each post
c) putting tags inside an “invisible” block inside each post (using ‘display: none’ to hide the tag paragraph)

This post uses (a); and I’ve also edited Friday’s post to use a combination of (a) and (b). Thursday’s post, on the other hand, has been edited with (b) alone. My first reaction is that including the tags in the post body makes the post look a bit too messy, and not many people will realise the difference between the two sorts of link. If you have an opinion, let me know what you think. Would (c) even work, or would it just be ignored?

Update, later that day: I’ve emailed Technorati Support to ask if (c) would actually work. It does feel like a bit of a dirty, underhand trick to pull though.

Update, some years later – Jan 24th ’09 to be precise: I eventually decided on a method combining (a) and (b). And – pending a redesign – I still use it. However, I’m currently rewriting all the tags so they don’t go to Technorati any more, they go to “tag pages” within this site instead. It’s demonstrated, for one thing, that lots of people do actually click on the tags. Incidentally, as part of this, I’ve regularised the “test posts” described above; the “(b) test” no longer looks as described.

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Filing System

In which we discuss taxonomies


Yesterday’s post made me think about blogging slightly, because I found myself creating a new category just to put it in. I’m still not sure how I should be creating categories, so I wasn’t entirely sure if I was doing the right thing.

I know this site hasn’t been going for very long, but the list of categories seems to have an awful lot of “(1 post)” entries in it. Somehow, it doesn’t feel as though I *should* be creating an entire category just to put a single post in; but I’m doing it in the hope that they will fill up over time. No doubt I’m going to make some wrong choices over time, but I can always try to re-sort this later.

I’m doing it that way round because I know that if I don’t leave categorising until I have a sample supply of posts to sort, it’ll never get done. It might give me some idea of what sort of category headings I need; but I’d be too lazy to get round to doing the filing. And where tagging might fit in, I’ve got no idea at all. My own category headings make no sense at all as post tags; but if I do start to tag things I don’t want a paragraph of tags cluttering up the bottom of each post. I’d need some way to disguise them.

Anyway. I know I don’t have many readers yet; but what do you think? What’s the best way to categorise stuff, and what’s the best way to go about categorising stuff?

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