Tagging and I have a tumultuous relationship. You wouldn’t know it to look at my various web spaces now, but when tagging was first handed over to content creators and consumers I wrestled with it. Actually, that’s giving me too much credit. I fought it tooth and claw. I couldn’t see how tags were better than the categories blogging platforms already provided us. (I actually have been around long enough that I remember not having categories…) I couldn’t see the point to tags, but nearly every social media space was expecting me to figure it out and use it.
Unfortunately, the little voice in my head (who delights in getting me in trouble) reminded me that I spent a year or so organizing the physical card catalog in my high school’s library and that I am trained in collections management, and that I did actually understand metadata in terms of classifying and cross-referencing. It made convincing arguments for how faceted tagging can make navigating websites easier on the user. Please believe me when I say it’s hard to fight against the little voice in your head when it’s suffering from a bout of rational thinking, so I started playing with tagging.
At first, it was very slow. I’d debate for nearly an hour (not kidding) over the exactly perfect tag (because my brain didn’t want to accept that something could have more than one category and tag) for a blog post. I’d give up all together and just start tagging willy-nilly or I’d just stop tagging for a couple of months. Then, I’d need to find something, and I was on LiveJournal where there was no native search function, and I’d have to try to remember when I thought I wrote the post and slog through tens of posts trying to find what I wanted.
Finally, my brain exploded. I was spread across half a dozen social media sites, unable to find anything, and that oh-so-helpful voice in my head was frequently reminding me that my collections management and database management professors would strangle me if they could see the mess I’d created. So I sat down and went through everything I had posted (roughly six years’ worth of artifacts) and carefully created a tag system…complete with synonyms and inconsistent applications of the same tag. It’s taken me a couple of years, but I’ve finally got my system down to a handful of categories and a group of tags that actually makes sense to me and that I can remember when I go to tag something new. I can even find things now…when I remember to tag them.
And then Twitter introduced hashtags…