Tags and Categories PodCamp 2012 Robin Macrae | firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2012 Robin Macrae. All Rights Reserved .
Overview and background (A) Is this you? (1) • ﬁnding informaJon in your space is diﬃcult • its easy to lose track of where you are • Jme onsite is not as high as it could be • you take authoring seriously • you have valuable content • you plan on being around for a while Make the case that tagging and categorizaJon are essenJal to any serious web-‐based work. The more complex a hypertext space — a site — the more important the role of these two key informaJon architecture elements.
The plan (2) • Overview – Why are you here – Background – A few caveats – My Tags and Categories thesis • A basic orientaJon to tags and categories – A tag, a Category and a taxonomy – What is a tag, a category? – A custom taxonomies diagram – The case for Categories, categorizaJon is hard wired – Categories at work
The plan (2) • The blogosphere – 95% of blogs use tags and categories ineﬀecJvely – A few good examples • Blog stages of growth model – The issues – A blogs evoluJon – RecommendaJons – The long term beneﬁt – Go forth and categorize!
Study that scheme (3) • weve just used our ﬁrst categorizaJon scheme, a classiﬁcaJon of the slides by topic • compare its informaJonal value to – a search box – a sidebar widget and its list or cloud of keywords – a presentaJon with slide bullets but no slide Jtles The authoring of a presentaJon is a good example of content and classiﬁcaJon iteraJons (PowerPoint outlines).
My background (4) • my experience as a pracJJoner vs theory • one massive integrated personal workspace or site • built many large content heavy sites for every size from individuals and workgroups to enterprises • my consulJng pracJce – content strategy and development, the CMS pa^ern – informaJon architecture — organize and structure informaJon – metadata and taxonomies integral aspect – complex informaJon products and content applicaJons • WordPress bias and limitaJons
Caveats (5) What are you building? • you need structure and organizaJon when you something worth organizing • discover the underlying order and then nurture and culJvate iteraJvely • new content extends, explains or relates in some other way to exisJng content • our primary interest today is navigaJon and ﬁndability • this applies to any content management system (CMS)
My Tags and Categories thesis (6) TaC means the tags and categories in a blog such as WordPress or any CMS. • TaC are important but poorly understood and used — confusion is understandable • TaC essenJal to eﬀecJve blogging for readers and authors • usage changes as blog grows and evolves • authors must use them in creaJng content (ea:ng your own dog food) • these organizing tools are late to the authoring party • authoring driven classiﬁcaJon schemes essenJal to SemanJc Web
A basic orientaJon to TaC (B) A tag, a Category and a taxonomy (8) • WordPress enables and promotes the use of tags and Categories (Add New Post panel) – two of the four steps in authoring a post (the other two are a posts Jtle and body content) – whats OOTB: three taxonomies, an API, lots of plugins • In WordPress, were surrounded by classiﬁcaJon schemes – for example, edit panels columns — tracking posts by date, author, revision – but its water, water, everywhere but not a drop to drink – the primary scheme for posts is Categories and is poorly used as a rule
What is a tag? (9) • Is a tag just a cute name for a keywords index? • fast, easy and cheap way to organize post content • the poor relaJve of indexing • uncontrolled vocabulary • high risk of proliferaJon and eventual chaos • progress from trivial and helpful to specialized and invaluable – some use in early blog stage especially given alternaJves (date, etc.) – very useful when used for indexing
What is Categories (10) • Categories — the builJn WordPress hierarchical taxonomy for posts • Categories is a taxonomy – a classiﬁcaJon mechanism – the basic procedures – the Taxonomy API (no UI, hacks and plugins required) • a taxonomy is – a method of organizing by grouping things which share idenJﬁed characteristcis – can and oeen is hierarchical – a WordPress blind spot (Codex, etc.)
What is Categories (10) con:nued • topical is most common but inﬁnite number of ways to classify including – temporal (date, Jme period, etc.) – author – physical (length, size, scope) – stage or type of work or process – relaJonships – geographical • the book pa^ern – book pa^ern is helpful in thinking about categories and tags – chapters are categories and indexes, tags – when would I use a books table of contents vs the index? – Lorelle credit
Custom taxonomies diagram (11) This diagram is from What are "custom taxonomies"? (Joost de Valk), the developer of the Simple Taxonomies plugin.
The case for Categories (12) • informaJon architecture (IA) — this is metadata — thats the key – organizaJon and structure – ﬁndability – navigability – reuse – hypertext quality • Categories are the key to creaJng an informaJon space • use it in order for it to be useful – invest in and commit to using it yourself – ﬁnd it useful yourself before readers will ﬁnd it useful • depth deepens context and improves usefulness
CategorizaJon is hard wired (13) • to categorize is an innate human characterisJc and capability tagging is not a natural ability • classiﬁcaJon schemes the builJn ones in WordPress • recipes (meals, ingredients, season, cuisine: Epicurious: Thai; browse) • library catalog vs coﬀees 800 facets/a^ributes • paradigm shie from physical to faceted classiﬁcaJon (Wikipedia) Everything is Miscellaneous book by David Weinberger
More Categories capabiliJes (15) • Categories may be used for various purposes • navigaJon/ﬁnding: browsing a hierarchy • Category speciﬁc templates • list selecJvely (metadata ﬁltering: Category Tagging) • populate navbar in themes (e.g., Tarski) • create and use a content type (Asides) • control a private set of posts (Category doesnt display if all posts are private) • add images (Category Image(s)) • suppress certain categories
95% of blogs use tags and Categories ineﬀecJvely (16) • using Categories as if they were tags with mulJple selecJons • too many Jer 1 Categories (analysis paralysis) and no Jer 2, etc. • single taxonomy view • performance issue using Categories as canonical URLs (Category in Permalinks Considered Harmful, O^o on WordPress) • dont refactor so Categories dont evolve from rudimentary iniJally used • dont use them themselves and think that theyre just for readers
A few good examples (17) • A List Apart a topic scheme for categories • excellent way of handling what are referred to as topics • only seven categories at the top: for example, Topics > User Science > InformaJon Architecture • each category is annotated with a useful descripJon • top level ones display their sub-‐categories name and link, descripJons and arJcle count but not posts themselves • arJcles are oeen in more than one category but few are in more than three • there are no tags and search isnt emphasized • Epicurious: categories | arJcles & guides | cuisine | Thai; browse
A few good examples (17) cont • Victor Lombardis Noise Between StaJons a moderately complex three Jer categories scheme by an IA Ma^ Mullenweg in Victor Lombardi (2004): • Look at how the informaJon architects go crazy with sub-‐ categories. I love it! • Toronto Public Librarys Site Map, a classiﬁcaJon scheme — categories — albeit by the way things are organized as opposed to topically — now 404 See results for site map search query report — Type, Language, Age Level, Library Branch, etc. — but no page with all categories
Blog stages of growth (D) The issues (19) • a blog evolves through stages — a strategy or plan is a good idea • with plugins, hacks, APIs, category speciﬁc templates, etc., customizaJon is rampant in tags and categories but not necessarily to good eﬀect • mulJple categories and tag proliferaJon risk • custom taxonomies: are they an alternaJve when hierarchies arent supported in custom taxonomies? • The search argument
A blogs evoluJon (20) • a blog evolves — the stages are 50, 250 and 1,000+ posts — illustrate why a plan is important • in the early stage, given the number of posts, categories change and tags of li^le use • crucial role of refactoring • this is informaJon architecture: navigaJon, ﬁndability, reuse, hypertext quality all of which show the importance of metadata • For both tags and Categories, these core capabiliJes will only become more important and easier to use and manage as WordPress develops. More, be^er and easier. So a strategy is a good idea.
RecommendaJons (21) • categories are a crucial; tags not so much • categories are the key to creaJng an informaJon space • use cauJon assigning posts to mulJple categories • dont use categories as the Permalink structure in the iniJal stage of a blog because they will change as the blog evolves • understand and address the tag proliferaJon risk • in general, date is a poor navigaJon scheme and way of classifying content — who cares about your process?
RecommendaJons (21) con:nued • develop your scheme to reﬂect the stages of development (50, 250 and 1,000+) • use it in order for it to be useful (dog food) • depth deepens context and improves usefulness
The long term beneﬁt (22) UlJmately, your use of categories will determine the long term value and viability (survival) of your blog. What is the impact of an eﬀecJve categories strategy? • the evoluJon of your blogs content theme(s) • the quality of your hypertext • your personal producJvity