The Absurdity of Tagging

I just imagined what my life would be like if I constantly thought as much about content structure offline as I do online. I’d be walking around in my house and on every single object in my house would be a big sticker indicating the properties of that item. So if I had a painting, a big sheet of paper would be stuck over the painting and on it would be the following.

Artist: Yadda Yadda
Date Created: 21 Sept 1993
Materials: Oil Based Paints
Colors Used: Yellow Green
And so on…

Then even more so, between all of the pictures of art in my house I would tie strings connecting each piece of art to each other, so that I would know that they are associated with each other.

Do you see the absurdity of what I’m talking about here? We are so focused on tagging the content that we lose focus of the content itself by almost covering it up when we categorize it. It is like writing a small post but then adding tags to categorize the post and your tag count exceeds the number of words in your post. It’s ludicrous.

When we buy a book in a store that we are going to read later, do you adhere labels to that book such as "book" to know it is a book or "bookshelf" to know to put it on the your bookshelf at home. No, you just do it. The action itself of putting that book on the shelf defines that it is tagged "bookshelf" and grouped with other books there.

Therefore, when we are working with our content online we need ways in which we can just as easily tag our content automatically based upon our actions and where we place this content. In doing so, it will allow us to remove the tagging interface so that only the content remains standing simply and uncluttered like a beautiful piece of art.

5 thoughts on “The Absurdity of Tagging

  1. I love it! What a delightful absurdity that would be; but then of course, we’d have to have new colours in post-its for all the subcategories…:D
    And welcome to squarespace and your new job! Lord knows i bug Tony enough when i have problems! Fresh brains to pick!

  2. So what would the action of putting a book underneath a bed-frame in order to stabilize it, be tagged? “Bookshelf”? And what about “social tagging”? I really hope that you and Anthony are thinking along those lines, or at least letting your customers decide what is “right or wrong”. I for one would like my readers to be able to tag my writing; you see they may assign a different meaning to it than I would, by simply basing my tags on predefined categories.

    All the best
    Jon Froda

  3. Jon, just so you are aware, a lot of the ideas that I have here are primarily my own. They may or may not be introduced into Squarespace.

    However, your viewpoint of letting you, the author, of the site choose your own approach, instead of the software that you use forcing an approach upon you, is one that I totally agree with. The trick there though is designing the software such that it is both simple to use and yet flexible enough to do whatever you want with it. As people may not be aware of, designing simplicity is an extremely complex process.

    With regards to tags, I for one agree that just standard Technorati tags are insufficient (which is one of the reasons I don’t use them since Technorati still searches for keywords in your content itself). Instead I’ve defined my categories more as topics that I talk about. Yet therein lies the problem, as I’ve found that just having one field for defining a post type to be inadequate. How to go about solving this problem is something that I’m constantly thinking about.

    As for your book underneath the bed frame, hehe, well let me give you an idea of what I mean here. Say your website is both your business site and also your personal site (and everything in between). Say I show up to the front door of your site. What do I see? Well if you want your business to be your primary focus (and let’s say your business is web design) then I may see a groups of your latest journal posts, books, link lists, and so forth, all relating to web design. Therefore, say you got another book on web design. How would you add it to your site? You just go to this viewpoint location, click on books and it gets automatically tagged based upon the tags you’ve defined for that view (i.e. “business” “web design” etc).

    But lets say deeper into your site you have a more personal page that talks about your interest with painting. Well on that page you’ll see the exact same grouping of journal posts, books, and link lists but they relate to painting. Therefore, if you just bought a book on painting, then you more than likely add it with your other books on painting. It is no different than how we group things by location in real life (but online we have the ability to place that item in more than one location at once by the use of multiple tags. If I buy a book on web design or online community development, more than likely I’ll stick it in my den where I work because I want those books close at hand. However, if I get a book on interior design (which both my wife and I enjoy reading) then I’ll usually stick that on the bookshelf in the living room. The same goes for artwork. We place different pictures in the house based upon where we feel they may best fit and suit the mood of the room.

    As you said though and I agreed with, the choice where you place those items (and in turn how they are tagged) should be up to you. If you couldn’t, then it would be like buying a painting and the dealer telling you that you could only place it within your living room. 🙂

    As for your readers being able to tag your writing, I’m not sure if I fully understand what you mean by this. I mean if you let people tag your content on your site, you would have a hundred different tags for each post because, as you said, things may relate and mean something different to each person. Of course, if a person enjoys your writing and frequently creates links to your articles on their own site, they will tag them there based upon their meaning to them.

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