I’m fairly sure that no one actually cares about the Category and Tagging system I use on this blog. I know that when I read other people’s blogs I don’t really pay much attention to how they organize their content. At least not when I’m reading their latest entries. I only notice the tags and categories when I dive deep into their archives. 99% of the time the information on a blog is displayed in reverse chronological order so proper categorization does not really matter that much. But the lack of adequate organization on my own blog has been driving me nuts lately and I have spent several hours slowly getting everything in some sort of order.
It is kinda funny, because I am not a very anal person. Some may even say I am a bit of a slob, but I prefer the term “absent minded genius”. My desk looks like it was recently hit by a hurricane. I always thought that your living space ought to be arranged for comfort and functionality rather than aesthetics. Plus, on most days I have shit to do and I could not be bothered to organize or arrange my shit all neat like.
And yet, the virtual clutter is driving me bonkers. Part of the problem is that in the past I was using the category system much like you would use content tags. I had few dozen categories, and I would stick every post in as many of them as I could. Last December I made a serious attempt to rectify this while I was working on a theme update. I never really finished it because dealing with hundreds of improperly tagged posts was a daunting task.
You see, WordPress will happily let you batch-tag posts, or add them to categories in bulk. On the other hand if you want to remove posts from categories or un-tag them, you have to do it on a post-by-post basis. There are no batch built-in tools and/or 100% functional plugins to efficiently de-categorize or de-tag posts in bulk. And this is precisely where my problem was. For example, I had lots of posts that were filed under programming and technology which was redundant, seeing how under new scheme programming was sub category under technology.
I also had category called rants, which was so vaguely defined should have been a tag instead. So I converted it.
Here is my personal philosophy on how you should use the WordPress tag and category concepts:
Categories are specific topics or knowledge domains like programming, movies, tv and etc. Tags are for specific themes that cut across the categories. For example, posts tagged as anime may be about movies, or tv shows categories. Posts tagged linux may be about linux programming, linux system administration or linux as an educational tool.
Secondary use of tags is to bind together posts in a longer series, like for example my Fallout New Vegas series.
Each post should fit into exactly one category – I view them as exclusive buckets, while tags are associative thematic threads. If a post seems to belong to more than one, then it my indicate one of two things:
- If the categories are related to each other, then the more specific one should probably be made a sub-category of the more general one and this way the post may indirectly belong to both even though it is filed just under one of them
- If the categories are completely unrelated, it means that one or more of them probably ought to be tags rather than categories.
Keeping the above in mind I went through my archives and re-categorized and re-tagged few hundred posts. I’m aware it was probably pointless but it actually felt good so I don’t care. Perhaps it will make browsing trough the archives a little bit easier (though most people browse chronologically anyway), but even if it does not it will help me organize my own thoughts.
Part of the fuss with my categories is that lately I have been wondering about the theme, focus and purpose of this blog. When I started Terminally Incoherent back in 2003 I had no idea where I wanted to take it. It was just a blog. Over the years however I developed a sense of what I should and should not write about. You will notice that I slowly gravitated away from current events and geek news commentary and political slactivism which are dominant themes in my early blogging days. Instead I focused on original content, science fiction musings, technology and reviews SF/Fantasy books, movies and video games.
Currently Terminally Incoherent does not have a specific topic but it does have a prevalent theme: “all things geeky”. The categories on the sidebar are a way to express this theme more directly. When I’m thinking about a new post, I can ask myself where does it fit with the rest of the content. And it if looks like a candidate for my very hit-or-miss random stuff category then perhaps it does not necessarily belong here, or at the very least it should be re-framed and re-contextualized to fit in.
Here is a question for you, regular readers. What are your favorite categories on this blog? What sort of topics interest you the most, and which posts you usually skim over or skip entirely? Are there any things that I have been ignoring (or ignorant off) that you wish I would write about more? Let me know in the comments.