Summertime Category Cleanup

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:

  1. 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
  2. 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.

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10 Responses to Summertime Category Cleanup

  1. Ricardo DENMARK Google Chrome Windows says:

    I like pretty much everything you write except when the topic is gaming. Not your fault, of course, as I’m not a big gamer myself. But this is the one topic here that I completely skip.

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  2. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I for one wouldn’t object if you returned to covering current events of a geeky nature, but I can get my fill of that elsewhere so… no compulsion there.

    Some of the more technical “how to do X in language Y” type info goes directly over my head, and I’m not as much of a reader as I used to be, so book reviews are unlikely to be of things I’ve read, or of things I will read. Still interesting though.

    Keep doing what you’re doing, really.

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  3. Victoria UKRAINE Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I love your ‘Tales of woe’ about users and also book/movie reviews. Game reviews do nothing for me since I’m not a gamer. Tech things are useful too.

    I rarely comment as I am a natural lurker :) but I read almost all of your stuff.

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  4. icebrain PORTUGAL Mozilla Firefox Linux Terminalist says:

    I wonder how the category vs tag problem affects your readers in NewsBlur, since it uses the posts tags and/or categories (I’m not sure) to enable ‘intelligent’ classification of the content.

    On the other hand, I read more or less all your posts, skipping only some RPG related ones (I don’t care for the genre), so I don’t really care.

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  5. cptacek UNITED STATES Internet Explorer Windows says:

    I like your “how to” posts, luser posts, rants on DRM, articles about using the right tool for the right job (I’ve picked up quite a few tools to use due to your recommendation), and your short stories. You had one short story about riding a train, going into a dilapidated part of a city and getting trapped in there until the next poor schlub was caught that I wished you had done a sequel to.

    I was surprised you didn’t mention the Stuxnet virus.

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  6. nitro2k01 SWEDEN Mozilla Firefox Mac OS Terminalist says:

    The related posts links are using the tags, right? Those have led me to interesting posts many a time. Don’t ruin that!

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  7. Ron NEW ZEALAND Mozilla Firefox Linux says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head, the various reviews are the main thing I like at here (archive anyway), thou to follow on from cptacek a sub catagory dedicated to short stories would be nice, or a tag I guess.

    I recently converted to the school of minimal stuff on desk (im a fan of minimalism else where), not for asthetic value, but to stop tripping over the piles of crap. Next to tackle the masses of cables

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  8. Pranav Shah UNITED STATES Google Chrome Mac OS says:

    As a regular reader since 2006, I can say I love it when you narrate tech-problems you solve for the non-geeks and I absolutely love commentary on tech circumstances more than news. I don’t care too much about reviews, but I love it when you stereotype ppl n browsers n text editors :P

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  9. Adrian BELGIUM Opera Windows says:

    I love the posts about:
    gaming;
    geeky reviews of books and movies;
    the explanations of certain concepts (such as the one about halo’s mega structures or something);
    the one where you talk in depth about programming (which are really difficult to understand, but fun to read nonetheless);
    and of course the ones where you rant about (the lack of) mainstream acceptance/understanding of computers.

    I think this covers nearly all your posts actually.

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  10. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Google Chrome Linux Terminalist says:

    Thanks for the tips and suggestions everyone.

    @ Matt`:

    My only problem with current events is that they are time sensitive. I like to queue up my posts a week in advance which means I would always be discussing last weeks news. Also, news posts don’t age well.

    @ Victoria:

    Thanks for lurking. Btw, comments are pretty much my best line of feedback, so I really appreciate when people de-lurk, even if it’s just to say “hey, that was interesting” or something along these lines. It lets me know that at least someone out there read and enjoyed the post. Usually if I get zero comments on a post I assume it was a bit of a dud.

    @ icebrain:

    Well, re-categorizing and re-tagging posts will likely help it a bit… Maybe.

    @ cptacek:

    Oh, nice. The short story stuff usually get very few comments, so it’s nice to see someone out there appreciated it. Awesome.

    @ nitro2k01:

    Actually, the related links operate via some sort of keyword based magic. I never really cared enough to investigate how the WordPress plugin that makes these links works, but it definitely relies on more than just tags/categories.

    @ Ron:

    Nice! Another person who liked my stories. I was sort of figuring that I’m better at regular IT horror stories than fiction, but I might give it a try again.

    @ Pranav Shah:

    Wow, since 2006? Damn, you have been here almost as long as me. :) I only have 3 years of seniority on you my friend.

    @ Adrian:

    Yeah, that’s pretty much 95% of my posts right there. :)

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