marahmarie: Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell (Default)

Tags are a headache. They make no sense on a blog like mine that meanders through so many topics. There's a cost to creating, maintaining and using them that isn't worth it unless the tag in question is very well-defined and limited in scope (ex.: "Tags: people, people: Michael Bolton", "Tags: poems"). Otherwise they're not going to help much. And let me use the last tag to demonstrate why even in limited-scope use, tags suck - OK, so we have "Tags: poems".

Whose poems? Mine? Emily Dickinson's? Shakespeare's? Seriously, I have poems from them and many more people on this blog, besides. I have even reprinted poems written by commenters on TechCrunch. So to make my "poems" tag effective what did I have to do? That's right: make more tags. So now I've got:

Tags: poems
poems: Emily Dickinson
poems: William Shakespeare
poems: some TechCrunch dude

But wait! Maybe you don't want to see poems from these people; you want to see anything I ever wrote about them! Well, up until about 10 minutes ago I had a tag for that. It was called "people". But to make that tag effective, what did I have to do? That's right: list the name of every person I've ever mentioned on this blog under my "people" tag.

So in practice, I had to run two sets of tags - each with its own subset of tags - to cover one scenario: writing about a few people who happen to also write poems. Which looked like this:

Tags: poems
poems: Emily Dickinson
poems: William Shakespeare
poems: some TechCrunch dude
Tags: people
people: Emily Dickinson
people: William Shakespeare
people: some TechCrunch dude

This means that even in best case scenarios, where tags are useful for actually finding what you want, I had to spend time creating, adding to, and updating hundreds of them.

And let me not forget the black hole that was my "misc" tag until 10 minutes ago, when I deleted it. What in the name of hell is a "miscellaneous" tag? What falls under it? Well, a lot of times (but not often enough) I defined that! The topic might've been my computer (which computer? Why, it was "Tags: misc., misc.: computers, misc.: computers: AESOP", of course. But to switch things up sometimes I post under: "Tags: misc., misc.: computers, misc.: computers: ASAP", which is my new laptop. Which isn't at all confusing - really).

Is it worth it for me to spend as much time creating, adding, changing, updating and maintaining my tags each year as I might spend writing and editing anywhere from 5-20 more full-length blog posts? Do people want me to write or do they want me to tag? Because like, maybe three of you ever use them to find something on here. And do I care if search visitors can find what they want? Nope. It's my private journal so if I'm choosing to share it then they can use site and directory search just like everyone else.

That includes Yours Truly - search is the only way I can find ANYTHING on this blog, even with almost 400 tags in use up until about 10 minutes ago, when I deleted them.

Not to mention when you google my journal's name you'll get to view this disaster up close and personal:

Google showing my post tags in results for this blog's name

And what do we have here? Looks like Tag Soup!

"Tags" is the first result after my blog's name. That's helpful. Then there's the "misc." tag - most likely because it had almost All The Posts under it until about 10 minutes ago, when I deleted all my tags. Then there's my "add-ons" tag (seriously?) and my "computers" tag because OMG, Aesop, she still runs, which might be one reason why - it's almost as freaky as having an Apple Lisa that still runs a web server. Oh, wait, that really does happen.

Then there's a link to my icons page and another to a pasta recipe. In other words, Google's spiders can't find anything but Aesop, a pasta recipe, and my add-ons and icons to get excited over, so they take one giant crap on my Tags index and that's what gets published in their results under my blog's NAME. I personally find this a bit embarrassing and extremely unwieldy, as far as truly helpful search results go.

Getting back to how Dreamwidth's site and directory search is the only way I can find anything, the other fucked-up thing about tags is even if you find the one you want, you'll almost inevitably pull up not just one post but maybe 20-100 others under the same tag, so maybe the post you're after is located 35 posts back, so you'll hit the "Previous" button no less than four times - while you wait for no less than four pages to load - to find the one post you're actually after.

I don't see this as providing an actual service for anyone trying to find what they need.

Tags (and Wordpress's similar, often concurrently used Categories heading) came about when everything else screwed-up about the Web did: shortly after the Web became a thing. Back when Google couldn't find stuff so good and people had no way to know where anything on your blog was without the little suckers nestled under every post, you needed some way to hierarchically order what you'd written, not just so you could find it (since there was no such thing as search for your blog) but so everyone else could, too.

Tagging is antiquated. Search - both in-blog/on-site and search engine search - is good enough and fast enough now that it's not necessary to tag unless you write around a specific topic and need to keep pointing readers to articles that fall under the heading of "People who read this also read...". Anti-AOL, with its how-to articles, is one example of needing good breadcrumb navigation to keep your reader's minds from exploding in confusion. And no, without using the search box I helpfully put at the very top of the sidebar, I can't find anything on that blog, either.

But as for this blog, I think I'm done with tags. If I were to change my mind it would be because after nearly 10 years of blogging I've finally figured out how to encapsulate all the topics I cover in less than 50 tags with little if any sub-tagging needed. Which is Mission Impossible - for sure.