Sunday, February 26, 2006

Using tags effectively in

Anyone who isn't already using should be. With all the different computers most of us use and the flood of information we deal with, it's so essential to remember to keep all the useful links you find somewhere easy to get to. has a search feature, which is a great way to find something when you know exactly what you're looking for. But when you don't know exactly what you want to find, tags are a great way to browse through your (or someone else's) links.

But have you ever tried to browse through 500 tags? It's pretty inefficient. does try to help with tag bundles and increasing font sizes of more active tags, but the best way to keep things organized is to tag properly and not to overdo it.

To that end I've put together some guidelines on how to tag effectively.


Generalize as much as possible
If you're tagging a recipe for lasagne, just tag it 'recipes' or 'food.' There's no point in tagging it 'lasagne' unless your master's thesis is on lasagne and you're tagging a lot of lasagne stuff all the time.

Popular tags can be your friend or your enemy
Not sure how to tag something? Del shows you popular tags that others have applied to that link. Sometimes it's useful if you're stuck, but you don't always have to follow them. Crowds may be wise, but they're made up of individuals making individual decisions. Your tags are first and foremost for you, not for anyone else. To that end...

Pick one word and stick to it
Should the Hipster PDA be tagged "lifehack"? How about "productivity"? How about "organization"? All three probably apply. But if I use "lifehack" to describe the PDA, and "organization" to describe the pocket mod, then these things will be in different places when I'm browsing my tags, even though they should probably be grouped together. Tag bundles are great for this, but it takes time to organize them later.

Don't tag to be cool
I understand there's some ego involved in being the first to tag, and showing that you're cooler than someone because you tagged it first, but come on. If you read an interesting article, but you don't need it anymore, why are you tagging it?


Now, I should note that these guidelines are mainly for people who want to use the way I do: as a kind of toolbox. I put useful things in there and want to find them quickly. If that's how you use it, these guidelines will be helpful to you. If you use it for some other purpose, that's great, I'd love to know about it, but these guidelines probably aren't for you.

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