Tag Archives: Semantic Web

Why Tags Are Better Than Categories

Simple answer usability.

Complex answer… usability again. For example, when showing somebody how to use blog software like WordPress or Drupal one of the things it’s tempting to do is to explain categories. The conversation usually goes like this…

Me: You might want to add a few categories to your blog

Them: What are they?

Me: You know, like the topics you might have in your blog

Them: But I don’t know what I’m going to have in my blog yet

Me: Well think of some now, do you think you are going to blog about “Education” or “Animals” or what?

Them: I can’t think. And would I be able to change them later?

The thing is, you often can’t ask people to design their categories (don’t let’s get into hierarchical or flat discussions either) until they have some stuff. And once they have some stuff it’s too much of a pain to go back and categorize it. If it doesn’t get categorized at creation point, it probably never will.

And here’s the rub. Tools like WordPress require you to create a category BEFORE you have created the item you want to add that category too. This is so backward. It’s a simple usability error. Most web-based software does this and it is such an obvious gaff.

The power of tags is… that you create them on-the-fly, which means they aren’t much work and then over a short period of time you start to see how useful categorization is… you get the benefits BEFORE a heap of hard work.

Now it doesn’t take much imagination to realise that once you have a heap of tags, it’d be nice to put the “tiger” tag in an animals category… but the tools have a way to go before they are building interfaces with that level of usability.