Why it’s good to look back on your Tags and Categories … in tech and IRL

As someone who’s worked in archives and libraries (TV and books), I find the process of tagging and categorising really rather interesting. I find it especially useful to look back on this digital ‘footprint’ when I’m ready for some perspective on my work … and my life.

Screen Shot 2014-08-23 at 12.07.20 pm
So #meta.

I’ve written about ten pop-up blogs over the years, using Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr (and, in the early days, straight HTML) and, when I look back at the blogging and digital content production history, I see a couple of things:

First of all, the tools have changed. Some examples:

  • The advent of hashtagging on Twitter in 2007 introduced the general non-computer-code-y populace to ‘meta’, and what tagging can do for information management.
  • Blogger has one option – ‘Labels’, which should ideally function like categories. I’m not sure if labels were part of the gig from the beginning. I don’t remember having the option to use them in 2006, which is why one of my blogs has no labelling/categorising at all.
  • Tumblr used to have just tags, but now has capacity for categories, by opening up the HTML for easy customisation.

Secondly, I changed. (WIP, always.)

  • I learned about the tools; and
  • I learned more about myself and my content.

For example, on one of my previous WordPress blogs I had about five gazillion categories … and no tags. I attribute this to just not being aware of how the platform worked, and being so focused on the content of my posts that I didn’t put my archivist helmet on for whatever reason. I was simply not thinking about the end user (my reader). (Sorry about that.)

When I need some perspective, here’s how I look at my own tags and categories. In tech … and in life:

  • In tech: go back over your ‘output’ and measure reader interest. Look at stats on most-read posts, and most-commented-on posts;
  • In life: ask your pals and colleagues how you can best help them, and then notice if there are any patterns or recurring words or themes;
  • In life: go back to your WARP CORE. Look at the things that interest you … and at your VALUES, because these things – even if they don’t show up as the most ‘interesting’ to others at this moment in time – will sustain you. (In terms of knowing your values, sometimes this just takes a bit of time to sit down and ask yourself about your themes in life. I’ve written about it before.)


As it happens, I (ahem) keep a handy archive of moments of information I think might become useful one day.

Chaosco stats 7.11.13

Not necessarily out of fear that ‘everything will be lost! we’re all going to die!‘, but more because in the 21C our context often changes – and rapidly – and I’m interested in how a different context can change the meaning of content. (Especially awesome if it makes it all of a sudden funny. Old photographs are a good example of this.)

80s hair anyone?
“Lib, the ’80s called for you. They want their hairstyle back.”

Some of the info won’t become useful, of course, but it’s not part of an archivist’s job to make that call.

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