[uf-discuss] hCa* CATEGORIES as TAGS

Chris Messina chris.messina at gmail.com
Sat Nov 26 07:39:21 PST 2005

On 11/26/05, Benjamin Carlyle <benjamincarlyle at optusnet.com.au> wrote:
> Hello,
> On Thu, 2005-11-24 at 21:27 -0800, Chris Messina wrote:
> > On 11/22/05, Brian Suda <brian.suda at gmail.com> wrote:
> > > My question is this: Can we consider the property CATEGORIES inside a
> > > vCard and/or iCalendar file, equivalent to a rel="tag"? or should we?
> > ...I might use the category "Smells like fish" on my blog
> > for peculiar news stories yet I'll tag the posts with "news",
> > "government" and "george bush". (Aren't you glad I didn't use an hCard
> > example?)
> > In that case, if you were to try to suggest that the category usage is
> > parallel with the tag use, I might take umbrage. Quite obviously,
> > "Smells like fish" isn't a semantic way to describe the content.
> I'm not sure that's exactly so. Personally I very much use tags and
> categories to mean the same thing in my writing. I think it somewhat
> follows in the vein of "humans first, machines second" to bring the
> semantic and the presentation together.

Which is something of a sin when it comes to the separating your
content from how it's presented!

> I already categorise my blog posts for my users, so I don't want to add
> technorati tags. I just want the categories I use to be available for
> technorati users to search.

In WordPress, though I don't think this is exactly correct either,
categories are marked up as tags.

> I'm suspect I'm at odds with a number of
> readers of this mailing list when I say that I find producing a list of
> tags at the bottom of each blog post ugly and distancing. If you wanted
> your post to be associated with those tags, why didn't you structure
> your site's categorisation in the same way? I suspect that if the
> information isn't useful to users browsing your pages then it isn't
> really something that should be visible to them, and perhaps should not
> exist at all.

This to me is more about the limitations of existing tag interfaces in
software than about how tags and categories should be used *in the
ideal balance between utility and semanticity*. (Is that a word? Er,

Personally, I hate tags at the bottom of my posts. I think that they
look pretty dumb and in general, I really don't like how Flock or Ecto
just appends them to the body of the post. But that's done because
it's the only universal way to add tags to posts without hacking the
blog APIs. It's a hack that, for the time being, works. But I do
believe that this practice will be going away to a model more like
Flickr's tags and sets, where, combined, you get useful means of
semantically identifying and grouping your posts.

For example, I already use Ultimate Tag Warrior on my WordPress blog,
but really haven't taken the time to get it setup as I would like. If
I did, tags wouldn't show up at the bottom of my posts; instead I
might have them show up beneath the title, similar to how categories
now appear: "This post was tagged x, y, z" where x, y, z would be
linked to a page showing all the other posts that I've tagged

> I would also suggest that "Smells like fish" is just as semantic as any
> other tag you might want to apply. Just because a term is human friendly
> and perhaps even humourous doesn't necessarily mean that it can't be
> useful to machines as well.

My example really wasn't meant to illustrate anything about that one
particular type of phrase... instead it was a weak attempt to show
that categories are not consistently semantically useful equivalents
of tags. For perhaps a better real-world example, I have a category on
my site called "Asides". Now if my posts to that category were only
tagged with "Asides" (as they actually currently are), how on earth
would anyone find that content? And because they're short, concise
little posts, I don't really want them littering my other category
listings (ignoring the obvious hack to exclude that category from
other listings).

The simple point is that the combination of categories and tags makes
for a powerful way of organizing and structuring your content but that
even the most modern blogging tools haven't quite got the interfaces
around this pairing quite right yet.

Therefore, until the presentation part is figured out, I would feign
to intermix tags as categories since they are intrinsically different
tools with different purposes and ultimately, different ideal UIs.


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