When I first started this blog in late ’06, I didn’t even know about the concept of adding tags to posts. Did blogs even have that feature then? – perhaps they did, but I didn’t think it was important. I don’t recall seeing many tags on blogs back then (at least, not as much as now) so I figured organizing posts into dates and categories was enough. But only within the past couple of years, I’ve noticed an abundance of tags on nearly every post of every blog…
I don’t remember exactly when I started noticing how commonplace tags became on blogs. Maybe they’ve always been commonplace and I just didn’t notice because I didn’t visit as many blogs back then as I do nowadays. But whatever the reason, even when I started taking note of tags, and noticing that I did have the option to add them on my blog too, I chose not to use them. I wasn’t about to go back to the nearly 300 posts I had written and add appropriate tags to all of them. I also never found tags on other blogs useful to me – if the blog categories were too broad, the search bar would be my first tool to look for specific content.
But finally, sometime last year, I succumbed. I just couldn’t ignore the “Post Tags” option whenever I wrote a new post any longer, so I decided to add a few tags to a newly written post. And since then, I’ve been adding tags to all the new posts I’ve written and, when I have the time, I’ve been slowly going back to old posts and adding tags to them as well.
Out of the 384 posts I’ve written so far, I still have 100 some left to add tags to. I’m not in any hurry, since I still don’t find tags that useful even though I’ve started using them myself. Their main function, at least for me and I’m not sure if it’s different for everyone, is to organize posts into smaller sub-categories that wouldn’t be big enough to be categories of their own. For example, whenever I write about a specific anime series, I’ll make a tag for it. Major ongoing favorites of mine that I write frequently about, like Haruhi and Pokemon, are large enough to warrant their own categories, while a lesser favorite like Bleach or a shorter seasonal series that I’ll only write a few posts about and probably never write about again, like Nyan Koi!, will have tags only. As you can see on the “Tag Cloud” on the sidebar, I mostly use tags for specific anime titles, yearly series, and anything else I don’t feel is big enough to have its own category.
And that leads to one of a few issues I have with tags. How do you know when a tag you use becomes big enough to have its own category? Should you give a tag the same name as a category? Another thing is that, while I try to keep the number of tags per post relatively small, I’ve seen other blogs with nearly a paragraph’s length of tags on any one post, often with tags so specific (and probably about something they’ll never write about again), I can’t imagine that tag being any more useful then using the search tool. Sometime they’ll give a post a tag when it actually has no content for that topic. For example, I mentioned Nyan Koi! in the paragraph above, but I’m not going to include a tag for it in this post because there’s nothing about it here other than a quick mention as an example. Does having so many specific tags make your blog more organized? Do visitors really want to look through so many tags rather than use the search tool? I’m totally not trying to deride any blog that uses a lot of tags – I’m asking these questions because I don’t understand tags very well and I want to understand.
Another potential problem with having a lot of tags is that you have to remember which ones you’ve used before and not be redundant. For example, let’s say I wrote a post about K-ON! and gave it a tag “K-ON!.” Then, later on I wrote another post about K-ON!, but unwittingly gave it a tag “K-ON” (without the exclamation mark). Your blog would think these are two different tags (mine does at least), thus ruining your intent of organizing these posts into one related tag. Similarity, let’s say years ago I wrote a post about some anime stuff I bought and gave it a tag “anime merchandise,” or “stuff I bought” for more casual writers. Then, years later, I wrote another post about anime stuff I bought, but not remembering I had made a tag for that a long time ago, I create the new tag “anime products” or “stuff I purchased.” The potential redundancy of having too many tags to keep track of can’t really help your blog’s organization.
For my fellow bloggers or blog visitors out there, what’s your take on tags? Have they always been around since the dawn of blogs, or is it only recently that they’ve started to become so common? Do you feel tags are useful and I’m just not understanding their usefulness, or are they just another pointless means of making us feel like we’re giving ourselves more organization when in reality we’re just making things more complicated?
And wow, I can’t believe I just wrote over 900 words about something as trifling as tags in blog posts.