Neil Macy

Tags As An Organisation Method

I think tags are simultaneously the best and worst organisation method for my brain. If I have a clearly defined, and limited, set of possible tags, then it's great for organising related things, and being able to have multiple tags is useful for things that really do belong in multiple places at once. But if I have an unlimited set of tags, it's basically impossible to keep things organised.

I used to use Bear for notes. It uses tags instead of folders. And I frequently found myself having multiple tags on things for no reasons. I was basically just adding any keyword I could think of, but I was classifying it at the time. It was useless for search, and I ended up with a ridiculously long sidebar that had lots of duplication. It just made the "organisation system" way to heavy to actually help me organise things. Since I switched over to using Apple Notes instead, I've found my notes are much easier to organise.

Another example is in banking apps. Monzo lets you set categories for transactions. There is a limited set of categories you can choose from, and they are all pretty clearly distinct from each other. I use it to keep track of how I'm spending money, and I never find myself wondering which tag I should choose, or wishing another tag existed. It's a great, and helpfully limited, set.

Tags On This Site

Which brings me to this site. The template that I used from Publish had tags enabled for the post previews. (You'll see them on my homepage, in the list of blog articles.) And I started off writing random tags, which ended up being pretty unhelpful. The idea is great; you click a tag, and can browse all articles on that topic. But if I have one article tagged "tests" and the other tagged "testing" then you don't get all relevant articles under one tag. And that's really easy to do with an unlimited set of tags!

I've tweaked my current posts and come up with the following set: - uikit - ux - localisation - tests - engineering - opinion - meta

I'll definitely refine these over time, as I get a larger data set to work with, because some only have one article and the tag might not make sense soon enough. And I'll certainly add more tags, as I write about more topics. But they'll always be listed on the tags page of the site, to make it easy to browse the topics I've written about. And I'll be holding myself to the artificial constraint of only introducing a new tag if the article doesn't fit into any existing ones.

If you have a nice way of managing tags, let me know! They're very popular, I just can't make them work for me without introducing artificial constraints.

Published on 7 January 2022