Are tag clouds, as Read/Write Web suggests, entombed? dead?

On my fleet of NMC WordPress site I am shifting to using tags more on posts as an organizer, and tossing some clouds on the pages (see lower right sidebar of Pachyderm Services). Its a bit easier on these sites that have a relatively low number of posts to go and “back tag” content.

But here at the old Yeller CogDogBlog, there are a lot of old bones- this, when published will be number 2100. And my tagging in the past, has been, well spotty. On the other hand, I was never too rigorous with the categorizing, so I am thinking as far as being effective, the approaches may be tied for last place over here.

Never the less, I am more of a loose ranging tagger than a cubby-hole categorizer, so I have started tagging posts, and swapped out the old Category listing on the side bar to a tag cloud (I use the option to randomize the order, mmm love randomness), my template code is:

And I tweaked the Archives template in a few places to do a proper header and title. I have my templates tuned to display the links to the tag archives when used, as well as the WP Tags to Technorati plugin which links the same tags to who knows what at Technorati (see the bottom of this post, if I remember to tag it!)

To enable the switch, I used the built -n WordPress tools to convert my old categories to tags (under Manage -> Import), so for now, the cloud is likely heavily weighted my the old categories.

How do they stack up? Putting them side by side, we have, weighing in at about 140 different ones, are my sloppy pile of “Dog Tags” versus the neatly stacked 32 different CatDog-egories:

There is no real answer as to which is “best” (although my headers show my bias) – it’s like asking for a definitive answer to the world’s favorite vegetable (though, I am sure it is not beets. Nope. Nasty. Yeccch). I like tags, but pretty much, in WordPress you can make categories work like tags (multiple associations), so it more boils down to your preferences.

I’m a tagger, what are you?

Read/Write Web: “Bring out your dead!”

Tag Clouds: “I’m not quite dead yet….”

Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.

Comments

  1. Tagger.
    Tagging comes first to me. I can only categorise as a result of analising my tagging tendency. That’s when seeing the pattern makes sense out of the *apparent* tagging mess.

  2. They’re not dead – they’re just pining for the fjords…

    More seriously, I suspect part of the problem may be that many of the tag cloud widgets out there have relatively weak visualization design – better use of color, layout, and font sizes would increase usability dramatically. Viewer-selectable settings are also important: according to my particular set of interests on any given day, I’m going to want to look at the tag cloud somewhat differently.

    Wordle (http://wordle.net/) gets many things right in my view, but there’s plenty of room for further experimentation.

  3. I use both. My categories are used to organize the content so that readers can follow only posts on local politics (as an example). I use tags to define related posts – independent of categories. I think readers can follow a specific tag just like following a specific category, but I use a plugin to analyze the tags and find related posts in a way that’s much more flexible than simply returning other posts from the same category.

  4. I’m a tagger. I’ve got 684 tags on my site, with 6 categories. I use tags to describe the content, and categories to indicate the “type” of post. The tag cloud is a bit, er, unruly, but is still pretty usable for finding stuff. Although, I usually just use fulltext searching to find stuff in my old posts anyway…

  5. D’Arcy,

    I have 342 tags and 10 categories (I guess I need either 3 or 12 categories for full irony) and I think your description is a clearer way of how I use them than my description was – I guess that makes me a tagger.

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