Friday, August 19, 2011

Playing Tag; or, Random Thoughts on Random Thoughts

As a novice blogger, I'm still learning the rules of the game.

Take the practice of tagging, or labelling, posts. Does it serve the blogger in any way, or is it simply a tool that enables readers to find similar posts? How does one choose tags, and is there a limit to the number that can be applied? If a post has too many, will some law of diminishing blogging returns set in?

Must every post be tagged? (I probably ought to have asked this first.) If I'm just inflicting random thoughts on the blogosphere, as I am today, ought I to classify them in case someone actually wants to read them again or, heaven forbid, find more of the same? And to what family would such ramblings belong? "Random Thoughts" ... "Fruitless Musings" ... "Wasted Ether" ... accurate, but not very appealing. (Perhaps this is why several of my posts remain unlabelled.)

Tagging also involves aesthetic decisions. If readers are to locate posts by topic, a taglist is indispensable. But which type? There's the simple taglist: straightforward and alphabetical, running down the side of one's blog. Also available is the label cloud, a free-wheeling, multi-type-size, floating-words type of list, which can be customized to include several colours and even animation. Then there is the file-tab type which marches across the top of the page. How does one decide? (If one is a minimalist such as myself, one chooses the first option.)

And is there such a thing as tagging etiquette? For instance, is it permissible to choose a label that implies a compliment to oneself? I may think I've written a post that is profound, or funny, or life-changing. But modesty forbids me to label it so. On the other hand, the blog itself could be viewed as a kind of exercise in narcissism, so why quibble over a further bit of self-endorsement? (What contradictory bundles of diffidence and confidence we humans are.)

An example (or digression, I'm not sure which): It was very difficult for me to start using the "Poetry" tag. Poetry, to me, means Shakespeare or the Oxford Book of English Verse or something worthy of being read by Garrison Keillor on "Writer's Almanac". I certainly never thought of my small pensées as qualifying for that exalted label. The "Three Great Things" from every bike ride - a habit of some years' standing - started out as a mental exercise to while away the miles, an effort to distil into the best and fewest words some of the things I saw and felt while cycling. But if Coleridge was right in his definition of poetry - "the best words in the best order" - then what I've really been doing all these years is composing, or trying to compose, poetry. It took the comments of another to make me see it that way. (Thank you, Lolly.) And a big leap of confidence to start labelling my "best words" as poetry.

Random thoughts, indeed.

I suppose that the labelling of posts, like any of life's choices, comes down to doing what seems best at the time. That's the beauty of blogging, after all - having the freedom to say what one wants, when one wants, in a format of one's own choosing.

So some of my posts shall remain tagless. (I like to think of it as not keeping all my goods in the shop window.) Let there be some surprises hidden in the archive.

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  1. I love it!! Your musings made me smile!! :)

    I give tagging posts a sideways glance...I get their usefulness and love it when I find a great something because a blogger tagged well. But more often than not I forget to tag mine!

    However, a blogger I've read for a few years (who changed blogs and stopped doing this) used to give her post hilarious tags. For example, she is in Texas so if she writes about how hot it is there and how nobody can move she might tag it as "too damn hot" or something totally random. :)

    So, I guess the upshot here is that tags are what we make them! :)

  2. I have a relatively small list of categories, with lots in each, so I'm not sure how useful they are to others. But at the end of a post when I look at the list to choose it amuses me to see how certain ones come up again and again - possibly a sign of the repetitiveness of my life?!

    Pomona x

  3. As a commentator without a blog I can honestly say that I have never used a tag or a cloud. They seem very random, I read blogs daily and frequently go back to earlier comments if I want to follow to the end of a subject.

  4. I, too, really got a kick out of this post, and I think it's totally appropriate to call something humorous, because then people like me who desperately need a spontaneous laugh can punch that humor tag and come up with as much more tickle as time constraints and self-control allow. (giggling now)

    I wish I could go back and change a lot of my tags, from before I "got" it. But that probably would irritate the heck out of followers because all 200 or so posts needing to be changed would show up as new posts in Google Readers.

    Now my tagging is determined much of the time by my mood. I do try to make things appropriate, but sometimes I'm too goofy to make sense or too serious to dab in fun. Ultimately, I hope my tags help others, not necessarily regular blog readers, who might be searching for just the tip or advice or how-to I have published.

    When I was preparing for my first Ride the Rockies, blogging wasn't as big as it is now, and I was scouring the internet for how to prepare, what to take, what to eat, how to keep specific owies in check... If I recall properly, the best information I found came from blogs that weren't as huge and well known then as they are now... Fat Cyclist and Crazy Guy on a Bike come to mind.

    Now there are hundreds (or more) of cycling blogs, and they span the entire experience spectrum, from beginner to pro and even wild endurance. So there is a lot out there to help beginners, and I hope by properly tagging my entries, other RtR (as well as any other big ride) first-timers will be able to find the information they need to build confidence and have a successful and enjoyable tour.

    Well, and that crocheters will find snowflake patterns, and photographers will find great DIY and money-saving ideas. And savvy Wordless Wednesday viewers can answer their own questions, just by taking the time to look at the tags...

    I guess this should have been a blog post instead of a comment, huh?!? :D And, while we're on the subject, I've been meaning to tell you about mouseovers for ever since you asked, but I will leave that to another comment another day. Because there is a character limit in comments, too. Bet ya didn't know that, did ya? Ha ha ha ha ha!

    Yes, there is a tag character limit. Blogger cuts you off when you exceed a certain number, but I've never counted to see what that limit is.

    I do LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your idea of hidden treasures. I might have to try that!


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