Posts Tagged ‘Tips’

10 Tips For Better Tagging

January 17, 2008

Luggage tagWhether it’s bookmarks on del.icio.us, music on last.fm, email on Gmail, photos on flickr, or blog posts right here on WordPress, tagging has become an everyday part of life for the Web 2.0 generation. We do it because it’s fun and addictive, but above all, it’s useful. Tagging enables you and others to find and organise posts, bookmarks and any other content more quickly and easily than a simple search.

Part of the reason why tags are so widely used is because they’re simple to understand: a tag is just a keyword (or short phrase) associated with a piece of information. For bloggers in particular tags help readers to find posts on their site, and also drive traffic to the blog.

Everybody knows there’s no right or wrong way to tag, but the following tips might be useful for those new to tagging. They’ve certainly helped me organise my content both here and on del.icio.us. Feel free to leave some tips of your own in the comments section.

1. Don’t leave it blank! It’s an obvious one, but I often see del.icio.us bookmarks listed as unfiled or uncategorized. There aren’t many items that are truly unclassifiable. Why not mark something as to-tag or similar and then return to it later?

2. Develop a system This is a good tip if you often struggle to find items in your bookmarks. By “system” I don’t mean somthing rigid, but it might be a good idea to reserve one or two words or phrases for certain kinds of content. One example would be tagging time-sensitive items with timed or deadline. I do this at work with del.icio.us, so that I can occasionally prune funding opportunities which are out of date.

3. Spend some time pruning your tags occasionally This is a well-known and oft-repeated tagging tip. Don’t be put off by thinking that it will be time-consuming: it needn’t be, if you keep on top of your tags regularly. Most tag-based websites (e.g. del.icio.us) allow you to view and edit your tagging master list.

4. Get rid of plural (or singular) tags This is a more specific instance of number 2, really. In some ways, it’s a personal preference thing, but usually there’s no point in having both, e.g., blog and blogs. Decide which you’re going to keep and ditch the other. Over time, more plurals and other forms of duplication will creep in, but as long as you carry out regular pruning, it shouldn’t be an issue.

5. Categories are not tags But not necessarily vice versa! Check out this excellent article on the difference between the two. Lorelle makes the point that tags are often less formally structured than categories, but can be used to flag up fine-grained “micro-distinctions” between topics. This can allow readers of a blog to find posts quicker. Aaron Brazell at Problogger agrees, and outlines a few strategies for using tags on your blog.

6. Check which tags others use Use this with caution! Del.icio.us, for example, provides a list of other user’s tags when you submit a new item. Other people’s tags may provide inspiration, but at the end of the day tags are an inherently personal thing. If your brain works differently, don’t use the same tags as everyone else! Of course, this depends on what you’re using tags for (see number 9 below).

7. Keep it simple This applies to most things in life, but it’s especially important with tagging. Most tag-enabled websites these days (with the notable exception of del.icio.us) allow spaces in tags, but this shouldn’t be taken as liscense to have long phrases as tags. In some cases that might be appropriate, but often one or two words does the trick.

8. Try not to have lots more tags than pieces of information Sometimes this may not be possible, and it’s certainly not a hard and fast rule, but in general, if you have 100 bookmarks and 250 tags, you might need to rethink your system a little. My own wordpress blog right here is a counterexample to this, of course, but that’s more of a problem with the way wordpress manages tags – you can view and edit your categories but you can’t, currently at least, see a master list of all your tags.

9. Think about others as well as yourself Here’s another general life principle which can be applied to tagging. In many places (a notable exception would be your Gmail account), tags are a fundamentally social way of labelling information. As well as thinking of keywords which you would associate with a particular item, think about what might help others to find it. This can only be good for everyone in the long run: other people can find useful information, great photos, or bookmarks, and you’ll be raising your profile and developing online social networks. For example, I tag items with research at work. Now, virtually everything I bookmark at work is research-related, but if I don’t tag with that basic keyword, others might not find the information.

10. Use tags to make a note to yourself For example, tag an item toread and then you can see at a glance any news stories, etc., that you have yet to read. You could also use the tag classic or similar for extra-special links. Wantz.it uses a similar idea to create a personalised wishlist: Simply sign up, tag any item on del.icio.us with dowant and it’ll automatically be added to your Wantz.it wishlist.

Okay, I’m out! If you have any suggestions about using tags or tagging, or if you just think I’m plain wrong, why not leave a comment.

Advertisements

More Commoncraft Goodness: Blogs In Plain English

December 16, 2007

Commoncraft logoYou may remember Commoncraft, creators of simple but effective ‘For Dummies’-esque, 3-minute online tutorial videos, such as Social Networking in Plain English and Social Bookmarking in Plain English. I like them because they’re uncomplicated and get straight to the point, packing in enough content to get the message across to newbies without being overwhelming like, say, reading an article at Wikipedia on the same topic.

They’ve recently released a new video entitled Blogs in Plain English, which you can also catch on Youtube:

It’s an interesting take on a complex topic. LeFevre decides to show the difference between ‘old’ news which relied on publishing companies, editors, professional journalists and so on, and ‘new’ 21st century news. The latter, through the internet, allows anyone with an interest in any topic to become a newscaster.

I’d have liked it if they’d given a few seconds to the ‘splog‘ phenomenon, instead of just glossing over with facts about numbers of blogs being on the increase, and ‘oh, look how easy it is, why not start one yourself?’. Still, you can’t have everything: overall, this is a very effective and entertaining introduction to the world of blogging and blogs that even your grandmother could understand.

Videos In Plain English: The CommonCraft Show

August 30, 2007

I’ve just become a big fan of the CommonCraft Show’s series of Videos In Plain English:

The CommonCraft Show

They are a sort of “…For Dummies” series for the YouTube generation: short (3-5 mins), witty and straightforward, they give you a good bite-sized overview of a number of web 2.0 topics.

Social Bookmarking In Plain English is a case in point. This is the latest — and by far the most enjoyable and effective — of the four videos produced so far. It concisely presents the benefits of using social bookmarking tools such as del.icio.us, as well as giving a quick tutorial on how to get started:

Also notable are Social Networking In Plain English and RSS In Plain English. These aren’t quite as slick as the most recent offering, but are well worth a look.

Social Networking… is entertaining, but it concentrates too heavily on the functional benefits of networks like Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn (e.g. finding contacts to get a better job, house or relationship). While important, I think most people use social networking sites just to stay in touch with friends, rather than to achieve some life goal. Similarly, RSS… is good but it’s also the least polished of Commoncraft’s videos, so don’t expect the high editing standards shown in Social Bookmarking…

Nevertheless, this is a great resource which could be equally useful for introducing technophobe friends or work colleagues to the wonders of web 2.0.

Why I Use Del.icio.us At Work

August 26, 2007

Del.icio.us logoI’ve recently started using the popular social bookmarking site del.icio.us at work. I work in the research office of a UK university and part of my job is to find and disseminate research funding opportunities to academics.

The usual way to do this, of course, is via email and on the department’s intranet site. On a typical day, I’ll trawl through a range of online funding databases, like ResearchResearch, Community of Science, Welcomeurope, CORDIS, UK Research Office, etc. and pass on the relevant information to different groups of staff.

However, since what I’m doing in my day-to-day tasks is essentially finding, sorting, and distributing links, it occurred to me that using del.icio.us would be a great alternative way to store and share funding opportunities with colleagues. My intention is to create a database of opportunities which are relevant to my institution, and which staff can peruse at their leisure. You can find the beginnings of that database here:

Researchoffice’s del.icio.us bookmarks

The best case scenario would be if a good number of research-active staff join del.icio.us themselves (or use their existing accounts) and create a network to share research funding links with one another. However, I’m willing to settle for a more likely option: a minority of tech-savvy staff start using the service as another information source when seeking funding. (I’m not expecting miracles here; I always keep in mind the one per cent rule.)

Here are 5 more reasons why I decided to use del.icio.us at work:

  1. It’s popular: Del.icio.us is the most popular social bookmarking website around, so there’s a higher chance that other staff will have at least heard of it, if not already use it themselves.
  2. It’s simple: Unlike many other social bookmarking sites, such as clipmarks, furl, and blinklist, del.icio.us has a simple look and feel; some might say too simple, but at least it hasn’t jumped on the web 2.0 reflective text/beta version bandwagon! It works nicely with most browsers, and has a pared-down vibe, rather like Google in the early days.
  3. It’s easy to use: From the readable URL scheme to the easily sortable and customizable tags, it doesn’t take more than 10 minutes to understand and start to use the site. This is crucial when promoting the site to those who might never have experienced social bookmarking before.
  4. RSS: As far as RSS feeds go, del.icio.us is very powerful. You can pull a feed from any tag you like, or from combined tags, or from a particular user, or from their inbox. You can even pull a feed for a specific type of media or filetype, as this blog post shows. I haven’t used this feature yet at work, but the ability to export the latest links as RSS will no doubt come in handy. For example, if this takes off I’ll probably end up putting an RSS feed on our office’s intranet page.
  5. It’s quick: This is perhaps the biggest boon of all. It takes between 60-90 seconds of my working day to post a link to del.icio.us. All I do is copy a relevant line from the page for the description, then click a few tags — perhaps adding one or two new ones if necessary. All done! The browser buttons are essential timesavers here, allowing speedy one-click saves.

Of course, it’s really important to set up a coherent tagging system before you start: I generally use at least one tag to describe the source website, several for the actual content, and various others to denote whether it’s a funding opportunity with or without a deadline, etc. Once that’s in place, it’s a breeze!

If you’re not convinced check this ReadWriteWeb article which compares the features of a number of social bookmarking websites, and choose the one which is right for you.

How (Not) To Buy A Hang Drum

August 15, 2007

Like many other bloggers, I’m incurably self-obsessed, so I inevitably spend a large amount of time looking at my blog stats in WordPress. Recently, I noticed that a lot of people come to this blog to read my Hang Drum post. In fact, it’s one of the most popular posts on this blog.

Hang Drum

Thanks to the magic of WordPress stats, I also noticed that these people have often found this blog by searching for “buy a hang drum”, “hang drum dealers” or similar. I expect that they’ll be disappointed with that post which is, essentially, a mild expression of interest in a unique and quirky instrument, rather than a How To guide.

Of course, I hate to disappoint, so over the past few days I’ve been trying to answer the question: how do you buy a hang drum? Unfortunately it looks like the short answer is: you can’t.

Here’s why: It turns out that a couple of guys in Switzerland — Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer — design and produce the hang themselves. Judging by what I’ve read on several other blogs and forums, these guys are only willing to make a “handful” of these instruments every year to order through their company, Panart. See this Metafilter post (and comments) for more details:

Discover the hang drum

If you can make the trip over to Switzerland — and assuming they’re still making them — you can expect to pay upwards of US$500 for one. If not, forget it. Apparently, they set up a distribution network as well as a website (www.hang.ch – don’t bother going there; it’ll either give you a 404 or a filler search page) in the early days, but this was quickly overwhelmed by high demand. You may be able to find one or two on E-bay, but you should expect to pay a premium for them, as I indicated in my original post.

It’s actually incredibly difficult to find up-to-date information on the current situation, but it appears that they’ve either stopped producing the instrument, or are still making it in very limited quantities. Judging by the level of demand online, it’s highly unlikely that anyone outside a select few will be able to get their hands on one in time for Christmas 2007.

UPDATE: 26/08/2007: You’ll see that Michael from das hangblog has dropped by the comments section to helpfully give an updated picture of the hang-buying situation. Bottom line: you may be in with a chance of buying one next year — but you’ve still got to travel to Switzerland.

UPDATE: 24/04/2009: A hang drum fan called Tim has helpfully left a comment on the other hang drum post with some up-to-date information.

Clearing Out Your Inbox

July 25, 2007

Monday was my first day back at work after a two week holiday. Of course this means that a mountain of unread emails had piled up in my absence – it’s taken me most of the week to clear them out.

I’m not going to pretend I have some kind of sensational new advice about this: it’s a tedious task that everyone with a desk-based job has to perform every now and again. However, quickly browsing a few simple tips on Lifehacker has made a mind-numbing chore slightly more bearable:

Empty your inbox with the trusted trio

It’s an old article, but still very relevant and it saved me tons of time when clearing out my inbox this week. Instead of setting up a complicated filing structure with myriad sub-folders, and spending ages deciding where to place each individual email, it recommends a svelte three folder flat structure. Archive, Action and Hold are all you need, apparently. This will enable you to quickly decide where to put each email as you come to it based on whether you need to do something imminently (Action), later (Hold), or just store it for information (Archive).

For hoarders like me, it requires a rather strong constitution to dispense with a carefully ordered filing structure, but it really makes sense in the end. Instead of spending 10 minutes wondering whether to store an email under “Recent bids” or “Speculative bids”, I can simply choose one of three folders based on whether I need to respond or not. Search takes care of the rest.

Inbox

To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t quite as radical as the Lifehacker article advises. Instead of three folders, I think I ended up with about five. And rather than having a separate folder for items which need action, I used Outlook’s Follow-Up function, so I can see at-a-glance how many emails need attention. It’s also geekily satisfying to tick off stuff when you’ve dealt with it.

As far as sorting goes, I actually prefer Mozilla Thunderbird‘s dual tag + folder system to provide maximum sorting flexibility. I’m a bit of a tag-o-phile, and I like the fact that I can label a single message with more than one keyword, unlike Outlook’s “folders-only” approach which effectively act as tags, but limits you to one per mail. Unfortunately, since I only use Thunderbird for my home emails, I haven’t had the chance to experiment as much as I’d like.

Finally, if your inbox situation is dire and you have months of read emails that need dealing with, I’d recommend sorting by sender rather than starting at the oldest. Maybe it’s the fact that you’re viewing emails in an order that’s unfamiliar, but it saves time when it comes to deciding what to keep and what to chuck. If you’re running out of space, simply sort by size and get rid of as many large emails as possible.

Online File Storage Solutions

July 17, 2007

I’ve been looking into this area for a while now, but a recent Lifehacker post has pointed me in the direction of this very useful summary of five online web 2.0 file storage systems:

5 Simple Ways to Store Your Files Online

The one that looks by far the simplest to use is Dropboks. First of all, it’s free; you can get going straight away; the interface couldn’t be more straightforward; and of course it’s all secure. It’s definitely worth a look if you’re sick of using your Gmail account as a surrogate back-up online storage facility.

UPDATE: 18/07/07: The only slight problem with using Dropboks on Firefox is that it doesn’t allow right-clicks; or, rather it does allow them, but the right-click menu on Dropboks is automatically obscured by Firefox’s own context menu. I’ve come across this on a few sites now (including Yahoo! Mail Beta), and so far I haven’t found a work-around. If anyone knows of one, please leave a comment!