Categories and Tags – Blogging tool and life skill

By Library of the London School of Economics and Political Science [see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons
By Library of the London School of Economics and Political Science [see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons
At one stage in my working life I was lucky enough to work in a school library … I was taught the skills of cataloguing, adding subject headings etc. (It was after the days of the catalogue cards in this picture but I do remember them from my high school days !). The general intent was to make the database as user friendly as possible, make the resources available at point of need to the people who will be wanting to use them.   Much later, I took to social bookmarking sites like Delicious and later Diigo as excellent tools for cataloguing my online resources and applied the ‘tagging’ or categorising principle there, yet in my blogging experience over the past few years I have failed to apply those skills as well as I could.

I wonder “Where is that post about ….?” and I find myself plodding through all the titles (the proverbial needle in a haystack).   If only I had used the tools available.  Categories and Tags serve the same purpose as Subject headings in the library catalogue – they allow us to filter and sort according to any criteria we set.

Categories are like chapters of a book; they provide a general overview of the topics you blog about. Whereas tags are more like the index at the back of the book and explode the topic into a million bits.

When your readers click on a categories or tag link on a post or in your sidebar it loads a page with all posts that use that tag or category.

By Mikael Häggström (Wikipe-tan image) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
When explaining Twitter to newcomers, I often draw the similarity to subjects in a library catalogue and hashtags – so why was I not using the same tools on my blog ?  I will now have to revisit my use of Categories and tags as I had been using them interchangeably if at all.

The ability to curate information is vital and we need to model, as well as teach, simple ways to make our online use of information more practical to our needs – more available at the point of need.  The Categories and Tags we chose will vary and adapt over time but they will provide us with a strong foundation for the future.

Tags and Categories: How Many Should I Use in a Blog and Why? from ‘We blog Better’ explains it better than I could and from a different perspective.

At a Teachmeet Melbourne event Tom Barrett of NoTosh presented an idea from his work at Rosendale Primary School “Tagging the learning” This brings another element to the use of tags:

Tagging the learning notes not only helps organise and archive them properly, making them more searchable in the future, the NoTosh and Rosendale team have been exploring this process as assessment as learning. The decisions around how children should tag their learning is an exciting and challenging discussion

Tools such as Evernote, Diigo and Twitter are enhanced when we adapt and use them to our own advantage.  How do you use tags, categories or whatever you do to sort and classify your online library?  



‘Where good ideas come from’ and Comments4Kids

I watched this powerful promotional video for Steven Johnson’s upcoming book – Where good ideas come from.  (thanks to @cbetcher and twitter for this link).  Aside from the interesting presentation, the ideas were clear and it made me want to read the book when it comes out.  One point Johnson raised is that great ideas take time to evolve – developing from a ‘slow hunch’ and they come from collaboration with others.

It got me thinking – over the past few months I have become aware of the value of certain hashtags in Twitter.   I have written about these before, but more recently I have discovered the  use for very specific purposes, such as promoting student blogs and encouraging comments such as #comments4kids.

I have seen first hand the power of a tweet with this tag – enormous responses (48 comments to one class post) are achievable via the advertising that Twitter can supply.

From my understanding, the concept of this hashtag came from @wmchamberlain through a series of tweets and a Wiki developed that has now been extended in the new Comments4Kids Blog.  It was an extension on the #FF idea, created to fill a need.  From my reading of the history of this hashtag, it seems to me to be a good example (in a small way) of Steven Johnson’s theory.  Okay, it didn’t take years to create but it was a ‘collision of hunches’.

‘Chance favours the Connected Mind’
S Johnson

I am grateful to these ‘connected minds’ and I believe that some of the ‘spaces of creativity’ that Johnson refers to are blogs and Twitter.  There are certainly many connected minds here – the coffee house of today’s thinkers ?

Twitter and all that jargon

#Hashtags for beginners

Just read Blogging in the fourth dimension post  in which the blogger tells how her PLN has grown in the first week of twittering.  As a relatively new Twitter user (I have been a twit for some time ;)) I remember looking at tweets a while back being overwhelmed by the jargon – the hashtags #, mentions @, hyperlinks etc, all made it look like gobbledygook.  When I first installed Tweetdeck – I thought that it was like translating a foreign language with columns and symbols everywhere.

Gradually, I have come to understand some of it, definitely not all.  The first, I will write about are hashtags #

Hashtags allow you to sort tweets. They are a filter, much like categories in a library catalogue and tags in Delicious etc.   A fantastic use of these is when they are used by people at events.

In April this year,  I did not attend the ACEC2010 conference in Melbourne, however, I participated in many streamed activities and found ideas and links due to the tweets that people who did attend the conference were sending out.   ACEC2010 actually provided iPod touches to participants and encouraged this collaboration.  It was fascinating watching tweets from people who were in the same room listening to keynote addresses and tweeting quite different reactions to what they were hearing.  Some say that this can be invasive technology with people focusing on the tweets instead of the room around them, but for me, at home, it made me part of the event.

Currently, in Denver the ISTE Conference is occurring.  The Twitter feed is frenetic (following ISTE2010 and ISTE10 as they don’t seem to have decided on one).   Participants are reflecting, commenting, networking recording and sharing – it is amazing.  I am grateful to the people who are alerting the world to their blogs, to new material etc.  It is a true example of collegiality – thank you.

You can search and follow hashtags from and via the Twitter applications, eg Tweetdeck.  In Tweetdeck you can easily add a column that filters all tweets with tag you want to follow.

TweetDeck ISTE hashtag

Some hashtags that I am aware of include



#VicPLN – the professional development program that I am undertaking

Anyone with more suggestions ?

Other things I have learned about Twitter include sorting out who to follow, re-tweeting and using mentions @ – all make the experience richer and so worthwhile.