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?