Categories are Dead - Long live Tagging

May 23, 2005

Since implementing tags on my blog I have noticed that they are much more powerful than categories. Here's why:

  • You find related items by searching for mutual tags between items. That's how I show you related posts on my blog.
  • Faster than searching - If I want to find one of my previous posts, rather than going to my site, and using the search this site - I just type in the url to a tag. So if I wanted to find a previous post about mysql I just goto
  • You can create one of those nifty tag clouds to see what is most popular.
  • You can tag your RSS posts with specific keywords. If I tag an article with the word mysql it will show up on sites like technorati when you do a tag search.
  • Use your tags as keywords - either for meta information, or for aiding search results.

Tim Yang points out several of the common problems of categories, such as orphan categories, mislabelling, changing terminology.

Clay Shirky has a good essay on this subject as well.

This one is filed under my Misc category!

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How did you implement the tags? Very interested in how you store the data to achieve the tagging.
Gareth - Please see this entry: There are pretty much three ways of storing the tags, as a column in your entries table (not recommended), in another table with tag and entry id (that's what I do), create a table with tags and a tag relation table that relates tag id's to entry id's
I don't see how tags are all that different from keywords we saw four or five years ago. Is it just that we've suddenly decided to fill in the "keywords" field in our content management systems of choice that they've become useful again?
do you use an index.cfm in your tags folder or are you using a 404 somehow? can you explain how it works from the URL entered..
John B - I use Apache mod_rewrite to construct my url's so I have a pattern in my apache config like this: RewriteRule /tag/([^/]+) /doTag.cfm?tag=$1 [PT,L] I can't recommend mod_rewrite enough! it rocks!
Matt, Your right tags are just keywords - what is new, is that people started making tag pages, and coming up with other useful things (like related posts).
I recently added an Apache rewrite on my blog so that will automatically search my blog for the word foo as if you'd typed - I just haven't gotten around to blogging about that yet!
If you're into tags, you should check out --it's a cross platform tag search engine. It does everything that Technorati does, as far as I can tell, plus a whole lot more. I blogged about it just a minute ago at

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