Cats and Tags Living Together

A status report on re-organizing and exploiting Categories and Tags at OT. First a review on the concepts and usual recommended practices:


cats_and_tagsCategories are meant to be frequently re-usable in a way that helps to organize the site in different ways (front and back end). A good rule is to pick the deepest/most specific Category for the post (e.g., “2016 Elections” rather than “Politics”), then use the tag (Rubio, CNBCDebate) to alert readers and robots to key words. So, instead of creating a Culture/ Sports/ Hunting/ Winter/ WithARifle/ ThisKindofRifle/ WearingTheseBoots category, you might be satisfied with Hunting as your category, and mention the rifle and boots specifically in tags. In typical functions, the “parent” category will be implied by use of any of its children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on: So WordPress and in one way or another the world will get the idea that Hunting is part of Culture. Categories can be used for diverse purposes – not just for topics but for easily identifying a type of post, or one that belongs to a particular feature at the site, or that will be handled in specific ways. (If it’s important for you as a writer to pay attention to something more than the main topic, then someone will tell you, but you can mostly leave that kind of thing up to the editors.) There’s no great harm in a heavily cross-disciplinary post going in multiple categories, but planting your flag on one hill makes a stronger statement than planting it in a bunch of hills at once, I think. Is your real point historical or political or legal or philosophical or cultural? Make up our minds! Tags are also re-usable, but are mainly meant for disposable purposes – to add some temporary, practical specificity to the post. Tags also are not hierarchical. They have no parents or children. Tags are also automagically converted into Twitter hashtags by the automatic tweeter (so you don’t need to add the #). (I’ll also get around someday to auto-converting the author name to a twitter handle if available – requires some background kludging.) Also: There is little purpose served, pointless clutter created, and some dysfunctionality caused, when you overload a post with tags. (In general this also goes for almost all “keywording” – it doesn’t do any harm, but has a very marginal at best impact on search-indexing – or so I’m told.) Tags are also a good way to easily create a post series: Use a series title as a tag, and then you can easily link to the tag to give people an archive of the posts in the series. Putting it all together: So:

Category: 2016 Elections Tags: Fiorina,Planned Parenthood, TrendingHashtagWithout#, MaybeOtherTrendingHashtagWithout#

Or for a series on how to use Categories and Tags, called “Cats and Tags Together,” and because “#WordPress” is a popular hashtag (one that some services automatically re-tweet):

Category: Using Word Press Tags: WordPress, Cats and Tags Together

Once we have our Tag game down, we can start incorporating them into display and other uses, but Categories take first position. Also, if you don’t bother to assign a specific category, then at present you posts will default to “Culture.”


At this point, using the menus and categories as set up today, a visitor can already click on Topic/Politics, and get a Politics page with content that makes sense and is fairly comprehensive for everything under “Politics” (i.e., including 2016 Elections), at least for the first couple pages. (The percentage of users who will drill deeper and find stuff that shouldn’t go there will be tiny, though as time goes by, we do want to reward their efforts, too.) If you click on Posts/Add New or Posts/Post/Edit, you’ll see a new category selection with the old categories mostly missing. The old “catablogs” (like “Not a Potted Plant” or “The League”) are still “in there” (within the system, visible in other menus), though on recent posts, I’ve removed references to them. One Catablog, Mindless Diversions, is still in use, serving as an umbrella term for “entertainment” under Culture. Part of the process has involved moving some posts, beginning with active writers’ most recent posts, to the new categories. In the deep archives, due to the use of bulk tools, there will be mis-categorizations, but we’re not the Library of Congress. If a post from 2011 tagged “abortion” really belongs in Politics or Culture, not Law, I don’t see a lot of harm done. Otherwise, if you run across a new or old post of yours that’s mis-categorized, and that you’d like to have properly categorized, change it! Authors and editors who want their archives in good shape should take some initiative in re-shaping them. Finally, the Categories at this point, both structure and presentation (in menus and beyond), are a work in progress. Obviously, we’ve tried to put some thought into the project, but no one considers the results at this stage to be sacrosanct or anywhere near finished, and we’ve hardly even begun to change how categories are displayed. So, if there’s a topic you think we need, feel free to suggest it! It’s easy to amend the structure or change a category title.

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