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What’s the difference between categories and tags?

Approx. reading time: 2 minutes

Whether it’s birds or blogs we’ve be organising stuff into groups since the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus invented his system of classification. In fact I’d argue that making sense of our complicated world is something we’ve felt compelled to do as Homo sapiens (Kingdom: Animalia; Order: Primates; Family: Hominidae) pretty much from the get go. Or to put it another way, we were anoraks well before the anorak was invented. But whilst the taxonomy of the natural world is, for want of a better word, taxing, the taxonomy of the digital world is, thankfully, less complicated.


Blogs can be organised into three, simple sections:

  1. Subject
  2. Categories
  3. Tags

Think of the subject as the label that covers everything you write about or are planning to write about in your blog. It might be a subject with a wide-ranging scope like nature or gardening or something much narrower like hill walking or vegetable growing or narrower still like Munro-bagging or potato propagation. Narrow or wide the choice is yours – especially if you’re blogging for pleasure. If you’re blogging for profit then I’d suggest you stick to a subject you know about and one where your target audience will value your expertise. It’s easier to sell yourself a master of one trade rather than a Jack-of-all.

Categories become important once you have more than a few blog entries and  help vistors find their way around. The wider-ranging your blog the more important categories become. I have a client who blogs about urban anthropology (the subject). She’s written extensively about the legacy of the London Olympics but also writes about the post industrial landscape and about the impact of technology on human behaviour. I suggested they should be thought of and classified as three separate categories. Of course, there will be times when you want to list a post under several categories and that’s fine. For example, if Pokémon GO ever becomes an Olympic sport it’d come under two of my anthropologist’s category headings.

Tags are similar to but more specific than categories. Again looking at the example above a post could be categorised under “Olympic legacy” but be tagged specifically “London” or “Rio” so that a visitor could more easily find all the posts that are tagged or reference, say, “Rio.” Tags on blogs aren’t that different to tags on #Twitter that help us find stuff there.

Most if not all blogging platforms allow you to display your chosen categories so visitors can see your blog’s organisational structure at a glance. I’d suggest you do just that. WordPress and others also enable you to display the tags you use so that if a visitor clicks on a particular tag it aggregates all the posts that use that tag.

If you want to have a look at how I utilise categories click on the dropdown menu  on the sidebar of this post or on my personal blog. The tags I use appear along the bottom of this and other posts. Try out the feature by clicking on one.

Eat your heart out Linnaeus!

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Using social media to kick racism out of soccer

Approx. reading time: 2 minutes

Twitter and other social media platforms were implicated by the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, in his press conference after the soccer summit at 10 Downing Street aimed at tackling racism in football. Hunt and the FA chairman David Bernstein said, in effect, that while overt racism was now much less a problem inside grounds, outside people were still making racist and homophobic remarks. And while in the past their audience may have numbered just a handful of tiny-minded idiots and those unfortunate enough to overhear the bile spilling out of their twisted mouths, they now have a much wider audience – online.

But legislating against them would be both difficult and, in my view, contrary to the open spirit of the social web. Even trying to outlaw them risks drawing far too much attention to odious individuals who haven’t the courage to make their foul remarks to someone’s face and hide behind the relative anonymity afforded by social network pseudonyms. And with a billion plus social network accounts to monitor we shouldn’t expect the networks themselves to do anything but passive monitoring. We might occasionally persuade the networks and the Internet Service Providers to deactivate the accounts and cut the connections of the worst offenders, but those offenders would soon set up new accounts from new IP addresses.

Better, surely, to simply ignore them. Don’t follow them on Twitter. Don’t retweet their posts – even if only to mock their narrow-mindedness from our lofty, liberal perches. Certainly don’t dignify their comments with comments of our own. Make them social network lepers. Deny them the oxygen of publicity, as we might have said in the old media days.

So here’s my social network manifesto…

Black footballers do a Joey Barton. Gay footballers come out of the closet and start Tweeting so we can follow you and show by simple force of numbers that the overwhelming majority of us – football lovers or not – are decent human beings. Stephen Fry has more than a million followers on Twitter and is a national treasure.

Don’t just let your footballing feet do the talking. Let your tweets do the talking too.