Tired of tagging

I have had two very different reactions to tagging, or labeling my online content. On the plus side, I absolutely love what I can do with Google’s Gmail, and the fact that I can label my conversations, organize them 27 different ways, have different groups of contacts that are the way I think about my peeps has been a very liberating experience.

Over the years I have maintained an electronic version of my contacts, I have had several haphazard systems to keep this valuable data. I think my earliest effort was to use a great Mac program called Dynodex. I am hesitant to make note of it here because I am sure this will kick off a series of emails from other loyal Dynodexers once this column is inserted into the great Google mind meld in the sky. (If you do a search on the term, my columns come up at the top of the page. It is nice to know that I have such authority on a forgotten product.) But Dynodex had four things going for it — it was fast at searching for people, it was cheap, very lightweight (I think the version I used came on a single floppy disk), and you could enter all sorts of free-form information into it if you didn’t want to abide by its data structure. Over the years I have used Lotus Notes and Microsoft Outlook, but both of them violate the first three rules and were clumsy at dealing with thousands of contacts that I have ended up with.

Now for the past six months or so I have been using Google and I am for the most part pretty happy. All my contacts are online, so I never have to worry about making backups or having them on one computer or another. As I said, I have a couple of dozen different groupings that suit the way I work: someone who lives in New Jersey and works for a firewall vendor and was a source in a story that I wrote could be placed in three different buckets, for example, and I could easily see that. Yes, there are a few things that I would change — such as adding ways to present an initial screen for adding a new contact. And having better import and export features as well (CSV is so old school, and so painful anytime you want to move information one way or another).

I also like the way Google can search through my contacts quickly, and search through the conversations that I have had with each person too. It really is nicely designed.

Now for the other side of the coin. Google I get. Google I grok. But then the whole delicious tagging thing escapes me. This seems like it is just too much work. I don’t particularly get that whole deal, even though I understand why and how and where it works. It just doesn’t do anything for me.

Now I tag and organize my blog content over at Strominator.com with various subject headings, and that is fine too — not that anyone outside of maybe one or two people are really going to be searching my site on these subject headings. But I figure I might as well make it easier for those one or two people. And I guess that is where I think of tagging right now — it is kinda like the number of people that first understood Einstein’s relativity theories back in the early part of the 1900s — you knew who you were, and you could be smug in that knowledge, but for the vast unwashed masses of the general population it was more an intellectual curiosity.

Your mileage may differ, and I’d love to hear from you on how you use tags, or labels, or these other site-organizing tools.

Self promotions dep’t

While I mention my blog Strominator.com (which contains a current archive of these Web informant essays, along with shorter pieces that I don’t send out to the entire email list), I should also promote a couple of other things that I have begun to do in the blogosphere.

One is a collection of podcasts for small business owners and individuals that want quick productivity tips on tech. I call it YourPersonalGeek.tv, and you can subscribe to the podcasts in iTunes if you search on that term, or just point your RSS reader here.

The other collection of podcasts is for all of us that are married, or in longer-term relationships. I helped put them together for a client who is a professional counselor and therapist, Dr. Stephen Frueh. Stephen’s podcasts are called TheMarriageConversation.com, and you can collect all the episodes here (they are also very short snippets and wonderful advice).

0 thoughts on “Tired of tagging

  1. I have to agree with you….tagging works for certain personality types that enjoy micromanaging at that level of detail, but if you
    don’t have that kind of personality, it doesn’t do much.

    This is related to how we use, store, and organize information generally. I’ve learned the hard way I don’t care to keep things very organized. My desk is always a mess. I’m surrounded by stacks of stuff. But I can usually find things when I need them, and it has not kept me from getting my work done.

    As an example, I’m not someone who has ever kept one of those organizers (the DayTimer/notebook type things) for more than about two days. I admire people who use them to run their whole life (well, I admire them from a safe distance, anyway), but they don’t work for me.

    I have also used a whole variety of software organizers, and don’t do real well with them, either. They have ranged from full blown PIMs to very simple notepad type applications, and everything in between, including a lot of outliners.

    They all suffer from the same problem, and that is they all require a certain level of effort to keep things organized–which is exactly
    the issue with tagging–it takes a lot of work to make it work.

    I’m currently playing with Voodoo Pad, which you might want to take a look at if you still have some Macs at your house. It’s a personal wiki implementation. I’ve never been a big fan of wikis (there are “wiki” people who think wikis are the first solution to any problem), but the neat thing about Voodoo pad is that you can drop and drag all sorts of stuff (like URLs and links to files) right into a Voodoo page, along with pictures and images. And it has a wiki’s ease of use….fast and easy to sub-divide chunks of information and keep it all linked together.

    And here is the thing…no tagging required….the weakness of all personal information systems is the requirement for some kind of
    structure…even simple PIMs often require the dreaded “which bucket do I put this in and will I remember later?” question. With Voodoo Pad, linking and tagging are combined into a single very easy activity, and full text search allows you to find anything quickly
    (again without tagging).

    It’s a less structured version of DevonThink, which I have also been playing with, but think it is too structured for me. The nice thing
    about Voodoo Pad is the lack of structure.

    Andrew Michael Cohill, Ph.D.
    Design Nine, Inc.

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