Do you keep a daily diary? I have a couple questions for you: Length: Do you keep it really short? Or do you write longer form? Medium: Where do you write it? In a physical notebook? Or maybe online in a blog? Maybe some sort of software, or Google Drive. The short diary in a …
I keep the sort of diary/commonplace book you’re talking about. Generally it lives in two places. The biggest portion lives on my website where I can generally quickly bookmark almost everything I read, listen to, watch, annotate, reply to, or deal with online in some fashion. Not all of my posts there are public, but they’re archived there privately for search.
My secondary backup is on OneNote (I’d used Evernote in the past and I find them roughly similar), where I’ll tend to keep some personal daily to do lists (not too dissimilar from a digital bullet journal) and other private things that are easier to keep there than on my own website.
I like that both OneNote and my website are available on almost all the platforms I regularly use, so they’re always accessible to me.
Because they’re so similar, I’ve decided to discontinue the custom highlight posts my site had in lieu of the more prevalent annotation post kind. The layout and format of both as highlighted text quoted from another site was almost exactly the same with the primary difference being my additional commentary added to the highlighted text to call it an annotation. Conceptually I considered “highlight + commentary/reply = annotation”. The difference is marginal at best–pun intended.
Since I only had 13 highlight posts versus 121 annotation posts (plus various additional annotations and highlights which I’ve rolled up into the body of some of my read posts) over the last year and a half, I felt it seemed redundant and bothersome to maintain two separate, but nearly identical post kinds. Semantically one may think of a highlight on some text as an annotation anyway, thus the idea of annotation subsumes that of a simple highlight.
As of this evening, I’ve changed all the custom highlight posts to be of the annotation kind. Other than the one word visual difference of the post kind text changing from “highlight” to “annotation” this change won’t affect much except for those who may have been subscribed to the highlight feed. Going forward you may consider subscribing to my annotation feed instead.
I had created highlight postsfirst, but in the end annotation posts have won the day. And for those that don’t have them, fear not, because honestly annotation posts are really just glorified bookmarks with custom text in the context. (The glorification only entails a highligher icon instead of a bookmark icon and a bit of CSS to color the text yellow.) I do find having them delineated for my personal research purposes useful though.
One of the greatest assets of the internet is that it leads to great content discoveries that readers might not otherwise be able to find. One of the biggest liabilities is that content is frequently repackaged without crediting its creators or where it was found. Brooke talks to Maria Popova, editor of the website Brain Pickings and one of the creators of the Curator's Code, which seeks to honor the way people discover content online.
I’ve not published the full idea yet, but I’ve spent some time contemplating using Hypothes.is as a blogging platform/CMS. It might require a bit of flexibility, but it generally has reasonable support for:
Writing posts with a reasonably full-featured text editor and the ability to edit and delete posts later;
And a final off-label use case that could be compelling, but which could have some better UI and integration would be to use Hypothes.is as an embeddable commenting system for one’s own website. It has in-line commenting in much the same way that Medium does, but the entire thing could likely be embedded into a comment section under a traditional blog post and be used in much the same way people use Disqus on blogs. I’ll note that in practice, I find Hypothes.is far faster than Disqus ever was. I’ve yet to see anyone offloading the commenting functionality of their blog this way, but I’d be willing to bet dollars to donuts that someone could hack it together as a simple iframe or via the API pretty quickly and with solid results.
And naturally I’m missing many, potentially including some I’ve thought about before. Maybe worth checking the old Hypothes.is tag in my digital notebook?
I’ve been seemingly “away” from my online presence for several months, but felt it’s time to come back to posting publicly a bit more frequently. Some of the hiatus has been set aside for crafting some new workflows for posting more content privately for a slightly different version of my commonplace book.
While I’ve learned a lot in my experiment, I’ll have to ruminate on it a bit longer before writing any specific takeaways. One of my favorite portions has been some work to pull more data out of the books I’m reading in terms of highlights, notes, and marginalia for research purposes.
In general, not much has changed here directly, but I will have to get used to the the posting interface and some of my old workflows again. I’ll also need to get around to some general updates and fixes that I’ve let slide for far too long. I’ll also have to catch up on some change logs for things that have improved since my hiatus began.
I will say that while I’ve been very productive during my hiatus, which has included stepping away significantly from other forms of social media consumption as well, I also very much miss interacting with a lot of my online friends and colleagues on a more regular basis. It’ll be good to ease back into my feed reader and see what everyone has been up to for the past several months.
I was reading about how Cathie LeBlanc sometimes felt overwhelmed about logging the movies she’d recently seen:
I have to be better about posting my movie “reviews” more quickly. I get overwhelmed thinking that I need to write something about the movie when really the whole point of me doing these reviews is just to record what movies I’ve seen. So this month, I’m writing very little about each of these viewings.
I always had this problem too and finding quick and easy ways of posting them before I forgot became part of the solution. I’m not sure I’ve fully documented what I’ve been doing, but it’s slowly changed over time, so I thought I’d take a moment to write down some of the faster methods I use or have used.
One can always use the WordPress mobile posting app, bookmarklets in conjunction with Post Kinds, or even posting via email, but it usually takes a few minutes and can distract from conversations and family/friends when they’re around. Generally I’m looking to immediately capture the title of the film/tv show, the date/time stamp, and maybe the location. Later on, when I’ve got a few extra minutes, I’ll come back and optionally add details/context like poster art, cast, crew, etc. and a mini review with a rating. The method you use will depend on what kind of display you want and how much detail you’d like. At the end of the day, do what works best for you.
I’m a relatively avid user of the Swarm app (fka Foursquare), so I’ll often take a photo of the movie poster, ticket, theater/other while I’m at the theater and then quickly checkin on my phone. Swarm typically has some interface to indicate which movie I’m seeing when I check into movie theaters. Otherwise it’s pretty easy to manually type things in while I’m waiting for the show to start. Once the movie is over I can discretely can go back to the checkin and add a few quick comments and a rating without disturbing the rest of the party, otherwise I’ll revisit it later.
To get this all on my website I’ve set up the Micropub plugin and configured OwnYourSwarm (for public/private posting–you choose), and the service takes care of posting all the data for me as a checkin so that I don’t forget. In the end it’s usually less than 10 seconds, and I’ve got the data I need as it happens.
Traditional PESOS watch method using IFTTT
This alternate PESOS method can be done using popular services like IMDb.com or Letterboxd.com and relies on using RSS feeds from them to pipe content to my site using IFTTT.com. (Other silo services may be able to do this as well.) Most often I send the URLs of movies/tv shows of what I watch from IMDb to my Reading.am account which has an RSS feed to trigger IFTTT.com that, in turn, creates a draft post on my website. (If only IMDB.com had a usable RSS feed, I could skip the Reading.am account. Typically I’ll search for the movie on IMDb, share that from my browser to may email client and email it to a custom Reading.am email address that autoposts it to my Reading.am account.) Later I can peek in on it, add a mini-review and rating if I like, and publish publicly or not. Letterboxd can be used similarly, but it has the added benefit of having a rating system built in so it can send that data as well.
Hopefully they’ll resolve with a logged in account, so here are the two IFTTT.com recipes I’m using as reference:
(If you can’t access the recipes to recreate your own, let me know, and I’ll manually delineate all the relevant settings.)
Both methods will work without it, but I’m also using the Post Kinds plugin to create explicit watch posts which have a nice contextual presentation which I kind of like. It also has the ability to parse URLs to create the context quickly, so if you put in an IMDb or Letterboxd URL, it will fetch artwork, cast, description, etc. automatically and there’s no need to cut/paste.
To get some idea, here are some interesting examples of these methods.
If others have better/faster methods, I’d love to hear them or see them documented. Perhaps one day someone (or maybe even IMDb or Letterboxd) will build a custom Micropub client specifically for watch posts (something akin to Teacup for food/drink or Indiebookclub for reading) that will automatically poll the data related to a film/television title and post it to one’s site?
Lurking is the quiet watching/listening that what many people of the web do in chat rooms in order to begin gauging culture, learning jargon or lingo, and other community norms or unspoken principles before diving in to interact on a more direct level with other participants.
While the word lurking can have a very negative connotation, online it often has a much more positive one, especially in regard to the health and civility of the commons. Rather than rehash what Ton has done an excellent job of doing, I won’t go into the heavy details and history of online lurking, but instead, let’s take a look at where it isn’t in today’s social media landscape.
Since 2004, Twitter and a slew of other social media has popped up on the scene and changed many of our prior behaviors concerning lurking. In particular, Twitter’s interface has made it far easier to either like/favorite a post or retweet it.
In comparison the the preceding era of the blogosphere represented by Tons’ post, Twitter has allowed people to send simple notifications back and forth about each others’ posts indicating a lower bar of interaction than writing a thoughtful and measured comment. Now instead of not knowing about dozens, hundreds, or thousands of lurkers, a (micro)blogger would more quickly know who many more of their readers were because they were liking or resharing their content. Naturally there are still many more potential lurkers who don’t interact with one’s posts this way, but these interactions in some way are like adding fuel to the fire and prompt the writer to continue posting because they’re getting some feedback that indicates they’ve got an audience. Twitter has dramatically lowered the bar for lurkers and made it more socially acceptable for them to make themselves known.
Of course, not all is rosy and happy in Twitterland as a result of this lowering the social bar. Because it’s so easy to follow almost anyone and interact with them, naturally everyone does. This means that while before one may have lurked a blog for weeks or months before posting a response of any sort, people are now regularly replying to complete strangers without an resistance whatsoever. While this can be valuable and helpful in many instances, oftentimes it comes off as rudely as if one butted into the private conversation of strangers at a public gathering. At the farther end of the spectrum, it’s also much easier for trolls to tag and target unsuspecting victims. As a result, we have the dumpster fire that Twitter has become in the past several years for many of its users.
The problem for the continued health of the commons is how can we maintain a bar for online lurking, but still provide some feedback? How can we keep people from shouting and yelling at passer-by from their proverbial front porches or vice-versa? How might we encourage more positive lurking online before directly jumping into a conversation?
Read Posts and Private Posts
For several years now, as a part of the IndieWeb movement, I’ve been more directly controlling my online identity and owning my content by using my own domain name and my own website (boffosocko.com). While I still use Twitter, I’m generally only reading content from it via a feed reader. When I post to or interact with it, I’m always publishing my content on my own website first and syndicating a copy to Twitter for those who don’t own their online identities or content and (sadly) rely on Twitter to do that for them.
Within this setting, since roughly late 2016, I’ve been posting almost all of what I read online or in books, magazines, or newspapers on my own website. These read posts include some context and are often simply composed of the title of the article, the author, the outlet, a summary/synopsis/or first paragraph or two to remind me what the piece was about, and occasionally a comment or two or ten I had on the piece.
In tandem with these posts, I’m also sending webmentions to the websites of those pieces. These (experimental) read webmentions are simply notifications to the originating site that I’ve read their piece. In our prior framing of lurking or Twitter, I’m sending them the simplest notification I can think of to say, “I’m here lurking. I’m reading or looking at your work.”
I’m not saying that I liked it, favorited it, disliked it, bookmarked it, commented on it, or anything else, but simply that I read it, I consumed it, I spent the time to interact with it. But in contrast with Ton’s older method of looking at server logs to see what kind of traffic his posts are getting, he can see exactly who I am and visit my website in return if he chooses. (Ton’s old method of sifting through those logs was certainly not a fun experience and the data was usually relatively anonymous and useless.) These newer read notifications could potentially give him a much richer idea of who his (lurking) audience actually is. Then when someone shows up with a comment or reply, it’s not completely from out of the dark: they’ve previously indicated that they’re at least somewhat aware of the context of a potentially broader conversation on his site.
These read notifications are semantically different from likes, favorites, or even bookmarks on other platforms. In fact many platforms like Twitter, which has moved from “stars” (with the semantic idea of a favorite) to “hearts” (with the semantic idea of a like), have so few indicators of reaction to a post that the actual meaning of them has been desperately blurred. Personally I’ll use Twitter’s like functionality variously to mean: “I’m bookmarking this (or the linked article within it) for reading later”, “I like this post”, “I’ve read this post”, or even “I’m acknowledging receipt of your reply to me”. That’s just too much meaning to pack into a silly little heart icon.
If they choose, some website owners display these read post notifications in one or more ways. Some sites like Aaron Parecki’s or Jeremy Keith’s will show my interactions as bookmarks. Others, primarily WordPress-based websites that support Webmention (via plugin), will actually show these interactions in their comment sections under the heading “Read” and display my photo/avatar as an indicator that I’ve interacted with that post. In the case of read posts on which I’ve written one or more comments, the receiving site also has the option of showing my interaction not as a read/bookmark intent, but could also show my comments as a reply to their post. I’ve written a bit about this and its potential for large news outlets before in Webmentions: Enabling Better Communication on the Internetfor A List Apart. There are also some older legacy sites that might show my interactions as a trackback or pingback, but these seem few and far between these days, particularly as those systems are major targets for spam and the Webmention protocol has a richer interaction/display model.
A new itch
But as I think about these read posts, lurking, and being more civil on the internet, I have a new itch for some functionality I’d like to add to my website. I very frequently use my website as a digital commonplace book to collect links of things I’ve read, watched, and listened to. I’ll collect quotes, highlights, and even my own marginalia. As I mentioned above, my read posts sometimes have comments, and quite often those comments are really meant just for me and not for the author of the original post. In many cases, when my comments may be too egregious, sensitive, or perhaps even insulting to the original author, I’ll make these posts private so that only I can see them on my site. Of course when they’re private, no notifications are sent to the site at the other end of the line.
Sometimes I would like to be able to send a read notification to the site, but also keep my commentary privately to myself. This allows me to have my notes on the piece and be highly critical without dragging down the original author or piece who I may not know well or the audience of that same piece which I haven’t properly lurked (in the positive community-based sense indicated above) to be as intelligently and sensitively commenting as I would otherwise like. Thus I’d like to build in some functionality so that I can publicly indicate I’ve read a piece (and send a notification), but also so that I can keep the commentary on my read private to either myself or a smaller audience.
I suspect that I can do this in a variety of meta-fields on my website which aren’t shown to the public, but which might be shown to either myself or logged in users. In some sense, this is a subset of functionality which many in the IndieWeb have been exploring recently around the ideas of private posts or by limiting the audience of a post. In my case, I’m actually looking at making a post public, but making smaller sub-portions of it private.
To begin with, I’ll most likely be looking at doing this at a small scale just for myself and my commonplace book, as I can definitely see second and third-order effects and a variety of context collapse issues when portions of posts are private, but others who may be privy to them are commenting on those pieces from the perspective of their public spheres which may not be as private or closed off as mine. i.e.: While I may have something marked as private, privy readers will always have the option of copy/pasting it and dragging it out into the public.
Boy, what I wouldn’t give to have a digital, searchable copy of every book or article I’d highlighted or annotated since I was 14! Even my handwritten commonplace books from those eras are difficult to read and search through.
Spent a few minutes today cleaning up the various categories and tags within my digital commonplace book (aka website). Some of the automated methods I use as well as my general carelessness and fat fingers on mobile introduce spelling errors in some of these taxonomies. I also find that sometimes when choosing them from the pre-populated lists my website’s back end makes it more difficult to choose the canonical one when there are several there by error.
These issues tend to flatten these taxonomies out and make them much more difficult to search (or for others to be able to subscribe to reliably).
As an example, having tags “Domain of One’s Own” and “Domain of Ones Own” (with and without the apostrophe) as well as the acronym “DoOO” can be difficult or frustrating to use. Things get even more complicated when I hold the mental model that these concepts are just a sub-set of the broader idea of the “IndieWeb” or what I sometimes tag things as “IndieWeb for Education”. This is all much easier for me, but may be more difficult for newcomers to the site who know what one shorthand means, but are unaware of the others and thus miss details, references, or content that may have a lot of value for them.
I’ve cleaned up and concatenated many of these troublesome tags (roughly A-D alphabetically and other sections at random), but there’s still a lot of distance to go. There are 66 categories–some are hidden or used for programmatic purposes–and nearly 7,000 tags! The top 100 tags are used 30 or more times on the site and the second century of tags are used between 20 and 30 times each. At the long end of the tail there are about 4,000 tags with either 1 or no uses.
I’m promoting the economics tag to that of a category since it’s a topic in which I have a lot of interest and content. I also have a number of other tags related to sub-areas of economics. (If you were subscribed to this individual tag, you may want to fix your feed.) Other potential considerations for promotion included the topics of history, physics, and web development. I also noticed that there’s a tag for mathematics with 70 instances despite the fact that there’s already a category for it with 315 posts already–I’ll have to figure out how that happened and clean it up another day. And look, there’s somehow a tag for “math” too. Ugh!
I also put both the Quotes and Events categories under the parent category of Social Stream, though I plan on leaving them showing in the hierarchy–unlike some post kinds–as there are many legacy posts and likely future posts that aren’t just events I’m hosting, but events that are of interest to me in general. Naturally the more important events (to me) will appear in my RSVP posts. With any good luck courtesy of WordPress, links to the old versions should still work or redirect to the new hierarchy.
The manual or even automated effort of fixing or tweaking some of these things feels problematic, and I’m just looking at just my own website. I’m curious to delve into some research on taxonomies and folksonomies to see how something like this may be better systematized and/or automated. Of course categorizing things is somethings humans really love doing, but I’m not sure how deep down the rabbit hole it’s worth going for my own work. Besides, someone far smarter than I will likely crack the discovery nut from an IndieWeb perspective. Fortunately I can use the site search queries for several search engines to more quickly find the things I’m looking for without needing these taxonomies. So perhaps I’ll put some of the exercise off to another day by filing this in my #procrastination tag.
My utopian dream of owning all my content would be to post it on my blog first. Syndicating to whatever social media silo's I choose afterwards.
This isn't a reality as some of these silos (Instagram) don't allow posting apart through their apps.
This forces me to accept their context for my content if I consume it into my site, from them.
This context piece David Mead is talking about is a far bigger issue than most people might give it credit for. Most don’t even notice it because their lives are split up so tragically online that they simply have never had any other experiences. Seeing things from a different perspective, I can guarantee that they’re missing out.
I’m reminded of chef Alton Brown who regularly gives the cooking advice that one should never buy unitasker kitchen tools, but instead get multi-taskers that can do a variety of jobs. This typically cuts down on a lot of the mess and fuss in one’s kitchen and generally makes it a nicer place to prepare food. Nine times out of ten the unitasker is a much more expensive and infrequently used tool and ultimately gets lost in a junk drawer. More often than not, there are one or multi-taskers that can do a better job for far less.
In some sense social silos like Twitter (with functionality for notes and bookmarks), Instagram (photos), Facebook (notes, photos, links, etc.), Swarm (locations and photos), etc. are just like those unitaskers in the kitchen. They only do one (or sometimes a very few) thing(s) well and generally just make for a messier and more confused social media life. They throw off the mise en place of my life by scattering everything around, making my own content harder to find and use beneficially. On my own website, I have all of the functionalities of these four examples–and lots more–and its such a much better experience for me.
As time goes by and I’m able to post more content types (and cross link them via replies) on my own website and even to others’, I do notice that the increased context on my website actually makes it more interesting and useful. In particular, I can especially see it when using my “On This Day” functionality or various archive views where I can look back at past days/months/years to see what I had previously been up to. This often allows me to look at read posts, bookmark posts, photos, locations to put myself back in the context of those prior days. Since all of the data is there and viewable in a variety of linear and non-linear manners, I can more easily see the flow of the ideas, where they came from and where they may be going. I can also more easily search for and find ideas by a variety of meta data on my site that would probably have never been discoverable on disparate and unrelated social sites. That article I read in July and posted to Twitter could never be grouped again with the related photo on Instagram or the two other bookmarked journal articles I put on Diigo or the annotations I made with Hypothes.is. But put all that on my own website, and what a wonderful exploding world of ideas I can immediately recall and continue exploring at a later date. In fact, it is this additional level of aggregation and search that makes my website that much more of a valuable digital commonplace book.
I’ll note, as a clever bit of of search and serendipity to underscore the discussion of context, it’s nearly trivial for me to notice that exactly two years ago today I was also analogizing social media and food culture. Who knows where those two topics or even related ones from my site will take me next?
It’s always nice if you can provide real-time active tracking and posting on your own website, but is it really necessary? Is it always worthwhile? What value does it provide to you? to others?
The other day I read Eddie Hinkle’s article Passive Tracking > Active Tracking in which he details how he either actively or passively tracks on his own website things he’s listening to or watching. I thought I’d take a moment to scribble out some of my thoughts and process for how and why I do what I’m doing on my own site.
I too track a lot of things relatively passively. Most of it I do for my own “diary” or commonplace book. Typically I’ll start out using silo services that have either RSS feeds or that work with services like IFTTT.com or Zapier. If those don’t exist, I’ll just use the ubiquitous “share” functionality of nearly all web pages and mobile platforms to share the content or page via email which I can use to post to my website as well. The primary minimal data points I’m looking for are the title of the specific thing I’m capturing (the movie, tv show/episode title, book title, article title, podcast title) and the date/time stamp at which the activity was done.
I’ll use these to take input data and transfer it to my own website, typically in draft form. In many cases, these methods collect all the data I want and put it into a format for immediate sharing. Other times I’ll clean up some bits of the data (almost always context related, so things like images, summaries, the source of the data, etc.) a bit before sharing. Then I optionally decide to post it either publicly or privately on my site.
Some of the sources I use for pulling in data (especially for context) to my website include: Watches: IMDb.com, Letterboxd, TheTVDB.com, themoviedb.org, direct websites for shows/movies themselves Listens: typically using share functionality via email from my podcatcher; Spotify, Last.fm, Reads: reading.am, Pocket, Hypothes.is, GoodReads, Bookmarks: diigo, Hypothes.is, Twitter, Pocket
Often, going the route of least resistance for doing this sort of tracking is a useful thing to find out if doing so is ultimately useful or valuable to you. If it’s not, then building some massive edifice and code base for doing so may be additional sunk cost to find out that you don’t find it valuable or fulfilling somehow. This is primary value of the idea “manual until it hurts.”
I will note that though I do have the ability to do quick posting to my site using bookmarklets in conjunction with the Post Kinds Plugin for WordPress, more often than not, I find that interrupting my personal life and those around me to post this way seems a bit rude. For things like listen posts, logging them actively could a be a life threatening endeavor because I most often listen while driving. Thus I prefer to take a moment or two to more subtly mark what I want to post and then handle the rest at a more quiet and convenient time. I’ll use down time while passively watching television or listening to music to do this sort of clean up. Often, particularly for bookmarks and annotations, this also forces me to have a second bite at the proverbial apple to either follow up on the bookmarked idea or think about and reflect on the thing I’ve saved. In some sense this follow up is way more valuable to me than having actively posted it and then simply moving on. It also becomes a way for what might otherwise be considered “digital exhaust” to give me some additional value.
Eventually having better active ways to track and post these things in real time would be nice, but the marginal additional value just hasn’t seemed to be there for me. If it were, there are also larger hurdles of doing these posts quickly and in a way that pulls in the context portions I’d like to present. Adding context also generally means having solid pre-existing data bases of information from which to poll from, and often these can be difficult to come by or require API access to something. As a result services like Swarm and OwnYourSwarm are useful as they can not only speed up the process of logging data, but they are underpinned with relatively solid databases. As an example, I frequently can’t use IMDB.com to log in television shows like Meet the Press or Face the Nation because entries and data for those particular episodes often don’t exist even when I’m watching them several hours after they’ve aired. And even in these cases the websites for these shows often don’t yet have photos, synopses, video, or transcripts posted when I’m watching them. Thus posting for these in real-time the way I’d like becomes a much more difficult nightmare and requires a lot more manual effort.
He notes that blogs represent a loosely coupled system, where the friction of posting and linking slows down the discourse enough to preserve context and prevent the runaway reactions that are possible in tightly coupled systems like Twitter, where a tweet can be retweeted, then retweeted again and again, forming an exponential explosion of pure reactive id.
As a longtime blogger myself, Reynolds’s op-ed got me thinking about other differences between social media and the blogosphere…
Cal has some interesting thoughts on blogging versus social media which I’ve been seeing more and more about in the past several months. In addition to the major efforts by the people taking up the IndieWeb philosophies (of which I recognize several people in the comments section on the post, though they all appear as pingbacks because Cal apparently doesn’t yet support the prettier webmention specification), I’ve been seeing more people I don’t know directly talking about these ideas in the wild. I’ve only recently begun to tag some of these occurrences on my site with the tags slow social and blogosphere revival though many other examples are assuredly hiding untagged this year and last.
He almost lays out an interesting thesis for the idea of “slow social” which is roughly something I’ve been practicing for nearly 4+ years. While I maintain my personal website mostly for my own benefit as an online commonplace book, I also use it as a place to post first everything I write on the web and only then syndicate it to social media sites. The little extra bit of friction keeps my reposts, likes, and other related micro-posts (or is it micro-aggressions?) to a relative minimum compared to the past.
I’ve also noticed a lot more intentionality and value coming out of people who are writing their own posts and replies on their personal websites first. Because it appears on a site they own and which is part of their online identity, they’re far more careful about what and how they write. Their words are no longer throw-away commentary for the benefit of a relatively unseen audience that comes and goes in a rushing stream of content on someone else’s social site.
People often ask why WordPress has both a Category and a Tag functionality, and to some extent it would seem to be just for this thing–differentiating between topics and objects–or at least it’s how I have used it and perceived others doing so as well. (Incidentally from a functionality perspective categories in the WordPress taxonomy also have a hierarchy while tags do not.) I find that I don’t always do a great job at differentiating between them nor do I do so cleanly every time. Typically it’s more apparent when I go searching for something and have a difficult time in finding it as a result. Usually the problem is getting back too many results instead of a smaller desired subset. In some sense I also look at categories as things which might be more interesting for others to subscribe to or follow via RSS from my site, though I also have RSS feeds for tags as well as for post types/kinds as well.
I also find that I have a subtle differentiation using singular versus plural tags which I think I’m generally using to differentiate between the idea of “mine” versus “others”. Thus the (singular) tag for “commonplace book” should be a reference to my particular commonplace book versus the (plural) tag “commonplace books” which I use to reference either the generic idea or the specific commonplace books of others. Sadly I don’t think I apply this “rule” consistently either, but hope to do so in the future.
I’ve also been playing around with some more technical tags like math.NT (standing for number theory), following the lead of arXiv.org. While I would generally have used a tag “number theory”, I’ve been toying around with the idea of using the math.XX format for more technical related research on my site and the more human readable “number theory” for the more generic popular press related material. I still have some more playing around with the idea to see what shakes out. I’ve noticed in passing that Terence Tao uses these same designations on his site, but he does them at the category level rather than the tag level.
Now that I’m several years into such a system, I should probably spend some time going back and broadening out the topic categories (I arbitrarily attempt to keep the list small–in part for public display/vanity reasons, but it’s relatively easy to limit what shows to the public in my category list view.) Then I ought to do a bit of clean up within the tags themselves which have gotten unwieldy and often have spelling mistakes which cause searches to potentially fail. I also find that some of my auto-tagging processes by importing tags from the original sources’ pages could be cleaned up as well, though those are generally stored in a different location on my website, so it’s not as big a deal to me.
Naturally I find myself also thinking about the ontogeny/phylogeny problems of how I do these things versus how others at large do them as well, so feel free to chime in with your ideas, especially if you take tags/categories for your commonplace book/website seriously. I’d like to ultimately circle back around on this with regard to the more generic tagging done from a web-standards perspective within the IndieWeb and Microformats communities. I notice almost immediately that the “tag” and “category” pages on the IndieWeb wiki redirect to the same page yet there are various microformats including u-tag-of and u-category which are related but have slightly different meanings on first blush. (There is in fact an example on the IndieWeb “tag” page which includes both of these classes neither of which seems to be counter-documented at the Microformats site.) I should also dig around to see what Kevin Marks or the crew at Technorati must surely have written a decade or more ago on the topic.