Sunday, April 08, 2007

So, you're getting a Delicious account

Since you're about to create a delicious account I'm going to teach you how to use one. Because I'm really annoyed that nobody seems to understand how to use one properly.

If you look into my account, you'll see about 1000 items and 100 tags. And you'll see a grand total of 5 or so tags that apply uniquely to a single item. If you look into comparably sized accounts you'll find 1000 items and about 2000 tags (more tags than items) and you'll find literally hundreds of unique tags.

The end result is that you can see all, every one of them, of my tags on a single web page (in a cloud). You can't even find other people's tags unless you use the search function. Which requires that you know what tag you're looking for. That's an obvious catch-22! Me? I didn't even know you could search for tags because I've never needed to. They have always been just there where I can see them.

How to get an account looking like mine (useful) and not others' (useless)? First when you tag items, try to avoid duplicates (eg, politics and political). If you find out you've made a duplicate, there's functions in delicious to rename or delete tags (in settings then tags then rename).

Second, try to avoid tags you know you won't reuse. Don't tag a video with LaraFlynnBoyle or kittens. Unless you're obsessed with them, you're never going to reuse those tags.

Third, once you've got about two dozen tags, only use your own tags and don't blindly use other people's tags. Only add new tags if you think your existing tags aren't enough. Meaning, there's something obvious (eg, statistics) which you'll run into again and again or something (eg, democracy) which you specifically want to keep track of.

Fourth, tags with hundreds of items are useless, ideally you want each tag to have about two dozen items. So as soon as a tag has become too general (too frequently used) then don't count it in the above calculations, especially the "do I have enough tags" calculation.

Oh, and a really good heuristic to use to answer "do I have enough tags" is "will this item end up in at least one obviously related category (tag) that has no more than two dozen items". If the answer is yes then you have enough tags. If the answer is no, that still doesn't mean you should create one. Especially if you can't think of a good tag.

In summary, think, make conscious decisions, don't just blindly use others' tags. You only use others' tags for the first 20-100 items you tag. After that you need to be up and running on your own. So get into the habit of thinking from the beginning.

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