Can you categorise too much?


Perhaps the biggest handicap this blog has is the amount of categories I've created for it. From sites with a particular focus such as Dave's Photo Gallery Blog to sites that seem to have everything such as J-Walk's blog, these guys have figured out how to categorise their information without using thousands of categories to do it.

There are several coping mechanisms that most blogging software come with to deal with this problem: nested categories and tags. With nested categories, you can apply very specific topic pointers to posts which are then contained in more general categories, such as my BSD category within Free and Open Source. This potentially allows you to "collapse" the hundreds of sub-categories you accumulate into just a handful of smaller categories, while still keeping your insane desire for the former satisfied. If you really were obsessed you could have sub-sub-categories within sub-categories, heck even sub-sub-sub-categories within… you get the idea.

Tags are an interesting, if overused and abused, Flickr-inspired development. They let you assign even more specific metadata attributes to your posts which make them not only easier to find on your own site, but in specialised blog searching sites such as Technorati. Not only that but you can be as specific as you like without cluttering up your category lists: for example a post on FreeBSD could be tagged FreeBSD, FreeBSD 7.0 RELEASE, BSD, Kenny Rogers, operating systems, Unix-like and so forth.

Idolmaster Xenoglossia
idolmaster, xenoglossia, anime, funny, silly, implausible, ridiculous premise, tounge-in-cheek, a-real-stretch, idols-are-generally-not-scientists

ASIDE: For what it’s worth, most of the new unique visitors that make their way to this blog come through via tags. Strange but true!

Then we come to Wikis. I maintain my own locally installed MediaWiki/MySQL system on my laptop (for using as the ultimate note taking application!), as well as my course's local intranet MediaWiki/PostgreSQL install for collaboration and I'm a proud contributer over on Whole Wheat Radio's wiki system.

The biggest problem I have with MediaWiki is the ease in which I can assign practically everything to a category, and then categories within categories… within categories within categories! For borderline obsessive compulsive people it's very tempting to over use them! That said though, MediaWiki generally does a good job with organising them, and allowing you to click through lists of pages within a category you've browsed to is very convenient.

Bugs Bunny!
bugs-bunny, hilarious, sarcastic, witty, mel-blanc, evil, merrie-melodies, bugs, warner-brothers, better-than-disney, looney-tunes, tex-avery, fun, cheeky, greatest-cartoons-ever

I guess my very open ended questions would be (for the sake of my university peers!): is it possible to over categorise a system? Do you have any tips on how you cope with the temptation to start more categories? Is it just a matter of setting limits? Or is Ruben just obsessed and all of you fine people have no trouble with this whatsoever?

Author bio and support


Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

The site is powered by Hugo, FreeBSD, and OpenZFS on OrionVM, everyone’s favourite bespoke cloud infrastructure provider.

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