On this page:
  • How to manage a large blog archive
  • Telecon
  • No one gets tags
  • Consumating: tags as communication
  • Tagging people
  • Information architecture summit: heavy on tagging!

How to manage a large blog archive

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I’m celebrating my 30th birthday this August. Milestone birthdays are great excuses to look behind and look ahead. I don’t know how other people do it. I can barely remember what happened last week, much less ten years ago. Me, I cheat. I have blog archive, which 18-year-old me had the foresight to experiment with (although back then, I was just looking for a way to remember all those class notes and Emacs tidbits I was picking up). I’ve written more than six thousand blog posts in the last eleven years. (See Quantifying my blog posting history for a nifty visualization of my blog posting history.) My published posts probably include well over two million words. This is awesome.

Since not a lot of people have the same experience of blogging consistently over more than a decade, I thought I’d share what I’ve been learning along the way.

Have your own domain name. One of my first websites was on Geocities. Another was on Veranda.com.ph (hosted by I-Manila, which was our ISP then). Both services are long gone. I registered sachachua.com in 2006 and moved everything over to that. Since my name can be hard to spell, I registered LivingAnAwesomeLife.com in 2008. I‘ve started experimenting with my own URL shortening domains, sach.ac and liv.gd . While domain names are a recurring expense, they’ve been well worth it.

Move your data instead of starting from scratch. I changed blogging platforms (Emacs Planner Mode to WordPress) and moved web hosts, but I’d taken pains to move my data instead of starting fresh. Now I’m enjoying the benefits of having that archive handy.

Back up, back up, back up. I want this to be around in another sixty years. I like backing up the data in many different ways: database, files, HTML dumps, PDFs, even paper. I lost a bunch of photos and drawings when my Gallery2 setup got hacked, but I restored a number of them from files I found elsewhere. I look forward to being able to review decades and decades of notes.

Weekly, monthly, and yearly reviews go a long way towards making it easier to remember what happened. Day-to-day living makes it hard to see what’s important. A week seems to be the most natural chunk of time for my reviews. I wrote a little bit of code that auto-summarizes my task list and accomplishments. Every month, I

Search is your friend. If it takes a lot of digging to find something, make it more findable. I often use Google Search or my blog’s built-in search to find posts based on keywords that I remember. If it takes me a while to find something, I edit the post and add categories or tags to make it easier to find in the future. I sometimes write a new post that shares what I’ve learned since then, linking to the previous post for history.

Comments on older posts are awesome. Search engines are a wonderful, wonderful thing. I love it when people comment on old posts – it’s nice to know those posts are still helpful. Sometimes people comment on things I’ve completely forgotten writing, so it’s a great way to refresh my memory as well.

Check your analytics once in a while. I don’t really care about the number of visitors or the bounce rate, but I’m curious about what people are reading and where they’re coming from.

Indexes are good, too. Every month, I update this categorical index of my blog posts. I probably should go back and make sure that the WordPress categories match this as well, although in WordPress, I tend to use categories more like tags (I file a post in multiple categories).

Cultivate synchronicity and randomness. WordPress plugins help recommend similar posts, other posts that were written on the same day, and random posts. It might mean that my pages are overloaded with links… but it might also spark an aha! or an interesting conversation with someone browsing around, so I think it’s worth it. Besides, at this point, a computer will often be better than I could be at recommending other things that people should check out, so I use those features myself when I’m browsing my blog.

Write about the small stuff. I used to wonder whether the weekly reviews were worth posting on my blog, seeing as they’re mostly my task lists. Reviewing my blog years later, I was surprised to find that the weekly reviews were excellent at helping me remember what was going on. They were also great for filling in the blanks in my records – When did I fly out? What did I do? Whatever happened to that thing? Hooray for the small stuff.

Revise and summarize. It’s okay to write about something you’ve written before. In fact, it can be a great excuse to learn more and get closer to understanding the big picture.

If you’re starting out today, don’t worry. Stick with it, and in ten years, you’ll have something pretty darn awesome too.

Out of curiosity, do I know anyone else who’s got a big archive? How do you manage yours?

Telecon

I was panicking all morning because I didn’t have the teleconference
details for something at noon, but fortunately I remembered that I
could e-mail a friend in IBM and ask him to send a message to the
teleconference organizer. I then used Skype
to call in for free. Hooray for Skype! Voice quality is a bit
variable, but it does the job, and it’s saved me from getting another
phone line…

I’m so excited about the tagging panel. It looks like such an
interesting lineup!

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Random Japanese sentence: 飼い猫の毛のつやが悪くなった。 Our cat’s fur has lost its luster.

No one gets tags

<sigh> I got too attached to the title “Folksonomies of Folks”
for my Metadata Schemas and Applications paper (due tomorrow – that
is, in 11 hours!). As a result, I find myself now writing a paper on
tagging and folksonomies in online dating sites.

They suck. They all suck. I’m serious. There are a few good ideas, but
generally they suck.

VerbDate throws the term “tag” around,
but it, like, _so_ doesn’t get it. Heck, there aren’t enough tag-savvy
users, so one of the ‘popular’ tags is “looking for a guy who can make
me laugh and is not still living with his parents”. There’s no way to
get a cloud of just the most popular tags – you have to know what
you’re looking for. There’s no easy way to add tags to yourself. And
here’s the most brain-dead thing of all: you can’t tag other people’s
profiles! No tagging, no folksonomies, nothing. Zilch.

RogueConnect‘s stuck with its fashion focus. Not bad, but too visually-oriented for any real depth. Unless you’re the kind of person who likes only Armani-wearing people, that is. Or at least people who say they wear Armani. The only interesting thing here is that the site creator’s noticed people are more comfy tagging blog posts than they are tagging people, so that’s something cool there. But tags aren’t front-and-center on people’s profiles, and they’re anonymous. So no folksonomy for you, either.

ConsuMating _almost_ got it right with
weekly polls and questions to encourage people to keep developing
their profiles. Then the service shoots itself in the foot with its
business model limiting you to 10 free messages per month, which naturally
drives all these users to make tags their free communication tool,
polluting the tagspace for individual users and making it imposssible
to get a quick idea of someone’s interests. Oh, you can’t tag someone
with a tag they already have, so you can’t see who else thought
someone was cool, so you can’t follow the links to find out whom else
_they_ thought was cool, so you can just forget about social
filtering. Heck, you can’t even pull up a list of the people _you_
tagged cool. Not that there are ever any cool people on these social
networking websites.

It’s all messed up. And to think CNet actually bought consumating,
sucky domain aside…

Aiyah.

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Random Japanese sentence: 犬か猫か鶏を飼うようにしなさい。 Try getting a dog, a cat or a chicken.

Consumating: tags as communication

Ah, I see! People could be using tags for messaging in order to get
around Consumating’s message limits. Or maybe it’s spam. Argh.

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Tagging people

Boundary studies are nice for figuring out where something doesn’t
work and why it doesn’t work. I’ve been thinking about where tagging
and folksonomies break down for my FIS paper. Some of the cases I’ve
been looking at involve web services where you tag people.

Tagalag is a no-frills system for tagging
people. It doesn’t really offer anything in the way of immediate
personal incentive. In fact, the only thing you can do with it aside
from tagging people (e-mail address required) is put your XML feeds
together in an OPML list for easy aggregation. Very bare, and very few
users.

43people allows users to track whom
they’ve met and whom they want to meet. Popular tags include
occupation, gender, nationality, and location. Tags are also used to
describe characteristics such as “funny”, “glasses”, and “brilliant”.
This shows tagging as a clear faceted classification. “Find people
also tagged with…” makes it easier for people to search for
interesting combinations, and you can narrow the search to the current
city. Usual problems with keywords: “smart” vs “intelligent”, etc.
Particular problem: funny vs hilarious, relativity.

Consumating is the weirdest. It’s a
dating site with a much broader audience than the other two sites, and
you can tell that from the tags. The most popular tags follow the tag
profile of 43people, but the recent tags look like one-off tags used
for communication. That said, Consumating makes good use of tags in
conjunction with polls, prompting people to keep refining their
profile every week.

So: tagging other people is still a bit weird, but shows a bit of the
folksonomic piles-of-leaves flattened faceted classification. Tagging
one’s self, on the other hand, is more of self-expression, ad guiding
it with questions is pretty effective.

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Random Japanese sentence: すると、少し先に、またもう一匹、ふわふわした灰色のねこがめにつきました。そしてこれも前の二匹と全く同じくらいかわいいのです。 But then he saw a fuzzy gray cat over here which was every bit as pretty as the others, so he took it too.

Information architecture summit: heavy on tagging!

I can’t wait for the proceedings to
the Information Architecture Summit to be available online! =)
Whee! More scholarly papers to cite!

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