I’ve just learned that my blog is being studied in group assignment on “knowledge taxonomies” in a class at McGill. One of the students just contacted me with some questions about this blog and how I use tags.
What a loaded question. Bloggers who have been at it for a while frequently look at their categories and realize they are totally wrong for what they are writing now. Some will just start new categories that are more appropriate. Others will re-categorize everything, which is rather painful. Still others give up on categories altogether (or never used them in the first place).
I’ve copied their questions and my answers here:
Q. The postings and comments are mainly from yourself, Is this blog used for your personal knowledge management?
A. You are correct. I am the only author on Knowledge Jolt with Jack. However, I am distributed fairly well with about 800 readers (based on Feedburner statistics) and fairly heavy regular traffic. This doesn't make me a A-lister, but it is still fairly good traffic. My primary motivation for the blog is to inform my readers about interesting ideas and concepts I come across. I also refer back to it when I’m trying to find a reference to something I wrote about in the past.
Q. If so, what would that entail in terms of your subjects of interest, the sources you consult, and how you like to organise your information?
A. As you can probably guess, I’m interested in knowledge management and Theory of Constraints as my primary business areas. I’m also fairly interested in technologies that support KM and personal KM. I know that I have multiple layers of interest in any given topic area, but the tools I use really cannot descirbe a hierarchical scheme. And even if it could, I am sure I would want to break the scheme as soon as I developed it. To truly organize my information would require a web of links between topics, and I just don’t have the time (or technology) to do it all very nicely. So, the tags / categories seem to work for now.
Sources for my writings can be just about anything I discover that I think others might find interesting. This ranges from blogs to newspapers to books to face-to-face discussions with people.
Q. What is the logic behind your tagging, do you tag subjects simply because they are popular to you/your audience, for findability or because they are main interests or key KM issues/other area of interest?
A. Creating good, specific categories and keywords are a struggle. As you probably note on my TagCloud page, I haven't really settled on one set of labels. I try to use the same keywords (and not slight variations), unless I really want to isolate the topic.
While you don't necessarily see it, I have "categories" and "keywords" that could be regarded as tags. My blogging engine treats each a little differently (categories get their own file; keywords found via search), although I provide them all as "tags" in my web feeds. My high level categories are set up in anticipation that I will write a lot on those topics. The keywords are more transitory and related to the specifics of what I'm writing (author name, company name, specific keywords about the topic).
I use the tags to make my posts more findable, both for me and for the wider body of people reading the web. Having the flexibility of adding free-form tags is particularly useful as the various blog search technologies grow more popular and flexible. I add tags to let those services know I have written about "topic X" so that others might find my work. I know people have found my blog this way.
Q. Are your postings/blog intended for a wider audience; if so who is visiting your blog, their interests or subject expertise. Are they mostly commenting on your postings or do they [contribute] to the content?
A. I don't know directly who my readers are, beyond those that comment on my blog from time to time. I have a general sense based on those comments and emails I get from other readers. If they leave comments or contact me via email, it gives me some idea what they find interesting in my writings. I have noticed myself responding directly in my blog, rather than corresponding one-on-one.
Q. If you were [aiming] at attracting a wider readership, would you consider modifying some of your tags/keywords?
Maybe. The issue is the amount of work involved. This is why the tagging (keyword) strategy works so well. If I want to talk about a topic a different way, I can always use a new term.