If like me, you were surprised when these ‘tags’ started appearing on people’s LJs, then a) you don’t read news, and b) you might find this little giude helpful.

Tags describe the meaning of LiveJournal posts. There must be billions of the little blighters by now, but computers have trouble understanding human languages, with all the subtleties, inane ramblings, and smut, not to mention misspellings. So the huge amounts of information inside them lies hidden and hard to find – in technical terms, there is little metadata in LJ, so automatic manipulation of it (what computers do) is hard.

This is why they’ve put tags in. By tagging a post with, say, ‘Doctor Who’, you tell LiveJournal that’s what the post is about, even if it’s just a cartoon with no words.
But wait, there’s more! As tags become more widely used, all the funky tricks that search engines can pull with the Web at large will also happen to LiveJournal, based on tags. Never mind stuff like “What have my friends said about Doctor Who” – all sorts of subtle and amazing things. Think how Google takes on the sheer chaos of the web and sorts and categorises it – automatically. Combine that with the creativity and individuality you get in, say, LJ User Interests, and multiply by every post you’ve ever read, and then another 1000 more.

You add tags on the Update Journal page. Enter the tags separated by commas. You can add tags to an existing entry is easy too – click on the ‘link’ link, and click on the icon. type in the tags, or click on the box of your existing tags (hold down Control when clicking to add more than one!)

I see two strategies to using tags:

* If you want your posts to be analysed, sorted, and generally Googled, add tags for anything that seems relevant. If you’re the sort to write fan fiction where Spike and Captain Jack get it on, then, yes, tag it with “doctor who, captain jack, buffy, spike, slash, fanfic” and people will use the tags to find it. See the tags for this post for another example.

* But if you want to group your entries but stop LJ from sucking them up like some big Hoover, use obscure tags that stumps the computer. If Mike and Kate are getting married, tag each entry with ‘mikenkatewed’ - no-one’s going to stumble across that in a hurry..

Or you could not use tags at all, but then when you want to find something, you wind up trawling through hundreds of entries a page at a time, which I’m sick of. I love tags. Hope this helps!

  1. Thank you for your thoughts on this. I like tags, they will hopefully be helpful. I see them being used as a “previously” type thing – if you find a post on my LJ about Anne, say, you’ll be able to read back on that relationship. Or “work”, etc.

    I also see it leading (for me anyway) to a rise in double-posting, of splitting out posts with wildly different meanings.

    I’d like to see the ability to exclude posts that include a certain tag; failing that I am considering introducing “notmeme” as a tag to go with “memes”.

    And I’d also like to do Previous and Next within the tags – which could result in a navigation system not unlike that of Irregular Webcomic, so people could follow different plotlines through one’s LJ.

  2. Yeah – I’m not sure exactly what extent LJ are planning to mine the data, but given what Google can do with ‘just web pages’ (sic). At least something to track a given topic over time, over communities, etc. A ‘what are people saying about my interests’ ability. Perhaps guestimating interests and auto-forming communities based on posts you view. Possibilities…

    Imagine something like the clustering on, say, http://clusty.com/search?query=livejournal+tags+guide but also time and blog-o-graphic awareness…

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